Spice Up Your Kitchen: Explore the World of Spices and Herbs

In the culinary world, the use of seasonings is familiar.

Yet, knowing a complete list of spices and herbs for cooking isn’t common knowledge. Even the experts take years and years to remember and get to know them all. 

So, if you’re a beginner on this “spice and herb” path and want to have a detailed listing, today’s post is for you. Keep on reading!

List of Spices For Cooking

In cooking, spice is a dried component of a plant (excluding the foliage) that people utilize to enhance the taste of a dish. 


Annatto or achiote, an earthy, somewhat nutty, and peppery-taste spice and food pigment made from the achiote tree called Bixa Orellana, indigenous to tropical areas in the US. Typically, people will use the tree’s reddish seeds to color the food yellow to red with a distinctively subtle flavor.  


“Allspice” refers to the premature dried berries of the Pimenta dioica, a local plant to the Caribbean islands, Mexico and Central America. 

In terms of size and taste, allspice berries are a little bigger than peppercorns and give a cinnamon-clove-nutmeg-pepper combo of flavors, which gives them their moniker.


Anise indicates the dried seeds of the Apiaceae group’s aromatic plant Pimpinella anisum. It is indigenous to the Levant, the east side of the Mediterranean area, and Southwest Asia. Its taste is comparable to that of various comparable spices, including star anise, fennel, tarragon, which is a little sweet and spicy.


There’s a dried tissue from the cotyledon of the perennial plant Ferula assafoetida that grows in desert parts of Afghanistan, Iran, and India called asafoetida. Once processed, it has a taste reminiscent of leeks and onions.

Bay leaves

Lauris Nobilis, a Mediterranean bush that yields the fragrant foliage of bay laurel, is the supply of bay leaves (also known as actual bay or sweet bay laurel). Not only does it boasts a touch of eucalyptus with delicate floral aromas, but its taste is also subtle and bitter when newly plucked. On the other hand, dried ones bring a mellower taste with woodsy, flowery, or tea-like flavors.

California Bay Leaves 

Unlike the Mediterranean bay plant, the California bay ones (Umbellularia californica, Lauraceae) have a considerably fuller flavor than the Mediterranean bay leaves.

Natural and grown, the shrub-like species are widespread all across the western coast of American and are sometimes referred to as pepperwood, California laurel, or Oregon myrtle.

Caraway Seeds 

Dried caraway seeds come from a biennial plant in the Apiaceae genus named Carum carvi, native to Western Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa. Their taste is comparable to anise seeds but sweeter and more licorice-like.


Cardamom comprises the seeds of 2 significant members of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) genus, Elettaria and Amomum. 

The tastes are solid and rustic, with hints of citrus and mint, including the smoky undertones in the black cardamom. Moreover, it pairs pleasantly with different seasonings such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and works well in both pastries and savory dishes.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper is Capsicum’s desiccated and powdered fruit, a perennial from the Solanaceae group indigenous to the Caribbean areas, Mexico, Central America, and South Northern America.

It boasts a heat level of 30,000-50,000 Scoville ratings and, thus, is peppery and fiery. But, when cooking, add a tiny pinch and mouth-test before introducing more — cayenne pepper has a considerable burning sensation in only a tiny amount.

Celery Seeds

Wild celery (Apium graveolens), belonging to the Apiaceae genus, is a wetland species having a worldwide distribution that people have domesticated for centuries as a staple ingredient.

These dried tiny seeds feature a rich, intense celery taste — loamy and earthy with a somewhat bitter aftertaste.

Chia Seeds 

Salvia hispanica, often called chia, is a Mexican and Guatemalan annual flowering plant in the mint (Lamiaceae) class.

When desiccated, these seeds offer a mellow taste with a crisp and mouthfeel similar to poppy seeds. However, they become 10 times bigger than their initial size and gelatinous, acquiring a somewhat sweet flavor once soaked.

Chili Flakes 

Chili flakes, so-called the ground red chilies, are a mix of different spicy chilies in the Solanaceae genus, often with a Scoville rating of 30,000-50,000. Thus, they have hot, intense tastes and a medium level of heat. 

Chipotle Chile Powder 

As the name suggests, chipotle chile powder refers to powdered, smoked jalapenos and is suitable for everything that may benefit from extra smokiness, such as grilled meat or vinaigrette sauces. 


Cinnamon refers to the dried internal husk of several varieties of Cinnamomum, an evergreen in the Lauraceae class. Born in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), people consider C. verum the best cinnamon variant with a deeper, sharper taste than the conventional C. cassia.


