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The Perfect Pantry's spice rack: 58 essential ingredients (and we turn three today)

Three spices added to my pantry in the past year.

I believe in karma.

I really do.

I believe in parking karma. My husband Ted has it, an uncanny ability to find a space for his car, even in the most crowded city on the most crowded day. Me? Can't snag a parking space in an empty lot.

I believe in shopping karma. When you find what you're looking for on your first stop of the day, your day's errands will be successful.

I believe that when three readers, three days in a row, ask for a list of the spices in my pantry, the universe is trying to tell me something. Call it blog karma.

Today is the three-year anniversary of The Perfect Pantry, and I'm celebrating with three posts this week about everything in my pantry. It's the first time I've ever published a list of all of the items that have permanent resident status in my spice rack, cupboards, fridge and freezer.

Three spices I use in small quantities, from a favorite online source.

You'll realize, of course, that my pantry is perfect -- for me, and for what I like to cook. As we've seen on Saturdays in Other People's Pantries, everyone's pantry is perfect, yet no two contain identical ingredients.

At the end of each post this week, I hope you'll suggest items that should be in my pantry, with some ideas for how to use them. I'm always looking for my next favorite ingredient, for new dishes to try and new flavors to love.

Next Sunday, I'll publish the list of what you feel is missing from The Perfect Pantry, and you can be sure that many of those items will find their way here.

To the readers who inspired this week's posts, and to all of you who read this blog and take a moment to leave a comment or send an email, or let me know if you've tried a recipe, or share your own recipes, or correct my mistakes or add to our collective knowledge about pantry ingredients, and to those whose pantry photos have appeared here in Other People's Pantries -- thank you, thank you, thank you.

You are the most important ingredient in The Perfect Pantry.

Three spices in recycled jars.

The 58 herbs and spices in my kitchen today
As you can see, my spice rack circles the globe. Herbs and spices marked with an asterisk are ones I consider fundamental, if you're just starting to build your pantry. To find more recipes using each ingredient, use the search box at the top of this page. [Note: to print this post without sidebars, hit "print" on your keyboard. To print just the list, cut and paste into a Word document.]

Adobo seasoning
Aleppo pepper
Allspice, whole and ground
Anise seed
*Bay leaves
Cardamom, ground and whole pods
*Cayenne pepper
Celery seed
Chile peppers, assorted ground and whole
*Chili powder
*Cinnamon, ground and whole sticks
Cloves, whole and ground
Colman's English dry mustard
Cream of tartar
*Cumin, ground and whole seeds
*Curry powder
Dill weed and seed
Fennel seed
Filé powder
Five-spice powder
Garam masala
*Ginger, ground
Grains of paradise
Herbes de Provence
Hot sauce (Tabasco and many others)
Nutmeg, whole and ground
Old Bay Seasoning
Oregano, Mediterranean and Mexican
Paprika, Hungarian sweet and Pimentón (smoked paprika)
*Pepper, black and white, ground and whole peppercorns
Piment d'Espelette
Ras el hanout
Red pepper flakes
*Salt, kosher and sea (several types)
Sambar powder
Seasoned salt
Sesame seeds, white and black
Spike seasoning
Star anise
Syrian spice
Szechuan peppercorns
*Thyme leaf
Urfa pepper

What's missing? What's on your spice rack that isn't on this list?

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Congratulations on turning three!

Congrats on turning three, Lydia! And you have a lot of spices there. :) happy cooking with them!

Happy Birthday!!

I have to ask since these spices for the most part cannot be bought loose; how do you know when a bottle of spice has been around to long? And doesn't it hurt when you've used no more than a tablespoon of something and you have to throw the rest out because its too old to use anymore?

Thanks again for the great site. And just so you know the postman was here yesterday and so guess who cant wait for the cheese shop to open today????????

Milton, great questions. I replace most of my spices once a year, unless I have stored them in the freezer to extend their life, in which case I replace every two years. A better strategy is to buy in small quantities spices you're not sure you will use frequently. Yes, it hurts to throw away spices you don't use -- which is why you can always find recipes on this site to give you ideas for how to use what you already have. By the way, you can almost always use old dried spices; just increase the quantity to make up for their loss of potency.

Happy Birthday! I've really enjoyed reading what makes your pantry perfect!

Awesome post! Happy anniversary! So glad you're a part of the good blogging world.


Happy third birthday Lydia. Boy, I love your pantry. I have most of these too, & what I don't use too often, finds it's way into the freezer.Your pantry is PERFECT!!

Congratulations on three years! I want to add adobo to my OWN pantry. What about chipotle powder? Do you ever use that? That's another one on my own list!

Love this post! Now I must run and take a look at my spice shelf and start making a list!

