When you’re learning how to cook, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with figuring out how to add actual flavor to your creations. Maybe you don’t want to pull out a recipe, but you want at least want to throw something simple together and make it taste great.
Well, you didn’t ask, but I went ahead and did you a huge favor.
I went out and asked the best food bloggers online what top five ingredients they always have on hand in their kitchen at all times, besides salt and pepper.
Originally, I posed the question to them just for fun because I love talking about cooking, but then I realized that their answers are going to be incredibly helpful to you. Especially if you’re like most people learning to cook and have no clue what kind of spices you really NEED.
Next time you hit the grocery store, you won’t be wandering around in the baking section forever, staring at the spices and scratching your head. Trust me, I’ve wasted so much time doing this, it’s embarrassing.
Stock your pantry with these ten essential ingredients and you’ll be in great shape for cooking.
Cumin is an incredibly useful spice to have in your pantry. Not only does it give food a Mexican, Spanish or Mediterranean flavor, it’s good for your immune system and is an antioxidant. You can use cumin to make your own taco seasoning, which is much healthier than buying it.
- Try adding cumin to your next dish with lentils, garbanzo beans or black beans to give it an extra yummy kick.
There are actually different kinds of paprika that vary in taste from sweet to spicy to smoky depending on where it’s from. To get the most use out of paprika, add it to oil and brush it on meat or veggies before cooking. Paprika has a higher sugar content and burns easily, which is why it’s common to add it towards the end of cooking.
- Paprika goes well with garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil and oregano.
Fact: mustard stored in the fridge won’t go bad. It’s something you can buy and use and not worry about it spoiling. This nimble condiment can be used in dressings, glazes, sauces, in salads, on mac ‘n’ cheese, and a lot more.
- Combine some dijon mustard with oil or melted butter and lemon for an easy sauce for fish or vegetables.
7. Red pepper flakes
There are so many benefits to using crushed red pepper or red pepper flakes other than taste. It can help reduce pain, contains lots of Vitamin A, and helps boost your metabolism.
Adding red pepper flakes or crushed red pepper will give it a bite without lighting your mouth on fire.
- Try it with pasta, garlic and olive oil for a simple and classic meal.
6. Coconut oil
People love sneaking coconut oil into just about anything to replace olive oil and butter. It’s a healthier alternative for cooking with because the body doesn’t store it as fat. It’s also great for your immune system and helps prevent heart disease.
- You can use coconut oil for any meal, but try incorporating it in breakfasts first since it can give food a coconut-y flavor.
When life gives you lemons… cook with them! It’s always important to keep lemons in your fridge. Whether you’re using it in water, adding fresh lemon to a salad or using it to prep chicken or fish for cooking, this little fruit can resurrect any boring food back to tasty life.
- You can’t go wrong putting lemon with classic herbs like thyme, rosemary, dill, oregano and parsley.
Coming in at number 4, cinnamon is a super common and useful spice that helps lowers cholesterol and has antiviral properties. It also makes breakfast and dessert taste great.
- Make cinnamon a regular part of your breakfast by adding it to smoothies, coffee, oatmeal, pancakes, sprinkling it on fruit or making your own cinnamon toast.
Onions can bring any boring lunch or dinner to the next level. There are several different kinds of onions, each with different flavors. Check out a full breakdown of the difference between the different types of onions here.
- Try chopping up red onions to a salad for extra punch.
2. Olive Oil
Olive oil is awesome, and it came in at number two because it’s extremely versatile. I use olive oil literally every day. Because it’s one of the healthy fats you need for many health reasons including preventing heart disease. And it tastes great. You can drizzle it on roasted vegetables, use it to dress salads and use it when grilling and sauteing instead of butter or cooking spray.
- Try replacing butter with olive oil or making your own dressings!
Garlic is the number one ingredient that people have in their home at all times to cook with. It’s the MVP of flavor. Whether it’s fresh or powdered, garlic will always save the day. It can also help prevent cancer and has several other health benefits. Adding minced garlic to anything you cook is a very simple way to make it super delicious.
- To get the most out of its flavor, combine minced garlic with soy sauce, lemon pesto or mustard.
So, you’re welcome. Again, these ten ingredients can help your food go from bland to bangin’ for cheap. They’re just good ingredients to always have on hand. I promise you they can be found in any grocery store- so you literally have no excuses!
Let me know in the comments below what other spices and ingredients you ALWAYS keep in your home that didn’t make the list.
And if you found this post helpful, why not SAVE it to your COOKING TIPS board or your MEAL PREP TIPS board!