Thursday, May 5, 2022

Essential Herbs and Spices for Pantry

Learn about the basic spices and herbs to keep in your pantry.  These essential spices and herbs for cooking can be used when cooking your favorite recipes or use them to create your own seasoning mixes.  

Best Herbs and Spices to Have on Hand

I keep a lot of herbs and spices in my pantry because I cook almost everything from scratch.  I also make a lot of my own spice mixes.

I'm thankful that I live near several Amish bulk food stores to get bulk spices.  These spices are not only fresher than what's on the shelf in the grocery store, but I also save a lot of money.

I'll have a series of posts over the next two to three months with seasoning mix recipes, but first I want to talk about basic spices and herbs to have on hand and how to store herbs and spices.

Do Herbs and Spices Expire?

Dried herbs and spices don't expire per se.  They don't have an expiration date like say milk or canned goods because they don't go bad in the sense that they can make you sick.

However, basic spices and herbs can lose taste and potency after time.  You might notice that the color fades and the color starts to fade.  

Generally, dried herbs made from leaves will last from 1 to 3 years.  Powdered or ground spices will last about 2 to 3 years.  Whole spices like anise or whole cloves will last up to 4 years.  

For a longer shelf life, stores spices out of direct light and store them in a cool and dry location.  I keep mine in these spice jars in a drawer in my kitchen.  

If you notice that your essential herbs and spices are starting to get old, you can still use them.  Just know that they may not be as potent, and you should try to use them ASAP.

You can also use them in a simmering potpourri recipe to scent your home naturally.  You can also use some herbs to learn how to make hydrosols at home.   You can also make an herbal infused oil like this calendula infused oil.

Where to Get Essential Spices and Herbs for Cooking

I recommend getting high quality essential herbs and spices for pantry.  There's a big difference in taste between what you get for $1 and the more expensive brands.

However, you don't have to spend a lot of money to stock your pantry with the basic spices and herbs.  As I mentioned, I get mine from the Amish bulk food stores and save quite a bit of money.  I can buy as little as 4 ounces at a time to keep my essential spices for kitchen stocked.

That doesn't mean that I only buy bulk spices.  Sometimes I'm out and really need it and don't have time to run to the bulk store.  I will grab a few things at Aldi when I'm there.  

I also recommend buying bulk essential spices and herbs for the kitchen from Mountain Rose Herbs or on Etsy.  I like to buy from The Plant Guru, Mountain Maus Remedies,  or Grass Roots Herb Supply.  

Mountain Rose Herbs has better prices, but they charge shipping.  You'll also find smaller quantities on Etsy.  

For your convenience, I'll link to Mountain Rose Herbs and Etsy for the list of the best herbs and spices to have on hand.

You can also learn how to do container gardening with herbs to save money and grow your own herbs.  I grow several of my own herbs on my patio in a three tiered herb garden planter.  

I also have information about how to grow an herbal tea garden indoors or outdoors that will have good advice for growing essential spices and herbs for the kitchen.

You'll also need to learn how to dry herbs from your garden to save them for later.

Essential Spices for Pantry

There are many essential spices to have, but these are the most common ones that you'll use for seasoning food and to make spices mixes.

Black Peppercorns

Black peppercorns are perhaps the most commonly used essential spices for pantry.  Whole peppercorns have a better flavor than ground pepper.

I have a pepper grinder, but I also use peppercorns in my Instant Pot chicken broth recipe.

Black peppercorns are used in several savory dishes from main dishes to side dishes.  Buy them at Mountain Rose Herbs or Grassroots Herb Supply.

Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes add a bit of heat to your dishes.  Use them in pasta sauce, pizza sauce, soups, marinades, brines, and any dish with sausage.

Buy them at Mountain Rose Herbs.

Garlic Powder

I try to keep fresh garlic, but sometimes I just can't or want to use a powder.  Garlic powder is great for using in several seasoning mixes and to add to any dish that needs some garlic.

Garlic salt is just salt and garlic powder, so you can easily just use garlic powder instead.

Buy garlic powder at Mountain Rose Herbs or Mountain Maus Remedies.

Ground Cinnamon

Cinnamon is perhaps the most commonly used spice in sweet dishes, but it can also be used in savory dishes for more depth of flavor.  You can use cinnamon in stews, chili, quick breads, and desserts.

Buy cinnamon at Mountain Rose Herbs, Grassroots Herb Supply, or The Plant Guru.

Ground Nutmeg

Some people prefer whole nutmeg, but I just use powdered nutmeg.  I mean, there is a limit to how much time I have to devote to meal prep.  Nutmeg is often used in sweet desserts, and it gives but you can also add it to white sauces, vegetables, ground meat, or potato soup.

Buy ground nutmeg at Mountain Rose Herbs or The Plant Guru.

Onion Powder

Onion powder doesn't have the same effect as using fresh onions, but it's a great to use when you're out of onions.  I also use it for seasoning meat when diced onions won't work well.

It's easy to learn how to make onion powder at home.

Buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs.


Cumin is often used in Mexican, Asian, and Middle Eastern dishes.  It has a unique flavor, and I think it's necessary in dishes and can't be substituted.  

Buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs or Mountain Maus Remedies.


Paprika is mild and sweet, and it gives a nice red hue to dishes.  I use it on chicken and on deviled eggs.  It's also a good addition to a dry rub.  I buy both regular paprika and smoked paprika.  Smoked paprika is great for a dry rub or chicken.

Buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs or Mountain Maus Remedies.

Essential Herbs for Pantry

These are the essential herbs that I use most often.

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are aromatic and have a woodsy smell.  They are used in soups and other dishes that simmer for a long time.  You add 1 to 2 bay leaves whole and let them simmer.  Adding more can make your dish bitter.  Remove before serving.

Buy them at Mountain Rose Herbs or Mountain Maus Remedies.


Fresh basil has a better flavor then dried basil, but I still consider dried basil to be one of the essential herbs and spices for pantry.  Basil is used in Italian cooking and adds flavor to soups and tomato based dishes.

Buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs or Grassroot Herb Supply.


Oregano is similar to marjoram, but it's a stronger flavor.  It's often used in Mediterranean dishes.  Use it for vegetables, meat, pizza, and Greek dishes.

Buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs, Grassroot Herb Supply, or Mountain Maus Remedies.


Parsley is perhaps the most used herb for me.  It's a little earthy, but it has a clean taste.  I use it on vegetables and potatoes often.

Buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs or Mountain Maus Remedies.


I used to not use much thyme, but now thyme is one of my favorite essential herbs and spices.  I use it mainly on chicken, but it's also good on seafood and fish.  Sprinkle some on roasted vegetables or use with beef, pork, or lamb.

Buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs, Grassroot Herb Supply, or Mountain Maus Remedies.


Rosemary is good for teas Use rosemary to season chicken, soups, and stews.  It's also good for your hair, and you can use it make an apple cider vinegar rinse for your hair.

Buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs Grassroot Herb Supply, or Mountain Maus Remedies.

Runners Up for Essential Spices and Herbs

These are what I consider essential herbs and spices for pantry, but here are some more that I really like to keep on hand:

Which of these basic spices and herbs can't you live without?

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