12 Spice Brands to Stock in Your Kitchen, According to Chefs

updated Mar 21, 2024
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Spice cabinet
Credit: Adriana Velez

You can learn a lot about a chef by what they have on their spice rack — what level of heat they like, where they’ve traveled in the world, their penchant for paprikas of all kinds. A well-curated collection of spices can make the difference between dishes that are one-note and those that are full of complex, nuanced flavor. From the fiery zest of chili peppers to the exotic taste of saffron, the contents of a well-curated spice collection can transform ordinary dishes into culinary masterpieces — from mundane to magnificent, and who doesn’t want that?

The Best Places to Buy Spices, According to Chefs

We talked to 12 chefs to find out where they source their favorite spices, from sprawling spice emporiums to niche online outlets. Every good chef has a secret ingredient or two. and we got to the bottom of where they found them. If you’re interested in learning more about spices and their flavor profiles or are simply curious about what chefs use, keep reading.

Do you have a favorite spice that you love? We want to hear all about it! Tell us about your favorite finds in the comments below.

Credit: La Boite

1. La Boite

La Boite Spice is my go to — Lior (Lev Sercarz, chef and owner of La Boîte) and I have been friends for almost 20 years, and he is the ultimate authority on all things spice in NYC. His blends are truly a must-have on your spice rack, and a simple sprinkle will turn a basic dish into something restaurant worthy. Some of my favorites that we use in the restaurants are Ararat, Vadouvan, Pierre Poivre, and Amber.” — Marc Forgione, Chef and Restaurateur, Restaurant Marc Forgione, Peasant, and One Fifth 

Credit: Spice Trekkers

2. Spicetrekkers

While there are a lot of places I buy spices, if I was to choose one it would be Spicetrekkers (or Epice de cru if you’re in Montreal). Our restaurant connected with them about eight years ago, and have really enjoyed Tellicherry black peppercorn, curry spice, and just about anything they have. [It’s family-owned, and] they do such a nice job of sourcing great products, telling the stories and really investing in bringing good food to the table. And they are nice people to top it off.” — Bob Bennett, Head Chef at Zingerman’s Roadhouse

Credit: Spiceology

3. Spiceology

“Hands down the best brand to purchase spices from is Spiceology. From the spice variety to the ease of organizing the containers themselves, in my opinion, they are a chef’s dream. I would also say local spice producers are a great option too, but of course they can come with limitations due to accessibility.” — Jasmine Norton, Chef/Owner,  The Urban Oyster

Credit: Burlap & Barrel

4. Burlap & Barrel

“I love Burlap and Barrel! Their single origin spices are sourced from small farms around the world. My pantry is stocked with their Royal Cinnamon, Wild Mountain Cumin, Nyanza Vanilla Powder and Noble Sweet Paprika.” — Rick Martinez, Chef, Cookbook Author and Host of Borderline Salty

Credit: Diaspora Co.

5. Diaspora Co. (and Burlap & Barrel)

“Honestly, for me it’s a toss up between Diaspora Co. and Burlap and Barrel. Both companies produce gorgeous, super fragrant and flavorful spices and have excellent practices. Diaspora Co., founded by the amazing Sana Javeri Kadri, pays their farm partners a living wage and Burlap and Barrel sources their spices directly from farmer cooperatives and small farms, bypassing brokers and middlemen.” — Jessie Sheehan, cookbook author

Credit: Solvang Spice Merchant

6. Solvang Spice

“My favorite spice store is Solvang Spice, an independent, female-owned store in the sweet town of Solvang in Santa Ynez Valley. Solvang Spice has an exhaustive collection of blends and single spices. A few of my favorites are their dried Worcestershire, which tastes kind of like soy sauce powder, and their Santa Maria Rub for an easy BBQ blend.” — Valerie Gordon, chef and founder of Valerie Confections

Credit: Bourbon Barrel Foods

7. Bourbon Barrel Foods

“One of the products I use most often at our restaurants is Bourbon Barrel Foods soy mash. We use the mash in place of African dawadawa in recipes or dehydrate and blend it into a powder to season veg or meat. The mash gives deeep (3 e’s) flavor to dishes and smells of chocolate, caramel, and straight umami.” — Lawrence Weeks, Executive Chef/Partner, North of Bourbon and the upcoming Ensō

Credit: Moji Masal

8. Moji Masala

“I am a huge lover of Indian food and being a home chef, I’m always overwhelmed and scared to cook it myself — just from the amount of fresh spices and ingredients that are required. Moji Malsala is my favorite ‘cheat’: It offers organic freshly ground Indian spice blends that you combine with simple at-home ingredients to make the most flavourful dishes! I am always able to amaze my family and friends with my fabulous cooking skills!” — Elisa Marshall, co-founder Maman

Credit: Singing Dog Vanilla

9. Singing Dog Vanilla

“One of [Salt & Straw’s] favorite partners of all time is Singing Dog Vanilla, based in Eugene, OR. They work with growers in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to find the very best organic vanilla, pay their farmers a fair price, and share a percentage of profits when the final products sell. We use their vanilla in our Double Fold Vanilla, which gets its name because they use twice as many vanilla beans in their extract to pack an incredible punch.” — Tyler Malek, Co-Founder and Head Ice Cream Maker at Salt & Straw

Credit: Kalustyan’s

10. Kalustyan’s

 “One of my biggest passions as a chef is spices and sourcing the best spices to extract the most flavor in my cooking. My dear friend Aziz at Kalustyan’s has always been one of my spice gurus. The aromas of black cardamom and Saigon cinnamon awaken your senses as you walk through Kalustayan’s enchanting store.” — Chef Angelo Sosa, Chef, Tía Carmen and the forthcoming Kembara

Credit: See Smell Taste

11. See Smell Taste

“I used to shop at a specialty store in San Francisco called Le Sanctuaire, which is where I first discovered the spices from See Smell Taste. The spices are fresh, vibrant and incredibly sourced. The diverse range of blends are also amazing.” — Michael Williams, Culinary director of IB Hospitality (Julie, Norah, margot

Credit: SOS Chefs

12. SOS Chefs

 “SOS Chefs is a small family run business that has ONLY the highest quality ingredients. Some might think it’s pricey, I think it’s well worth it. The owner’s are legends in the chef community, and though they have a large customer base they’ve been able to keep the business incredibly personal. It’s a pleasure to work with them, the store itself is beautiful and inspiring like a tiny Silk Road Willy Wonka Factory.” — Jake Leiber, Chef/Partner, Chez Ma Tante, Le Crocodile, and Bar Blondeau 

Where do you buy your spices? Tell us in the comments below!

A version of this story was first published on October, 16 2020 by Lauren Masur