Aromatic Syzygium aromaticum, often known as cloves, implies the desiccated flower lobes of the myrtle (Myrtaceae) group. Their taste is powerful and intense – sweet, nearly spicy, yet delicious and refreshing. They are home to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia.


An inhabitant of Iran, coriander, Coriandrum sativum, refers to cilantro or Chinese parsley. It comes from the Apiaceae genus and thrives as an annual plant. With citrus undertones, the seeds taste warming and nutty.


Cubeb offers a beautiful flowery fragrance, minimal spicy intensity, and a camphor aftertaste. With overtones reminiscent of allspice, this Pepper complements veggies or protein recipes, drinks, and even bakery products and other treats.


Cumin is another Apiaceae-related annual flowering species found across the Middle East and India. It boasts a slightly bitter and citrusy flavor.

Dill Seeds 

The seeds from the Anethum graveolens annual plants are dill seeds. There’s nothing quite like dill seeds to bring out the best in your food. These Eurasia-located seeds are famous for their unique flavor, a mix of caraway and fresh dill.

Fennel Seeds 

Produced from the desiccated fruit of Foeniculum vulgare, these Mediterranean-originated seeds provide an anise-like scent and sweet licorice-like flavor.


Of the pea genus, fenugreek resembles a yellowish-brown flat seed. Bittersweet, burnt-sugar-like, and celery tastes are prominent in this space. If you want to reduce the bitterness of these seeds, try toasting them.

Garlic Powder 

Garlic powder is practically ground dried garlic cloves which boasts a lighter taste compared to their fresh cloves. Garlic also comes in granulated condition, which is simply a more delicate variant of the flour-like powder.

Ginger Powder 

Unlike fresh ginger rhizome (so-called the Zingiber officinale), ginger powder is a desiccated powder made from fresh ginger, which offers a softer and somewhat sweeter flavor.


Red chili gochugaru made from the Capsicum annuum genus features a low to moderate intensity level of 10,000 Scoville ratings. Besides the spiciness, it also possesses a sweet, sun-dried taste with only a touch of smokiness.

Grains of Paradise 

Grains of paradise are the desiccated seeds coming from an Aframomum melegueta flowering species in the group Zingiberaceae (ginger). These seeds offer a strong taste similar to black Pepper with mild floral and citrus overtones.

Kampot Peppercorns 

Kampot Pepper gets its moniker from the area of Kampot in southwest Cambodia, around 140 kilometers from the metropolis of Phnom Penh. It is one of the most famous specialties, with the Kampot pepper farming region expanding to 6 districts.

Kampot pepper boasts an intense but subtle fragrance. Its flavor can vary from highly fiery to slightly sweet, with floral and citrusy undertones.

Juniper Berries 

Juniper berries refer to the juniper plant’s seed capsules, which are tiny and bulbous in shape. Jujubes’ flavor is tart, featuring hints of pine (pinene) and wood (sabinene) as well as Pepper (myrcene).


Loomi, also called black lime, results from people’s brine and drying Persian limes (C. latifolia). Citrusy and mildly sweet, it also contains hints of asafoetida and vinegar in flavor.


Myristica fragrans, a species local to the Moluccas Islands, yields mace by drying and grinding its seed shell, or aril. There are similarities to nutmeg. However, it features a more complex and sweeter taste.


Iranian mahlab cherry trees, Prunus mahaleb, produce sour cherry pits that are the main ingredient of the fragrant spice mahleb. This spice tastes slightly tart and nutty, with hints of marzipan plus bitter almond.

Makrut Lime Leaves 

These fruits are native to tropical parts of the Indian peninsula and Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. While being fragrant, the skin and greens also have a strong citrus taste.

Maras Pepper

Across most of Turkey and the Mediterranean continent, one could easily spot these Turkish Marash chili flakes. Indeed, they are only after salt and Pepper when it comes to popularity. 

Nowadays, chefs from many of the globe’s most renowned establishments favor these ground hot flakes owing to their fruity, rustic, mild spiciness. 

Mustard Seeds

Brassica is a member of the mustard group that includes the mustard species (Brassicaceae). In canned and pickled dishes, the yellow variety is the most famous one. It likewise provides the yellow pigment and taste for the condiment of the identical moniker.


Known as black cumin, Nigella grows throughout southwestern Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean. It is a tiny, black seed with an intense aroma. Taste and aroma are similar to fennel, but the taste is close to caraway, oregano, and nutmeg regarding the intensity.