Congrats on turning 3! Wow, something to be so proud of. You have an incredible blog! If I could bottle it, it would be a fundamental spice on my spice shelf!

Congratulations on your third birthday! I haven't sat down and made a list of what's on my spice racks, but I can say that we have pretty much the same spices as your list. The only one on the list that you won't find in my rack is anise seeds. No one in our house likes the flavor!

Happy Birthday! I sure enjoy reading your blog : ) thanks so much
I also have a lot of the same spices in my pantry, need to visit Penzeys on line and order a few of them, I'm running low on vanilla beans and extract, ginger powder, turmeric, cinnamon and a few others, love spices!

Congratulations for reaching your third year blogging. I've got all your basics on my shelf. I certainly will try to add a few more in summer dishes. I didn't see Basil or Rosemary listed or does Herbes de Provence cover those? I love making my own soups and always add Knorr's chicken bouillon. Have you tried bacon salt?

Happy Third!!!! I enjoyed reading the first blog and I still enjoy and look forward to every one. My taste and cooking style has changed with many a suggestion from you. I even enjoy "hot and spicy" as long as it isn't too "hot", but I'm gradually adding more and more spice. Thanks for all the good suggestions.

Happy 3! I find a wealth of information and good thoughts each time I visit, yes there is karma!

Great blog. I am new to this site and look
forward to your posts. I did not know that you could store spices in the freezer to lengthen their shelf life. What at great think to know.

Thanks again for this great site and I look forward to reading the archives as time permits.

What exactly is the difference between herbs and spices? I guess I always thought of herbs as something I can grow and spices were more like the sweeter baking things like cinnamon, anise, allspice, nutmeg.

What immediately popped out to me was that some of my favorites are not on your list! Rosemary, Sage, Basil (!), Chives, Cilantro, Parsley. Most of these I grow myself. Including Thyme, Oregano, Dill weed, marjoram, tarragon and this year I'm growing fennel for the first time. I have Sweet Basil, Lemon Basil, Spicy Globe Basil, Cinnamon Basil and Summerlong basil (that I'm trying for the first time, it's supposed to not bolt as soon.) I LOVE pesto... or would that be somewhat obvious? Oh, and an unidentified type of mint, it's not peppermint but milder (and was a freebie so I didn't complain).

I don't use as many of the pepper spices as you do. I don't tolerate "heat" in my food very well. But this year I'm growing several varieties including jalepenos, banana peppers and bell peppers, cherry bombs and cayenne. Mostly for my sig.

This year I'm trying to learn new ways to preserve them other than just drying. I'm making herb vinegars and herb oils. Hopefully they'll turn out as well as the herb butters I've been playing with.

Do you grow any of your own fresh herbs?

Happy 3rd Birthday!!!

Your pantry would be perfect for me too! Unfortunately I don't have room for everything I want. The only things that I can think of that aren't on your list are asafoetida and amchur powder. I picked these up the other day to try out a new Indian dish.

I'm guessing that the likes of basil aren't here because you prefer fresh.
I have Ancho Chili pepper, Chipotle pepper, mustard seeds (& ground), love Pensey's Northwoods plain and fire & Tuscan sunset (have been wonderful on grilled meats & veggies), sumac (just exploring this in hummus so far), tandoori & vindaloo (haven't used yet).
Happy birthday 3.

I'd love to have a pantry that's as well stocked as yours :)

Happy Happy Anniversary! Wish I had the space for so many kinds of "heat". How do you keep them accessible (I've got one of those ancient wire spice racks hanging from a peg board.) Being short, I'd never use them if they were in a cabinet (that's how I ended up with 3 jars of cardamom). My drawers are full of gadgets & baking papers.

I ditto chipotle powder and have smoked salt for those rare occasions where smoke is good, but guests aren't heat-friendly; great on cold black bean salad. I don't use it a lot & it's lasted quite a long time.

I prefer "Saigon Cinnamon" or "Vietnamese Cinnamon", though I also buy cinnamon sticks to grind for when I need FRESH flavor (like the baharat you turned me on to).

My local kebab house turned me on to sumac, which is great as a table condiment for grilled fish & on plain rice for a quick snack.

I also use a lot of Aromat (R) which is salt seasoned with powdered mushrooms.

Thanks as ever for a wonderful blog.

oh man you covered them all and then some. and I am that other person that cannot find an empty parking spot in an empty lot too.
Happy Anniversay to you!

Maras or Marash pepper. My favorite pepper of all time. Also Chipotle. In other news, happy day! Three years for you and three years all of your readers, me included, have greatly enjoyed.

Happy Anniversary!

I can't think of any to add to your perfect list!

Congratulations on your third anniversary.I have enjoyed every post on this blog since I discovered it.

