7 Classic Spice Blends You Should Use More Often

Whether you make them at home, or opt to purchase pre-mixed blends, these spice blends are a must-have for any home cook.

Spices are the key to making spectacular meals at home, and having a few spice blends on hand — customized combinations of multiple spices — are one easy way to use spices before they go stale. From jerk seasoning with its sweet, heady notes of allspice to ground blends like garam masala and ras el hanout that are warming with cinnamon and cloves, spice blends are responsible for creating the signature flavors of some of our favorite recipes, and play an integral role in culinary traditions around the world. 

Various spices

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Here, we’re sharing seven iconic spice blends, each with its own unique flavor profile and culinary significance, along with some of our favorite ways to use them — and these spice blends can all be easily made at home. For the freshest, most potent spice blend, start with whole spices and grind them up in a spice grinder. However if you don’t have the time or equipment to do so, you can purchase ground spices in bulk (many Latin, Mexican, Indian, Asian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern grocery stores sell ground spices in large quantities at an affordable price) and mix them yourself. Alternatively, there are plenty of pre-mixed spice blends available at grocery stores or from specialty retailers like Spice Walla or Burlap & Barrel


A popular seasoning in the Middle East, Za’atar is a spice blend that is typically made with dried thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame seeds, caraway, marjoram, and dill. The combination of spices has an earthy, tangy, and nutty flavor that complements a variety of dishes. It’s an essential topping on Lachuch, a soft and spongy Yemenite flatbread. Additionally, it’s versatile enough to use on vegetables like these Roasted Carrots with Preserved Lemons and Dates, or with earthy meats like lamb as featured in this Lamb Sliders with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce. Za’atar can also be a star at breakfast, too. Win your next brunch with this Za'atar Baked Eggs recipe. 

Ras el Hanout

Ras el hanout is a spice blend that originated in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. The name translates to "head of the shop," indicating that it is a spice blend that often varies from market to market and region to region. While there’s no set recipe, you’ll typically find some mixture of  black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, anise cloves, ginger, cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, and sumac. It has a well-rounded flavor profile with warm and slightly sweet notes from the nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. This blend is traditionally used in tajines but is also particularly well-suited for rich meats like pork and duck in recipes like Pork Chops with Sherry Pan Sauce with Ras Al Hanout and these Spiced Duck Breasts with Mandarin Oranges and Dates

Garam Masala

Garam masala is a warm aromatic spice blend that originates from northern India. Garam means "hot" while masala means "blend," but the spice itself is not necessarily spicy-hot.

It is often made up of ground spices such as cinnamon, cumin, cloves, and nutmeg. While the exact combination of spices can vary, this blend is widely used throughout Indian cuisine. It is often added to stews, curries, or used in marinades. Chef Maneet Chauhan showcases how to make her own garam masala in her Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani recipe to add an extra depth of flavor to the dish. The process involves toasting black peppercorns, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, caraway seeds, grated nutmeg, mace, and green cardamom pods before grinding them into a powder. This homemade blend adds an extra depth of flavor to the dish.

We love letting this warm blend shine in recipes like Chicken Tikka Masala Samosas, Tandoori Chicken, Masala Paneer Kathi Rolls, and Madeira-Braised Swiss Chard with Garam Masala, Sultanas, and Toasted Almonds.

Jerk Spice

Jerk seasoning has a long history in Jamaican cuisine and is believed to have originated with the Maroons, a group of enslaved Africans who escaped from the plantations and settled in the hills of Jamaica. Today, it is a beloved spice blend around the world, featuring prominently in many Caribbean and Jamaican dishes. 

The blend is typically made of Scotch bonnet peppers, cayenne pepper, allspice, nutmeg, pimento, cinnamon, garlic powder, onion powder, and thyme. Its versatility and heat are two reasons why it’s so beloved. It can add a ton of savory heat to dishes like Chicken and Okra Gumbo, or bring out the best in proteins like in this recipe for Caribbean Jerk Pork Chops and vegetables seen in this Spicy Jerk Vegetables with Yogurt-Scallion Sauce recipe that uses a homemade jerk seasoning blend. 

Five-Spice Powder

Five-spice powder, also known as wu xiang fen, is a Chinese spice blend that is made up of five spices: cinnamon, fennel seed, cloves, sichuan peppercorns, and star anise. The five also refers to the five flavors represented in the spice blend: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. They work harmoniously to create a distinctive taste that is characteristic of many classic recipes like Peking Duck and Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Buy it premixed, or make your own like in this Homemade Applesauce with Chinese Five-Spice recipe that bundles cloves, fennel, peppercorns, star anise, and cinnamon as a bouquet garni to cook with the apples. 

Apart from being a key ingredient in traditional Chinese and Twianese dishes, this blend also adds a punch to recipes such as Purple Sweet Potato Pie with Coconut and Five-Spice, Five-Spice Short Ribs with Ginger and Cilantro, and Spiced Brown-Butter Apples.

Berbere Spice

Spices including garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, chili, nigella, fenugreek, and ajwain are the foundation for Berbere, an iconic Ethiopian spice blend. This seasoning packs some heat, and lends its distinct flavors in Ethiopian cuisine. Berbere can be used in various forms; it can be used as a paste, like in this recipe for Berber-Spiced Chicken Breasts where Berbere seasoning is blended with oil, or to add spice to an Ethiopian staple like Awaze Tibs (Ethiopian Spiced Lamb Stew) or to vegetables like this Roasted Butternut Squash with Spiced Pecans. (2018 F&W Best New Chef Kwame Onwuachi even likes to use it as a seasoning for Waffle Fries.)

You could buy a pre-mixed blend, or make it at home as demonstrated in this Berber-Spiced Chicken Breasts recipe, which includes a DIY Berbere blend with ingredients like cloves, paprika, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, and cardamon to season flavor-packed grilled chicken breasts. 

Chili Powder

Chili powder is a popular spice blend that is used in a variety of recipes, but is especially popular in Tex-Mex dishes to add heat and flavor. Grown in the Americans for centuries, chili peppers were used by the Mayans in their cuisine. In the 16th century, Spanish explorers brought chili peppers to Europe and quickly spread globally. It wasn’t until the 19th century when chili powder was first commercially produced throughout the U.S. by a Texan entrepreneur, William Gebhardt that created a blend of chili powder that included ground cayenne, cumin, and oregano. Today, the blend typically consists of a mix of garlic powder, paprika, oregano, cayenne, cumin, dried chiles, and onion powder, all of which work together to create the blend’s iconic flavor. 

The chili powder is a key ingredient in our Classic Beef Chili recipe, and can also be used to add a kick to other recipes, such as Air Fryer Fish Tacos and Slow-Cooker Burnt Honey Barbecue Chicken.

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