An evergreen Malukan species called Myristica fragrans bears fragrant, or “genuine” nutmeg seeds people grind into spice. Because of its strong aroma and somewhat sweet flavor, you can use it to flavor both sweet and savory dishes.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a variant of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that is inactive yeast, and its flakes act as a seasoning ingredient and for their actual nutritional content.

Unlike bread yeast which makes the bread rise, these flakes only infuse a slightly creamy, cheese-like, and nutty taste.


Originally from Eurasia and the Mediterranean, oregano refers to a perennial flowering plant in the mint genus (Lamiaceae), featuring a spicy, somewhat lemony taste.


They are widespread in Mexican culture, with a moderate spiciness and woody, raisin, and licorice taste. Together with Ancho and Mulato, Pasilla chiles lay the cornerstone of classic moles and are particularly excellent in stews, slow-cooked meats, condiments, and marinades.


Powdered Capsicum annuum, primarily made from the bell and sweet peppers, or several spicier cayenne and chilis, is paprika. As a result, flavors can go from light and delicate up to super spicy and intense.


Peppercorns indicate the desiccated fruit of the vine Piper nigrum, which is indigenous to tropical Southern India and belongs to the Piperaceae genus. Among the most commonly distributed spices in the world, Pepper combines a mellow, peppery intensity plus sweet, earthy undertones.

Pink Peppercorns 

Also called Peruvian peppercorns, these dried berries come from the Peruvian Peppertree (Schinus molle), local to the Mountains Of Peru, Argentina, and Chile.

When it comes to their appearance and flavor, pink peppercorns share specific characteristics with black peppercorns (Piper nigrum), although they’re from entirely different species.

Rosemary (Both Spice and Herb)

Laminariaceae (mint) genus member Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis refers to a wood species found in the Mediterranean region. Both fresh and dried leaves provide an aromatic and piney taste with an astringent aftertaste.


This spice originates from the desiccated saffron crocuses’ stigmas, Crocus Sativus. Due to their delicate aromatic taste and vibrant orange color, we can consume them whole as “strands” or powder.

Sage (Both Spice and Herb)

In the Lamiaceae genus, Salvia officinalis – often known as garden or culinary sage – is a deciduous tree local to the Mediterranean basin. Their fresh and dried foliages feature a hot, spicy, woody taste with notes of zest and eucalyptus.


There are 3 methods of obtaining salt: mining, the evaporation of salt water, or the extraction of mineral-rich springs. Among the 5 fundamental flavors, salt enhances the taste of various dishes.

Savory (Both Spice and Herb)

Savory comes in 2 varieties: summer and winter savory (Satureja hortensis and Satureja montana). Thanks to its minty-thymey taste, summer savory is more prevalent in culinary than winter savory, which is somewhat bitter.

Star Anise

The famous star anise is the desiccated, star-shaped flower from the species illicium verum, home to Northeastern Vietnam and southwestern China. Its taste is sweet, spicy, and slightly licorice-like, comparable to its cousin anise.


In milder climates and subtropical areas throughout Africa, Eastern Asia, and Northern America, sumac means the powdered fruit of the sumac shrub Rhus criteria.

It is famous for its tangy flavor and is subtler than other citrus fruits. Sumac is typically in powder but can also sometimes be bought in a berry version.

Szechuan Peppercorns 

Black Pepper and Szechuan peppercorn are not the same things, nor are they similar to each other. However, the spiky ash Zanthoxylum’s pinkish and reddish outer shells are what people use to make Szechuan peppercorns.

Renowned for its numbing effect on the lips and palate, people use it to decrease the received spiciness of chilies. Theoretically, this enhances the fruity taste of the peppers. Let alone; it has a lavender-like taste.


Turmeric, Curcuma longa, implies the desiccated and ground root of a Zingiberaceae herb. It boasts a warming, rustic taste featuring notes of ginger and Pepper, and it lends accompanying dishes a vibrant, yellowish color.

Thyme (Both Spice and Herb)

Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is a fragrant, deciduous plant in the Lamiaceae (mint) genus originating from the Mediterranean region. Its foliage delivers a spicy, woody, somewhat peppermint taste.

Urfa Biber Chilli

This powdered Turkish Pepper is smokey, somewhat sweet, and lends rich, red-maroon color to anything it hits, and is frequently described as raisins meet a coffee. 

Moreover, Urfa chiles work perfectly with stewed foods, eggplants, and jalapenos, and they provide a lot of flavor to condiments with cheese or hummus.


Vanilla originates from the orchid Vanilla planifolia, which is local to Mexico and Central America. This dried pod possesses a fragrant, woody, and mildly spicy taste that lends itself well to culinary applications.

