It only takes one look at any of my recipes, and it’s clear just how much I love using a variety of spices. Spices add complexity to a dish, giving it levels of flavor that are exciting to both the person creating it and the person eating it. By combining particular herbs and spices, we can make blends for ethnic dishes with specific flavor profiles.
I used to buy a lot of jarred spice blends. It was easy and convenient; after all, some blends have over a dozen different spices in them. The better I got at cooking, however, the more I bought a large variety of different spices and learned how to combine them for the best flavor. Then it made much more sense to make my own spice blends and even foods like curry paste and chili sauce. It’s easier than you think. Here’s how to make your own spice blends and condiments and add personal flavor to your dishes.
Why Make Your Own Blends
Even though store-bought spice blends and pastes are convenient, they have their down-sides. Firstly, you might not like all the spices in the pre-made blends. Some people can’t stand cilantro or maybe the blend is way too spicy for you. When you make your own, you choose what goes in the blend and what doesn’t. You choose how spicy to make it.
Secondly, ever read the label of a spice blend and it says “spices” on the label but doesn’t specify what those spices are? That’s so frustrating. The blends might contain a lot of salt, additives or MSG. When I make my own blends, I decide how much salt, if any, goes into it.
A third benefit to making your own is that you can make exactly the amount you need. Maybe you need a jerk blend for a dish but it’s not something you’ll make often. Why buy a whole jar that will collect dust on your shelf when you can make what you need for just that recipe and save money?
Lastly, homemade spice blends make beautiful gifts if you put them in pretty jars with personal labels. Now that you know all the reasons to make your own, here are the recipes for some popular blends and pastes.
To make 1/2 cup of Berbere, combine 2 tablespoons chile powder, 4 teaspoons paprika, 4 teaspoons ground coriander, 4 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice. Use your new blend to make this BBQ Berbere Portobello Comfort Bake.
2. Cajun Seasoning
3. Chinese 5-Spice
To make ½ cup of Chinese 5-Spice, combine 4 teaspoons each of ground cinnamon, ground star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel seed and ground cloves. Use this blend in these Hoisin Black Bean Burgers with Spicy Sesame Sauce and Chinese 5-Spice Potato Latkes with Plum Hoisin Dipping Sauce. Add it to condiments such as ketchup to give them an Asian twist.
4. Jerk Seasoning
To make approximately ½ cup Jerk seasoning, combine 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground allspice, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, 2 teaspoons paprika, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon red chile flakes, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves. Use this blend to make my Jerk Tofu and these Caribbean Jerk Millet Burgers With Pineapple Guacamole.
5. Garam Masala
To make ½ cup of a simple garam masala, combine 2 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon ground coriander, 1 tablespoon ground cardamom, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Or try this recipe for Ayurvedic Garam Masala and use it when you make these Indian Tikka Masala Pizzas.
6. Poultry Seasoning
To make ½ cup of poultry seasoning, combine 2 tablespoons ground sage, 2 tablespoons ground thyme, 4 teaspoons ground marjoram, 2 teaspoons each ground rosemary, celery seed, ground allspice and black pepper.
7. Pumpkin Pie Spice
To make ½ cup of pumpkin pie spice blend, combine ¼ cup ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1 teaspoon ground cloves. Use your new blend to make these 12 Recipes to Savor the Flavor and Aroma of Pumpkin Pie Spices.
To make ½ cup of za’atar, combine 2 tablespoons each dried oregano, dried thyme, ground cumin, sumac, and toasted sesame seeds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use your za’atar blend to make this Za’atar Roasted Chickpea Salad.
9. Thai Chili Sauce
To make your own spicy chile sauce, combine 15 oz. of tomato sauce, ¼ cup tomato paste, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 chopped jalapeno peppers (or whatever peppers you like), a teaspoon each of garlic powder and chile powder, ½ teaspoon each of dry mustard and onion powder, ¼ teaspoon of allspice and 2 tablespoons of vegan Worcestershire sauce in a food processor. If you want it extra spicy, you can add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Process until smooth, taste for seasoning adjustments and keep in a jar in the fridge.
10. Thai Curry Paste
To make your own red curry paste, toast 1 tablespoon cumin seeds and 2 teaspoons coriander seeds for a few minutes until darkened and fragrant. Then combine with ½ teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon cilantro stems, 5 rehydrated red chili peppers, 4 garlic cloves, 3 tablespoon lemongrass, 1 minced shallot, 1 ½ tablespoons fresh grated galangal or ginger, the zest of 2 Kefir limes and salt to taste. Blend it all into a smooth paste.
Use your paste to make this Super Quick Thai Curry or this Red Lentil Curry With Black Tahini and Roasted Cashews. You can also learn to make your own yellow curry paste as in this Thai Yellow Curry With Seitan and Potatoes.
Convenience is great, but self-sufficiency tastes even better. Once you start making your own spice blends, sauces, and pastes, you’ll never go back to buying them.
If you enjoy articles like this and want more, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant food app available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and more find awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions.
The Food Monster app has over 15,000 recipes and subscribers get 10 NEW recipes every day! You can also make meal plans, add bookmarks, read feature stories, and browse recipes across hundreds of categories like diet, cuisine, meal type, occasion, ingredient, popular, seasonal, and so much more!