Spice Jars: Your Top Five

What 5 spice jars do YOU choose most often?
What 5 spice jars do YOU choose most often?

Spice is the Variety of Life.

What 5 spice jars do YOU choose most often?A couple of weeks ago I posed a question to some of my cooking friends.
I asked them which 5 spice jars they tended to grab most often when cooking at home, not including salt or pepper. I noticed there were a few dried seasonings that came up often.

Then I asked the same question on my facebook page, and noticed there were similarities.

I followed up by posing the question on the Discuss Cooking forum.
Once again, a certain group of spices kept bobbing their heads at the top, like the hungry Koi fish at my local nursery.

Before you read on, take a moment and think about which 5 jars you seem to gravitate toward most often, and see if your tastebuds match those in the survey.


Number 5: The Flavor of the Holidays: Cinnamon


Cinnamon is the harvested bark from the evergreen Chinese Cassia. It’s also one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese culture. However, in my world, it is that scent that reminds you the Autumn is around the corner, and Christmas isn’t far behind. What would Apple Pie be, without this amazing aromatic? The spicy-sweet taste is often paired with pork, especially holiday hams. It’s so perfect when brewed in a cup of coffee, and of course, it is what makes a Snickerdoodle…well, a Snickerdoodle!

Number 4: Give Me Some Thyme To Think About It


Thyme is one of those flavors that tends to go so well in soups, stews, and sauces.  It’s also a perfect choice when roasting chicken and turkey. I particularly like to use butter between the skin and the breast meat and then sprinkle in a good amount of thyme and lemon.  I also love sauteéing cubed root vegetables and throwing a few pinches of thyme into the extra virgin olive oil they’re cooking in. It makes the entire kitchen smell heavenly! Now if I could only figure out what to do with the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and…. oh nevermind…

Number 3: It’s Oregano…Now Fuggedaboutit


Close your eyes and think about a good New York Style Pizza. Now visualize the baked ziti, the manicotti, and of course, the lasagna. What is the common denominator in spice? Oregano. It’s a staple in my house, since I love italian food with all my heart.  Well, that, and my Chicken Scampi recipe calls for nearly ¼ cup of this spice. (*Remind me to give you that recipe – you will love it!) I recently heard that Oregano hasn’t always been a big favorite in America. It seems that our soldiers who were stationed in Italy during WWII got quite a taste of it when overseas and the love of this herb grew by leaps and bounds. I can just imagine them taking their first bite of real Italian food. Wow! Of course it’s also used often in Mexican food, but that one is coming up next…

Number 2:  The Staple of Mexican Cooking: Cumin


I’m going to be completely honest with you. I love all spices…exept cumin. That said, by this survey, most people adore this flavor! Best when it’s toasted in a dry pan, and then chopped a bit to release it’s aromatics, you’ll find cumin as the centerpiece to many a mexican dish. It’s often basking in the sauces of carnitas tacos, burritos, and it even shows up now and then in creamy guacamole. The flavors of India wouldn’t be complete without Cumin as well, especially curries. As a matter of fact, if you pick up a curry spice jar, you’re most likely to find Cumin as one of the headlining ingredients. If you love Cumin, please make sure to post your favorite way to savor the taste in the comments section at the bottom of this page. Perhaps you’ll change my mind and help me fall in love with the flavor.

Number 1: Say It With Me (and Emeril): Gaaahlic. Garlic Powder, That Is.

Garlic Powder

Garlic Powder won this survey by an absolute landslide. And why not? It is such an easy way to incorporate a deep, rich taste into so many different foods. Perhaps because it is a part of so many different cultures, we Americans tend to use it daily. Of course, it’s the powdered form of the Garlic clove, which is one of the greatest tastes on earth in my opinion =0)
A French dish with garlic and buttered, roasted chicken is hard to beat, as it a lemon-garlic Greek chicken with olives.

Since Garlic Powder won out, I’ve decided we also get to talk about its originator, the head of garlic: One of my favorite treats is to take a whole head of garlic, chop off just the top of it to expose a bit of the garlic between the papery skin, and then drizzle good extra virgin olive oil over it, and roast it until it’s completely soft. Once you take it out of the oven, you have the most delicious spreadable topping, perfect for a loaf of crusty french bread.

What are  your favorites?
What are your favorites?

Whether they’re sweet, hot, bitter, mild, or intense, these tiny little specks have made it so easy for people to experiment in the kitchen.

Monkey Chatter:

I enjoyed quite a few of the comments that ensued from the survey.
Here are a few:

  • “One of my favorites is an oregano/basil/sun-dried tomato blend that I don’t remember where I got, but will cry when I run out!” -Susan (from this post)
  • “Have trouble grabbing paprika without thinking of Blues Clues” -David
  • “It was easy for me to pick the top three or four as I just thought of which jar constantly needs refilled” -pacanis
  • “Herbs de provence: Isn’t that a bit like sneaking in 6-8 of your favorite herbs, and getting to count them as just one?” 😉 -vituata
  • And of course, there’s always one out there: Zagut, who had a write-in for Bacon.

smk plaid

Here again are the Spice Jar finalists. Would you agree?

1 Garlic Powder2 Cumin3 Oregano4 Thyme5 Cinnamon

I would love to hear your opinion: What are YOUR top five?



18 thoughts on “Spice Jars: Your Top Five

  1. 1 crushed red pepper!!
    2 montreal steak seasoning
    3 garlic powder
    4 dried italian herbs
    5 chili powder
    now those are my fave!
    but i do agree with the top five you listed!


  2. Well, I’m surprised that four of my favorites didn’t even make the cut, but probably because two are most often used fresh instead of from a jar. Those would be basil and onion. However, what about ginger and nutmeg? I guess I should not have been so lazy, and added five to the survey!


  3. I’m totally with you about the Cumin. I grew up eating Tex-Mex and still, I can hardly stand the smell of Cumin. I leave it out of recipes and even make my own chili powder concoctions to get around it.

    I would add cayanne pepper and ginger to the list….. And life is too short to substitute garlic powder for garlic as a favorite spice. Fresh garlic – especially in the summer when it’s juicy and sticky is the stuff great meals must start with.


    1. Hooray! I’m not the only one 😉
      I’m with you on the spicy foods – I grew up in Santa Barbara, which has amazing mexican food. Cayenne was pretty high on the list, and somehow ginger wasn’t… hmmm… maybe people were still on a “Christmas Cookie Overload” when I asked them… lol.


  4. Hey SM!

    I just had to tell you that I just made the best ever homemade hummus with homemade tahini too! (I added roasted red peppers, fresh garlic, lemon, and toasted pinenuts to the mixture too). Now the question is how best to eat it. It’s so yummy that I just went for a spoon! MMMMMMMM! ( I knew you’d be so proud of me, so I had to share!)


    1. Wow! Yep, a spoon sounds like a good start 😉 Of course flatbread is a nice idea, but how about using it as the dipping sauce for little pieces of grilled chicken on skewers for a tasty appetizer? I’d probably serve them alongside a chilled cucumber/onion/lemon zest salad. In any sense, your hummus sounds fantastic! And my stomach is now growling…
      Thanks! =0)


  5. I make something like this — I call it “Goddess Hummus” and add a bunch of oregano, a little thyme, a bit of parsely and cayanne pepper. It’s a crowd pleaser.

    And I’m currently enamored with Belgian Endive as the ultimate dipping tool.


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