Seasoning is the secret to creating great-tasting whole foods. Most of the single-
ingredient spices available in the supermarket are fine, but a lot of the combination seasonings have undesirable additives or unidentified ingredients. There are basic spices you can keep on hand to create a wide variety of your own combinations. All you need to do is stock your pantry with them and experiment.
But you don’t have to create all your spice combinations from scratch. There are a few spice companies that have both the basic spices and their own proprietary mixes—all without additives and preservatives. My go-to spice company is Penzeys Spices. They have a few brick-and-mortar stores around the country, but I order mine online, and depending on the order quantity or a special promotion, shipping can be free.
In some of the recipes on the site, I specify the Penzeys spice mix that I use, but also include a list of the individual ingredients in that mix. Penzeys does not divulge the proportion of the ingredients (for proprietary reasons) but if you don’t want to order their spices, you can try to approximate with a similar combination.
You can find other sources of unadulterated spices, such as Morton & Bassett and Simply Organic in most supermarkets. Trader Joe’s has a reasonable selection, and Tom Douglas’s Rub with Love collection is excellent. However, they don’t have anywhere near the variety of mixes that Penzeys does, even online. In selecting spices—as always, check the label—the thing to watch for is a product ingredient list that includes unspecified items. For instance, Simply Organic’s Adobo Seasoning lists the main ingredients but adds, “… along with several other supporting spices.” Those “supporting spices” may be perfectly fine, but how would you know for sure?
Some basic seasonings to keep on hand
There are dozens of different spices, but if you just start with the basic dry seasonings below, you can add one at a time as you expand your repertoire.
For savory dishes:
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper (if you like spicy)
- Chili powder
- Curry powder (mild or sweet)
- Granulated onion (or powdered, without salt)
- Granulated garlic (or powdered, without salt)
- Italian seasoning
- Red pepper flakes
For baked goods:
- Vanilla (real, not vanillin)