List of Herbs For Cooking

A herb is a plant’s leaf that has fragrant or aromatic characteristics. Most of the time, people use herbs to improve the taste of a recipe or as a component of medicinal remedies.


Besides its enticing aroma and sharp peppery flavor, fresh basil also has a refreshing, clean taste of sweet anise plus cinnamon, alongside hints of cloves.


A staple of the Caucasus region, chervil, Anthriscus cerefolium, refers to the Apiaceae genus’s delicate, flowering plant. Typically, it has a mellow, licorice-resembling taste that is comparable to basil or tarragon.


Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) belong to the Allium (onion) family found in Asia, Europe, and Northern America. In cooking, chives lend the recipes a light onion-resembling taste with notes of garlic.


Originally from Iran, cilantro is a herbaceous shrub in the Apiaceae group called Coriandrum sativum. Citrus overtones abound in the fronds, which have a tart, herbal taste.

Curry leaves 

Sweet neem greens, also known as Curry Leaves, originates from the curry plant Murraya koenigii, home to temperate India and Sri Lanka. These sharp-taste leaves have nothing to do with curry powder, yet they deliver the same warming, spicy flavor with citrusy undertones.


Lemongrass is indigenous to Thailand, India, and Myanmar, where it commonly appears in food. Whether utilized dried or fresh, it boasts a zesty taste akin to its moniker.

Lemon thyme 

Renowned for its delicious, sweet, lemony-and-thyme undertones, lemon thyme, Thymus citriodorus, is a longstanding herb of the Thymus family endemic to subtropical regions of Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa. Because of its aromatic, tangy fragrance, lemon thyme also acts as a great herb to use in garnishing.


Herb Levisticum officinale is indigenous to Southern Europe and Southwestern Asia and thrives as a lush evergreen. Its taste is woody and rich, reminiscent of a hybrid of celery plus parsley.


Laminariaceae, Origanum majorana (marjoram), is a cold-preferred perennial species with a pleasant piny and citrusy taste.

Marinates, pork, chicken, condiments, bratwurst, broths, braises, tomato-based recipes, and veggies, as well as vinaigrettes, all benefit from the addition of fresh marjoram.


Mint is within the Lamiaceae (mint) group and is widespread throughout Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, and Northern America.

Spearmints and peppermints, these 2 famous mints categories have a fresh, pleasant flavor featuring eucalyptus undertones and a refreshing effect, although peppermints are slightly more intense than spearmints.


Origanum vulgare, sometimes known as oregano, refers to a flowering shrub belonging to the Lamiaceae genus found in subtropical West and Southwest Eurasia and the Mediterranean area. Its taste is pleasantly spicy and richly fragrant, boasting woody undertones of camphor, hay, and mint.


Petroselinum crispum, commonly recognized as parsley, defines a biennial perennial species of the Apiaceae category indigenous to the center region of the Mediterranean. Its leaves are incredibly famous for their clear, fresh, and earthy taste, which lends a new taste to the dish.


Famous for its rustic pine taste, rosemary leaves come from the Rosmarinus officinalis, a herbaceous plant within the Lamiaceae genus local to the Mediterranean region.


In colder climates, people tend to grow Shiso (Perilla frutescens) as a yearly product. The termShiso indicates a perennial herb in the mint group Lamiaceae from mountainous parts of Asia and India. This herb has a unique taste, as if it mixes the flavors of anise, basil, cinnamon, and spearmint.


Initially, an Asteraceae (sunflower) species, French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), originates from the subtropical center of Asia. What is unique about this herb is that it features a sweet, full-bodied taste of licorice, peppercorn, and sage.


Did you know that wasabi (scientifically called Eutrema japonicum) is a herb from the Brassicaceae genus that grows in hilly riverside basins in Japan? Not only does this herb excel at stimulating the smell and taste receptors, but wasabi also provides a sharp taste comparable to horseradish or spicy mustard.


That’s everything we have for you today. Although spices and herbs have been widespread for centuries, knowing them all is undoubtedly tricky – there are countless seasoning variants and different versions nowadays. 

Yet, hopefully, our detailed list of spices and herbs for cooking lovers has cleared the path a bit for you. It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to remember all of this to be a good cook – utilizing the ones you have in hand wisely is the key! Have a great time! 

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The post Spice Up Your Kitchen: Explore the World of Spices and Herbs first appeared on elpasoNY.com.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Sayf Rover.

For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

Tamara Pierce

Tamara Pierce is a food writer at Elapasony, passionate about exploring diverse cuisines and sharing recipes and food experiences. From trendy restaurants to local hotspots, she's always on the lookout for new and exciting flavors.

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