Ingredient Intelligence

10 Ways to Use Almost Any Spice Mix

published Feb 27, 2014
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When I asked you what ingredients you’d like to use more often this year, many of you said that you’d like to use new spices more frequently, and to branch out into spice mixes like curry and dukkah. But it also seemed like spices stumped you — how do you use them beyond a specific recipe? As silverylotus said: “I went out a bought a whole bunch of spices to make Indian curry, garam masala, cardamom, coriander seeds, turmeric. Now they are just sitting on my spice rack. I have no idea what else to use them for.”

So let’s talk spices — specifically, how to use them in everyday cooking. Here are ten basic, easy ways to use just about any spice mix.

These cooking ideas apply nearly any spice or dried herb mix (think of garam masala, za’atar, or curry), although there are some spice mixes (pickling spice comes to mind) that probably wouldn’t be good in all these circumstances. Most of these recommendations could also work with single spices, like sumac or turmeric.

10 Ways to Use Almost Any Spice Mix

  1. Popcorn: The first, and easiest, way to enjoy almost any spice or spice mix! Dust a little on freshly-popped popcorn.
  2. Roasted vegetables: Another easy way to play with a spice mix is to toss it with roasted vegetables. I usually do this after roasting, not before, so the spices don’t scorch in the oven.
  3. Stirred into creamy soups: Add a pinch of spices to creamy butternut squash soup, or to lentil soup. Start small and add more if you find you love the flavor.
  4. Egg salad: Curried egg salad is a thing for a reason; it’s really good! Try other spices in egg salad, too; the fat of the dressing is a great vehicle for taste.
  5. Salad dressings: I like to add a pinch of spices to a basic vinaigrette. A lemon vinaigrette with just a tiny flick of smoked paprika or harissa becomes something special.
  6. Baked potatoes: Sprinkle garam masala or curry powder over a hot baked potato and add some cilantro and yogurt for an Indian-inspired dinner.
  7. Rice: Depending on the main dish, sometimes I season warm brown rice with togarashi or a pinch of pepper.
  8. Stir into yogurt for an easy sauce: Mix a quarter teaspoon of any spice mix into half a cup of plain yogurt. Taste and adjust upwards as desired, then use as a sauce for vegetables or fish.
  9. Fish or meat: Speaking of fish, this is another easy way to use any spice mix. Sprinkle over fish fillets, rub into a steak, or dust chicken before cooking.
  10. Baked tofu: We love baked tofu as a basic lunch staple, and we’re always looking for more ways to season it. It’s a great use for almost any spice mix — just prinkle over tofu, then bake it according to these instructions.

Those are just a few of the ways we like to use spices and spice mixes in everyday cooking; we’d love to hear your favorites too!