Quick Guide to The World of Spices & Herbs

Ever wondered how to enrich the flavors of your meals? Adding spices and herbs can add an incredibly rich new taste to already familiar dishes. But besides being a great way to enrich and vary flavors, spices and herbs can be a fantastic way to boost health through little tweaks to already familiar dishes.
If you are among people who get lost in the spice section without any idea what to pick – we are here to help.
Let’s start with the basics here. What’s the difference between spices & herbs? Spices are usually made out of roots, bark, and seeds of the plant, whereas herbs come from the leaves. Basically, any part of the plant that’s not a leaf and is used for seasoning can be considered a spice.


What are our favorite spices at Vegan Foodiez? Here’s our top-list:

  • Turmeric (fresh or powdered) – the queen of spices, turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects thanks to the main active ingredient called curcumin. Turmeric adds a particular taste to dishes and paints them into the beautiful golden color (just like this Creamy Golden Polenta);
  • Ceylon Cinnamon – did you know that most commercial cinnamon is made from Cinnamon Cassia, a less nutritious sibling of so-called True Cinnamon? Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, is the super-spice that can help fight inflammation, act as an antioxidant, and has an antimicrobial effect. Cinnamon is an excellent addition to anything sweet, in my opinion! It’s remarkable in porridges with berries, cookies, or basically on any fruit (ripe bananas, juicy oranges, peaches, or anything else that comes to mind!);
  • Ginger (fresh or powdered) – some benefits of ginger include the ability to reduce inflammation, bloating, and improve digestion and relieve pain. Ginger goes into smoothies, Indian-style meals, and into our teas!
  • Whole Black Pepper (freshly ground) – helps absorb the active ingredient in turmeric (curcumin), when combined in the same dish. Besides, black pepper is an essential staple used for most sour meals;
  • Cayenne Pepper or/and Chili Flakes – spicy meals are welcomed in our household at all times: in tofu scramble or on toast for breakfast, in lentil dhal for lunch, and topped onto a bowl of pumpkin cream soup for dinner;
  • Smoked Paprika – naturally obtained smoky flavor incredibly enriches every meal this spice is added to. We love it as a part of a spice blend for baked potato wedges, in our chickpea omelets, and on top of our hummus dips;
  • Mustard & Coriander Seeds – an essential part of one of our favorite meals – Indian Red Lentil Dhal – mustard and coriander seeds are central ingredients of many oriental dishes. Besides, coriander seeds can help lower blood sugar, boost your immune system, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and promote healthy digestion. In contrast, mustard seeds have an anti-inflammatory effect, eliminate intestinal parasites, and promote healthy blood circulation;
  • Cumin – irreplaceable part of hummus recipe, this spice has lots of health benefits too: from helping with respiratory issues to improving blood cholesterol to promoting weight loss and fat reduction;
  • Cardamom – this spice is usually found in chai latte and Indian meals. But it’s much more than just a flavor booster in the oriental dishes. By adding cardamom to your meals, you may help your metabolism, improve oral health, and fight certain bacteria and fungi;
  • Cloves – besides being high in antioxidants, cloves can help regulate blood sugar and promote bone health. This spice is not only great in your mulled wine or gingerbread but also can be used to spice up your arabica coffee, to flavor boiled rice, or you can simply add it to curries, cauliflower, broccoli or cabbage dishes.
Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

Spice Blends

To make things easier in the kitchen, we usually have a couple of spice blends at hand, for example:
  • Curry Powder – typically a mixture of turmeric, chili powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger, and pepper;
  • Garam Masala – a mix of Cumin, Coriander, Green and Black Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Bay leaves, Peppercorns, Fennel, Mace, and dried Chilies;
  • Taco Seasoning – a combination of chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and oregano.


  • Basil – this one is probably the most-known herb of all. It’s frequently seen on top of pizzas and pasta (perhaps for its ability to match so well with tomatoes), in pesto sauces and salads. Basil is considered to be a natural antibiotic for strong anti-inflammatory functions. It’s also known for the ability to fight depression, support liver function, and detoxify the body.
  • Oregano – a lot has been said about oregano. It’s indeed a staple in the kitchen for many. Among its health benefits are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and protection against viruses.
  • Sage – not so long ago, this herb wouldn’t make it to our essential list. But everything changed once we got to taste it in this Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Chickpeas & Spicy Mushrooms. Now, there is no going back.
  • Rosemary – another herb that’s so good in combination with starchy veggies: e.g., pumpkin or potatoes, especially baked.
  • Bay Leaf – an essential for almost all our soups and stews, bay leaf adds a depth to the taste of liquified meals. Bay Leaves are known for their ability to detoxify the body, slow the aging process, manage diabetes, improve heart health, and optimize digestion.
In addition to dry herbs and spices, we aim to have at least a couple of fresh herbs at hand, usually from out of below:
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Coriander
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
You have probably noticed the trend by now. Many spices and herbs have a lot in common from the health benefits perspective. Some spices have more distinguished anti-inflammatory properties, others have more antioxidants, and some would stand out for their antibacterial functions. By mixing them all up once in a while, you are sure to get your bunch of health perks along with a variety of tastes. 
Need some help memorizing what’s missing in your pantry? No worries, we got you covered with this free Spice & Herbs checklist

Join our foodiez community

Subscribe today for healthy recipes, guides and motivation!