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10 Basic Flavor Profiles To Keep Meal Prep Interesting (And Tasty!)

spices

You know what they say. Spice is the variety of life.

Wait… I think I screwed that up. Anyway, learning how to literally spice up your cooking is the only way to get excited about meal prep and keep doing it every week.

Meal prepping the same basic meal weeks in a row can be awesome when you’re first starting out, but as you probably know — that gets boring fast. And it makes meal prep A LOT harder to stick with.

Bland food leads to boredom, which leads to take out.

I’ve been there so many times.

I’d make a basic meal prep with no flavor. It sits in the fridge for a night. The next day it looks so unappetizing and boring, I’d toss it out and get takeout at work instead. And the cycle of guilt begins.

before after meal prep

Have you ever done that?

The obvious way to avoid bland meal prep is… flavor! Duh!

But why is the struggle with keeping meal prep interesting so real? Here’s why:

  • You don’t know where to start when it comes to trying new flavors
  • You don’t know if you’ll even LIKE new flavors
  • Learning new flavors and cooking styles requires more time and effort than your go-to dish
  • You’ll probably have to spend more $ on fancy ingredients
  • Even just looking up new recipes is time-consuming!

So… how do you keep it interesting without using up a ton of time learning new recipes, spending money on fancy ingredients and cooking something that potentially tastes bad to you?

Enter flavor profiles.

flavor profiles
lots of flavor going on here

What’s a flavor profile anyway?

A flavor profile is a set of basic and common spices, seasonings and aromatics that emulate a specific cuisine.

The key word in that definition is basic.

Flavor profiles are memorize-able. Meaning, you won’t need a recipe to whip up a Thai-inspired meal because you will already know the basic ingredients that will make it taste kinda like Thai food.

Again, you’re not going all out to make authentic meals here. You’re simply taking inspiration from other cuisines and cultures to spice up your basic, go-to preps.

Side note: my very first idea for this site was to be JUST about flavor profiles because they’ve been a huge factor in my cooking journey.

In fact, I originally didn’t want to write recipes at all because I rarely use them myself! I just rely on these basic flavor profiles which I’ve pretty much memorized because they’re THAT simple.

Don’t miss this: Click here to get a free recipe guide packed with meal prep-perfect recipes for each of the 10 flavor profiles! 

1. Asian-inspired

Basic Asian dishes would include stir frys, rice bowls, noodle bowls, broccoli bowls (all the bowls).

What you’d need to create an Asian-inspired prep:

Spices

  • Ground garlic
  • Coriander
  • Ground ginger
  • Star anise

Ingredients

  • Soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sesame oil
  • Agave (I use this when making a stir fry sauce)
  • Sriracha (or any type of chili sauce)
  • White or brown rice
  • Tofu
  • Meat: beef, chicken, fish, seafood
  • Fresh ginger
  • Fresh garlic
  • Noodles

asian tofu stir fry

2. Mexican-inspired

Basic Mexican dishes would include burritos, fajitas, tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas. I like making burrito and fajita bowls the most!

What you’d need to create a Mexican-inspired prep:

Spices

  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder

Ingredients

  • Cilantro
  • Limes
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Onion
  • Sweet potato
  • Cheese
  • Black beans
  • Rice
  • Tortillas

burrito bowl

3. Thai-inspired

Basic Thai dishes would include pad thai, peanut chicken or tofu, chicken or tofu lettuce wraps, shrimp rice bowls.

What you’d need to create a Thai-inspired prep:

Spices

  • Garlic powder
  • Coriander
  • Turmeric
  • Lemongrass
  • cardamom
  • Basil

Ingredients

  • Coconut milk
  • Fish sauce
  • Limes
  • Peanuts
  • Noodles
  • Chilis
  • Peanut butter **I’m just adding this because I love peanut sauces in Thai food!

4. Indian-inspired

Basic Indian dishes would include curries, tikka masala, butter chicken, lentil dal.

What you’d need to create an Indian-inspired prep:

Spices

  • Garam masala
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Nutmeg
  • Curry powder
  • Ground ginger
  • Garlic powder

Ingredients

  • Fresh ginger
  • Fresh garlic
  • Coconut milk
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Chilis
  • Onions
  • Curry paste
  • Limes
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Potatoes
  • Basmati rice

5. Italian-inspired

Basic Italian meal prep dishes would include: pasta, pizza and roasted meals (think chicken bakes).

What you’d need to create an Italian-inspired prep:

Spices

  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Ingredients

  • Parmesan and mozzarella cheese
  • Canned or fresh tomatoes
  • Pesto!
  • Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon
  • Mushrooms

6. Moroccan-inspired

Basic Moroccan meal prep dishes would include couscous and rice bowls, stews, kebabs.

What you’d need to create a Moroccan-inspired prep:

Spices

  • Cumin
  • Ground ginger
  • Cayenne
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Ground garlic
  • Parsley

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Couscous
  • Cilantro
  • Potatoes
  • meat (chicken, beef, lamb)
  • Tomatoes (canned, whole)
  • Onion
  • Chickpeas
  • Carrots

7. Mediterranean-inspired

Basic Mediterranian meal prep dishes would include couscous and rice bowls, chickpea or lentil salads, roasted chicken or fish with veggies.

What you’d need to create a Mediterranian-inspired prep:

Spices

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Dill

Ingredients

  • Fresh mint
  • Lemon
  • Cilantro
  • Couscous
  • Rice
  • Tomatoes
  • Fish, chicken
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce and greens
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils

8. American-inspired

Yes, it’s a thing!

Basic American meal prep dishes would include pasta bakes, casseroles, wraps, BBQ anything, burgers.

When thinking American-inspired, think of making a healthy version of whatever you’d order at a fast food place.

What you’d need to create an American-inspired prep:

Spices

  • Salt + pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic

Ingredients

  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Cheese!
  • Meat: chicken, beef, pork, fish
  • Hearty veggies, collard greens
  • Sriracha
  • Soy Sauce

9. Basic Lemon Garlic

This is my go-to in a rush!

Basic lemon garlic dishes could be anything with chicken, fish and green veggies. Best for grilling, steaming and baking when you’re in a rush but want a punch of flavor.

What you’d need to create a lemon garlic meal prep:

Spices

  • Lemon
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt + Pepper

Ingredients

This flavor profile works great with chicken, fish, green veggies, quinoa, pasta and salads.

10. Basic Grain Bowl

This is a flavor profile I made up that I love using when making easy grain bowls!

A grain bowl generally has a base of quinoa, rice or beans and goes with various proteins (eggs, fish, chicken, beef, tofu, tempeh, seitan) and pretty much any veggies you want (I like broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, asparagus, onions, cauliflower and zucchini).

Spices

  • Salt + Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic

Ingredients

  • Proteins:
  • Grains:
  • Veggies:
  • Top with your favorite sauce (I like this tahini one from Minimalist baker).

Other flavor profile ideas:

You may also want to look into Cajun, Cambodian, Eastern European, French, Cuban, Korean, Filipino and Spanish flavors and basic recipes for meal prep inspiration!

Want meal-prep friendly recipes for these flavor profiles?

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