Happy blog birthday! You can tell I'm a bit behind on reading my feeds today! I still remember the first time I found your blog, and now look what great friends we are.

As for the list, it's pretty perfect. I know said chile peppers, but Penzeys ground chipotle chile powder and ground ancho chile powder are two musts for me.

we use a lot of salts.. lawry's season salt, smoked sea salt, celery salt and my guilty pleasure, tony chachere's creole seasoning... it really is good on everything like the package says.

i love mccormicks mesquite seasoning.. in mashed potatoes it adds a smokey bacon-y flavor.

we also have wasabi powder but i haven't quite figured out the best way to use it.

Maris, I do have chipotle powder, and green chile powder, and several other lethally hot chile powders in that "assorted chiles" category. I'm embarrassed to tell exactly how many different ground and whole chiles I have!

Betty, I don't use dried basil, rosemary, parsley -- but as you'll see later in the week, I do include fresh herbs from my garden in my pantry, and I'm growing all of those.

SerenDippity, I write often about my herb garden, where I'm growing all of the herbs on your list. The difference between herbs and spices has to do with where they are found on the plant; herbs usually come from the leafy part, and spices come from seeds, fruits, roots or bark.

Katie, I do feel that I'm missing many Indian spices.

MyKitchen, I actually have many of the things on your list on my spice rack, but don't use them often enough to keep them in the pantry all the time. And yes, I'm spoiled by the fresh herbs in my garden and cannot bring myself to use the dried versions unless I've dried my summer herbs for winter use.

Jenna, thanks for the great suggestions. Aromat is new to me.

Amy, maras pepper has been on my to-try list for a while. Thanks for the reminder!

WOW! Congrats honey!!!

bleated happy bday. I spent yesterday going thru my spices and herbs just to see what I had that you didn't and what maybe I want to buy and try from your list.

My list included:
Sazon Goya con culantro y Achiote
rosemary( grow)
basil( grow)
parsley( grow)
oregano( grow)
ginger( fresh and ground)
cilantro leaves dried
red and green curry paste( looking for yellow)
crystallized ginger
poultry seasoning
pumpkin pie spice (I only use it in cookies)
poppy seeds
caraway seeds
minced and powder onion
powdered garlic to go with the fresh bulbs and the lg jar of minced garlic in the frig
orange and lemon zest(fresh limes, lemons and oranges always zested before thrown in trash)
Zatarans crab boil
xanthum gum
vanilla bean paste and beans
Mrs.Dash( for High BP folks) tomato, basil and garlic; table blend; garlic and herb and extra spicy
Caribbean jerk,Montreal steak,Montreal chicken,mesquite by Mc Cormick grill master
taco seasoning ...I make my own blend

I do alot of blends of my own to suit my family.I have a mortal and pestle and an extra pepper grinder to grind those blends up fresh.

have a great day.

Happy Anniversary! Three years is a great feat in the blogosphere, and every post has been spicy, seasoned, and flavored just right! And, I share your belief in kharma, particularly on meeting friends through food blogs!

Happy 3, Lydia!

Congratulations on turning 3!

Thank you so much for this list. I am constantly adding to my pantry as my cooking experience grows and this is very helpful.

Hi Lydia, happy blog d-day, I checked out your list of pantry staples and wow! I will take it with me when I hit my favorite gourmet foodie stores. Just had to laugh a bit though at Urfa pepper...it sounds more like a burp than a spice!! smiles; kelley

Happy birthday to a great blog!!! :)

Happy Birthday to "The Perfect Pantry" and congratulations to a wonderful blogger and inspiring foodie. Thank you, Lydia, for this superb blog.

Happy third birthday! We're going to be moving next month, and I can't wait to get my spices organized once and for all.

Julia, what a great list! I'm growing all of the herbs on your "grow" list, and have many of these items in other parts of my pantry, as you'll see later this week. One thing I've never used is xanthum gum. And I'd love to know what's in your taco seasoning.

TW, amen to blogging friends. Life would be so much less rich without them.

Kelley, it does sound like a burp, doesn't it?!

Cate, I love the idea of starting my pantry from scratch in a new kitchen. It was fun when we set up our kitchen here in the log house after living in the same place for 30 years.

Happy Anniversary! Wonderful list, I would have to add Tonka Bean. I love having them on hand to grate into cakes or cookies. Let me know if you can find them or not and I'll send you a few.

I love this list, and have probably 80% of what's on here. Now I need to figure out how to wrangle them all! I just wrote a post on my blog about wanting to find an effective spice storage system than will work with my quirky kitchen, and lots of readers have left great ideas in the comments.

Happy two years! You have a wonderful collection of spices (that span the globe). I have quite a large collection of spices myself, but I've never ordered from Penzeys. I'll be in Boston this summer & I do hope to stop by and take it all in.

