Humans have been using spices as a flavor short-cut for centuries, and there’s a reason for that. Spices are an easy way to elevate any dish. With a sprinkle of sumac, you can give your dish a Middle Eastern jolt, a bay leaf can lend a boring bowl some woodsy depth, and a sprig of parsley can add an Italian tinge to your everyday carb. Some spices can even kill bacteria! Just go easy on the salt, taste as you go, and don’t be afraid of spicy things.
We asked some of our favorite aspirational chefs, who happen to be some of the biggest Jewish food Instagrammers, what their favorite spices are. Here’s what they said.
“I love cumin and use it all the time. It really elevates the flavor of the food. The smell reminds me of being in Israel.” — Naomi Nachman, @naominachman
“My favorite kitchen spice is cinnamon as it can be incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes. It’s the best bang for your buck and makes for an incredibly unique and vibrant dish.” — Dini Klein, @PrepandRally
“I can’t live without cumin! It’s such a vital part of Middle Eastern cooking but also Indian food and Mexican food, etc. I find it to be the backbone to a deliciously diverse range of recipes.” — Whitney Fisch, @Jewhungry
“Here’s our spice staples: Fresh: Mint, oregano, thyme, sage, basil, rosemary…. Dry: Cumin seed, sweet paprika, baharat, hawajj, garam masala….” — Zak, @ZaktheBaker
“My favorite kitchen spices are kosher salt, garlic powder, and dried oregano. And any chance I get to add espresso powder to my spice mixes, I’m happy!” — Melinda Strauss, @Kitchenyested
“Gosh, I love spices so much, it’s hard to pick one. It’s like picking a favorite pet or child..I’d have to say one of my favorite go-to spices is smoked paprika. Smoked paprika has such a warm, comforting depth of flavor and I love using it in a multitude of ways. I love rubbing smoked paprika on roast chicken and it is so delicious in Turkish lentil soup with bright lemon and mint.” — Samantha Ferraro, @Ferrarokitchen
“Cumin is my favorite spice because I love the earthy flavor and it is so versatile. It’s my secret ingredient in homemade guacamole and I always include some in my shakshuka, roasted eggplant or hummus.” — Amy Kritzer, @WhatJewWannaEat
“I’m currently obsessing over Trader Joe’s Umami Spice (along with the rest of the world!) to add extra flavor into pretty much everything. In terms of more common spices, my go-to picks are cumin, zaatar and chili powder.” — Miriam Pascal, @overtimecook
Shira Feder is a writer at email@example.com and @shirafeder