Finally, a Smarter, More Flavorful Way to Store Spices
There's nothing quite like moving to make you face what's taking up space in your kitchen cabinets. And after packing a U-Haul to the brim twice in six months, there's one section of my pantry I've realized has gotten out of control: my spice collection.
From cinnamon sticks to taco seasoning to za'atar, I've accumulated a cornucopia of spices and herbs to flavor my cooking and baking over the years. And while some seasonings disappear in a flash—looking at you, cumin—there are tons of mostly full jars in my cabinets leftover from my frequent culinary adventures.
Fortunately, I don't have to live a bland life in pursuit of a clutter-free kitchen. I've found Occo's ingenious pre-measured spices that offer big, bold flavors in compact half-teaspoon pods. And they're not just space-savers—they make my meals taste better, too.
Occo co-founders Connie Wang and Lisa Carson were inspired to find a better way to store and sell spices because of their own cooking frustrations.
"Basically we are our customers," Wang said. "We love trying all kinds of new recipes and found it expensive and wasteful to buy full-size products when we only needed a pinch. And it's so frustrating to open a cluttered spice cabinet and realize there are dozens of jars in there we never used again!"
Rather than glass jars or plastic packets, Occo's high-quality spices come in airtight aluminum pods tucked into stylish, stackable cards. The revolutionary packaging protects the essential oils from oxygen, light, heat, and humidity, while the micro portions were specially designed to reduce waste. What's more, the aluminum and paper wrapping is easily recyclable.
But it's not just the pods that make Occo special. Wang and Carson also place an emphasis on where they source their spices and blends. They focus on sustainable merchants, small-scale suppliers, and prioritize organic spices when possible.
"There's so little discussion about spice freshness and origin. It's no surprise people may not be aware of key facts, like how spices get their flavor from essential oils which oxidize and decay over time (generally 3 to 6 months), and this affects flavor," they explained. "Or that spices are like wine and coffee in that the terroir where the spice is cultivated and the processing techniques used will impact the quality and flavor, and thus your cooking. A chile from South America won't taste the same as a chile from Southeast Asia, much like a Chardonnay from California is different from a Chardonnay from France."
To buy: Occo American Basics 101, $38 at eatocco.com
With more than 80 different options, Occo offers home cooks both staple spices and tough-to-find varieties. You can pick individual cards of spices like fenugreek seed and Mexican oregano, or explore the nuance of flavor with sampler chile, cinnamon, or pepper cards. In addition to providing recipe suggestions for each spice on its site, Occo also teamed up with award-winning chefs to create cards with all the seasonings you need for a dish.
"We were specifically interested in recipes that called for spices we think an average American home chef might not already have, like sumac or star anise. We also wanted to represent a wide variety of cuisines and styles of cooking, and really leaned into letting people with credibility in those cuisines guide the recipes and storytelling behind them."
To buy: Occo American Overachiever, $38 at eatocco.com
I tried out both Occo's cinnamon sampler deck and recipe cards like the pho-spiced beef shish kebab. Of course, it was incredibly easy and convenient to use the pre-measured portions when following the recipe cards, but I also appreciated the half-teaspoon servings when using the cassia cinnamon in my chicken shawarma or ginger in my stir fry. Most notably, I was blown away by how strong the spices smelled and tasted. I hadn't even realized how flat and flavorless my year-old spices had become until I tried Occo's warming allspice, slightly sweet Kerinci cinnamon, or earthy turmeric. And now I don't think I can go back.
Occo's cards start at $5 and contain eight spice pods. You can also check out its curated card decks, like American Basics 101 with thyme, sweet basil, and crushed red chili flakes, or the Cookout Kit with recipes for gooey kimchi mac and cheese and a Lebanese kafta burger, with prices starting at $20. No matter what you pick, these small-but-mighty spices will definitely earn a space in your kitchen.