A few that I have that I don't see on your list: Apple Pie Spice, Lemon Pepper & Greek Oregano

Happy anniversary!! Nami-Nami turned 4 on Monday, but I've been too busy with the baby to post about it yet :)

Jane's Crazy Mixed-up Salt is a fantastic seasoned salt. My daughter will happily devour green beans if they have that on them. It's also wonderful on sliced tomatoes for a snack.

Pille, thanks, and happy anniversary to you, too.

LeeLee, that's new to me, but if it gets your daughter to eat green beans, I'm all for it.

Wow, Happy Birthday to The Perfect Pantry. Three years, that's a heck of a lot of work, but so appreciated; you've taught and shown us all so much.

I know it's silly but one thing I love about your blog is the random prize generator, in this hi tech world, it always makes me smile.

No vanilla beans, extract or essence in the pantry? I'm sure they're spices.

Happy 3!!!!
Love the list... I should make one - before my next trip to the US and Penzeys

WOW Lydia! Three years and still not only thriving and growing, but also becoming global...what a great accomplishment by you and yours! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!


P.S. For some reason I always get a good parking spot, Bob says I get "the valet" spots, LOL

I have a lot of these but I am missing a few and I have never had a few of them.

So good to see a model spice cabinet! And 58 - wow that's impressive!

Aimee, you've stumped me on tonka bean. What is it? I'm intrigued.

Lori, I tend not to keep many spice blends in the pantry, but I do keep the components to make my own. And I grow (and dry) Greek oregano, and wouldn't be without it.

Neil, I absolutely have vanilla bean and vanilla extract. They're in the cupboards.

Congratulations on reaching year three of this incredible blog. One of your readers mentioned keeping lemon and lime zest. Should it be refrigerated?

wow happy 3!!

maybe I missed it but have you tried/blogged Bell's Seasoning? the little yellow box was a staple in my mother's and now my pantry - she used it to make stuffing. I use it as a light dry-rub along with fresh lemons for delicious roast chicken.
check it out at http://www.bellsseasonings.com/

Who sells big spice racks for the indian cooks out there? I've looked everywhere...!! I WANT 100 spice rack!!

Mexican oregano
ghost chili powder
black mustard seeds
green chili pepper flakes
star anise
toasted sesame oil
onion granules
Bese Bese spice mix
smoked peppercorns
curry leaves (best fresh)

Great list! I also regularly use:
Mustard seeds
Hing (Asofetida)
Curry leaves
Dried oregano
Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

you have no Sweet Basil and Lemon. McCormicks used to make a premixed version that was awesome on fish and seafood, but they discontinued it. So I just use fresh Lemon Grass and Fresh Sweet Basil when I can. Its better than dried basil and lemon juice. Otherwise, you really need some Tony Cachere's Cajun Spice . . . and some Cavender's Greek Seasoning.

Love your list. I'm always trying to broaden my cooking horizons. I didn't see Lemon Pepper Seasoning which I use a lot.

Great list! I LOVE Penzy's too! I buy their Bavarian spice rub for my pot roast. It reminds me of Sunday dinners at my Grandmother's!

mustard seeds... a must in all Indian pantries/ kitchens ;> they usually accompany cumin seeds for tempering :)) for more info and recipes using these tiny black seeds-


Ok, coming a little late to this game, but you know what they say...

Korean red pepper powder
Mustard Seed
Curry leaves

...I think that's all I have right now that you don't, which isn't saying much! I've been looking for jimbu and methi and timur, daun salam, kemiri (candlenut) and some other spices but haven't found them yet. Anybody know a good online organic spice dealer?

Just stumbled onto your site while looking up something to do with a tube of Harissa and virtually NOTHING in my apartment (besides spices and condiments) since I am moving in 4 days. Excited to say that all I need is the fish for your Harissa and fish recipe.

That said, a couple of spices that I cannot do without (and only discovered in the past two years!).

* Shahi Jeera - "black cumin" or "royal cumin" - a subtler, smokier version of cumin.
* Black Cardamom - Another smokey savory alternative to the original

Both go amazingly with Fall/Winter meat dishes (a bit unseasonable, but that'll give you time to find them!)

Just found grains of paradise at my spice shop and picked some up. Excited to see what you do with them!

Keith, black cumin and black cardamom -- two completely new-to-me spices that I will now have to track down!

I'm late to the party, but I have to offer a massive THANK YOU!!!!

My dad has been talking for years about adobo powder nad fish he'd had cooked in it and how it was awesome. And while I've found scads of recipes for it, he wanted a commercial mix with the name on the bottle. (I came THIS close to mixing it myself and slapping an inkjet printer special label on it..) The Penzeys you show is going to make him a happy camper.

SAGE! :)

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