Let’s be honest — some foods just need a little somethin’, somethin’ to make them taste as grand as they often look in food photographs, or as good as we imagine they’ll be. Food marketers know this, which is why cheap sources of seasonings, sugars, and goodness knows what else from additives end up in our food. Whole foods such as apples, bananas, and even carrots and broccoli, actually taste pretty good without much fuss, if any at all. But others, such as whole grains, beans, legumes, and for those that eat it — meat — are normally never seasoned or spiced up in some way.

Well, we’re certainly not here to tell you how to spice up meat, but when it comes to plant-based foods you prepare at home, we realize that many will need a little jazzing up before they’re highly palatable. Tofu and oatmeal are two foods people like to say they don’t “like” because they’re bland. Well, to be honest, chicken, beef, yogurt, toast, and other foods people enjoy everyday would also be bland without much on them. No one likes these foods on their own, and those that do are  few and far between. The same goes for other foods.

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Spice blends are an easy (and very healthy) answer to spicing up our foods the quick, affordable, and highly efficient way. The spice aisle is full of possibilities. You could come up with endless recipes by just meandering on the spice aisle and finding all sorts of inspiration from the colors and scents. If you’re looking to spice up your food, give some of the top spice blends a try at the market. You might not recognize many by name in the midst of typical options, so be sure you know what they are and how they can best be used to enhance the flavor of your foods.

Some more commonly known spice blends to start with that can help take many foods from bland to grand are …

1. Curry Blends – Savory

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Curry blends are one of the most unique blends to use because depending on the area the curry comes from, it will contain a bit of different blends. Yet all curries normally contain turmeric, garlic, coriander, ginger, cumin, and many have black pepper, cardamom, and some types have other peppers. Curries give food a smoky, deep flavor and go remarkably on cooked foods.

Try curry on: 

  • roasted, steamed, grilled or baked veggies
  • stir-fry dishes
  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • rice and other whole grains

Typically, you won’t need much salt when you use curry, but a pinch of sea salt may also be nice. Give these recipes a shot: Vegetable Coconut Curry in a Hurry, Crockpot Coconut Curry Lentil SoupCurry With Tofu and Grilled VeggiesSlow Cooker Ginger and Cauliflower Curry, or Curry Spice Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas.

2. Italian Spices – Savory

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Italian spices make incredible add-ins to soups, even if the whole dish isn’t Italian based. One reason is because of the oregano, a top savory agent that adds a huge boost of flavor to any dish. Basil and thyme in the blend also brings out the savory, slightly lemony and sweeter, yet also smokey flavors that complete the well-rounded blend we so often love in lasagnas and other Italian dishes.

Here are some ways to use it:

  • quinoa, millet, and rice
  • salads and salad dressing
  • roasted, baked, steamed, or grilled vegetables (zucchini, asparagus, onions, carrots, and green beans especially)
  • veggie noodles
  • tofu and tempeh
  • bean and legume dishes

Try these recipes: 5 Ingredient Vegan Salad DressingPizza BurgersEggplant Cannelloni, Foccacia Flax Bread, Lentil Meat Balls, and Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread.

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3. Garam Masala – Sweet or Savory

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If you’ve never treated yourself to this blend, it’s high-time you start. Garam masala can go sweet or savory — it’s quite the versatile little blend! Made with sweet and savory spices (cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, garlic, among some others), this blend may also vary depending on the region it comes from. You can also make your own if you like too. This blend is warming, pungent, yet also alluring and aromatic in a beautiful way that makes many different foods taste better. Some of the best uses for it are grains or grain dishes (oatmeal is a great one, as well as wild rice and other sweet grains), and it makes a great addition to Indian dishes or grilled dishes of all kinds. 

Use it in:

  • oatmeal and rice
  • vegetable curries or stir-fries
  • grilled tofu or tempeh
  • Indian based soups
  • sweet desserts (especially with chocolate)

Here are some recipes that will win you over if you’re not already a fan: Not Your Regular Channa MasalaMasala Oatmeal, One Pot Spiralized Aloo Gobi, or Almond Curry LentilsIndian Cashew Swiss Chard, Kale, or Spinach, or these savory oatmeal varieties. 

4. Salt-Free Seasoning Blends – Savory

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There are also many MSG-free salt-free seasoning blends on the market that come in a variety of flavors and are sometimes easier than using a bunch of spices at once called for in a recipe — one does it all, which is the entire point. These are great to try because they can take salad, bowl of veggies or a bowl of soup and even sandwiches from boring to brilliant in minutes. Try an all-purpose that includes mainly all spices and herbs instead of added salts, though some may include sea salt in minimal amounts.

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Use these in:

  • salads
  • veggie dishes of all kind
  • vegan pizzas
  • tacos
  • dips
  • stews and soups
  • veggie burgers
  • grilled dishes (tofu, tempeh, etc.)

You can really use these anywhere you like because they’re so versatile and come with so many flavors. Give them a try in veggie burgers, soupssalads, salad dressings, veggie dishes, and have fun creating new flavors that you enjoy.

5. Apple Pie or Pumpkin Pie Spice – Sweet

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You might typically think of this as a holiday spice, but oh, how it does make for a wonderful ingredient year round. The same goes for pumpkin pie spice as well. These have absolutely no apple or pumpkin included, but their spices are what to do the magic in those dishes and take them the next level. We say, use that magic all year round! Made of spices like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice (some blends also have a few other ingredients or less), these make sweet and rich flavors come out in a variety of dishes. Apple spice is incredible in oatmeal, in a smoothie, in cookies, muffins, or any baked good. Pumpkin spice is magnificent in muffins, sweet brown rice or millet, or even a hot almond milk latte (or coconut latte!). You can even mix these into homemade nut butters if you need a little extra kick. They also add flavor to nut milks that can be a bit bland if you make them at home.

Try these spices in:

  • baked goods
  • smoothies
  • breakfast grain dishes
  • pies and cakes
  • cookies
  • waffles and pancakes
  • vegan cheesecake
  • homemade non-dairy milks
  • homemade non-dairy lattes

Bake, blend or whip up some of these: Individual Apple Pie Pastries, Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats, Creamy Chai Latte, Cranberry and Pumpkin Loaf,  cookies, waffles, oatmeal,  and muffins. 

There are many, many more spice blends to try at the store. See our Ultimate Spice Guide to learn more about them, and explore all of our recipes to see which ones you might like to try next. Don’t ever blame a food for being bland. Cooking is about creating, and spices and spice blends are both part of that magic.

What’s your favorite spice blend?

Lead Image Source: One Pot Spiralized Aloo Gobi