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Must-have spices

Q. What are the must-have spices or seasonings every pantry should have?  — Christine Ristow Wepfer

A. Christine, what a great question! Although the answer is definitely open to individual tastes and preferences, there are a few ingredients that everyone should probably have. Let’s call these 20 “the basics.”

Salt – The No. 1 spice in the world.spices-on-spoons

Seasoned salt – A blend of salt flavors usually with pepper and garlic.

Black pepper – I cook with this in just about everything.

Cayenne pepper – When you need to kick it up a notch.

Brown sugar – The sweet molasses background enhances many dishes.

White sugar – The basic sweetener when brown sugar is not the answer.

Powdered sugar – Handy for making a quick frosting or glaze.

Honey – The only food that never spoils and a natural sweetener.

Cinnamon – From desserts to oatmeal to baked apples.

Vanilla – A background flavor in most baked goods.

Cocoa powder – The chocolaty flavor has many uses.

Garlic – Enhances meats and vegetables very well.

Basil – A romantic herb with a slight licorice flavor.

Oregano – Another romantic herb that can perk up any tomato sauce.

Thyme – A wonderful addition to most savory soups.

Fennel – This ground seed defines Italian sausage and sauces.

Rosemary – A lively stem that goes great with pork and poultry.

Cumin – Commonly identified with southwestern and Mexican dishes.

Paprika – Not just for its vibrant color, but a delicious mild pepper flavor.

Chili Powder – Not just for chili, but also works well in many bean dishes.

My apologies to any of your favorite herbs, spices and seasonings that didn’t make the list. But, not to worry — it’s your pantry so you can keep what you like!

Happy cooking!

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