This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure.

Spices are usually added to food to lend flavor, color, or preservative properties.  But spices don’t end there.  They are commonly used for many other purposes, including medicinal, religious rituals, perfume, and cosmetics.  Spices can be derived from the following plant sources:  arils (e.g., mace), barks (e.g., cinnamon, cassia), dried buds (e.g., cloves), dried fruit or seeds (e.g., fennel, mustard, black pepper), resins (e.g., asa foetida), roots and rhizomes (e.g., turmeric, ginger), and stigmas (e.g., saffron). 


Herbs are similar to spices in that they are commonly used to enhance the flavor of food; however, the main difference is that while spices come from different parts of different plants, herbs are typically the leafy parts of non-woody plants.  (You can find more information on spices and herbs here and here.) 


(Image Source)


Spices and/or herbs are frequently blended together, and used as seasoning mixes.  It helps to know what’s in spice and herb mixes so that if you don’t have a particular mix on hand you won’t have to miss out on your favorite dishes.  Have you ever been in the mood for a curry only to find that you’re out of garam masala or curry spice mix?  My mom used to only make chili with premade chili seasoning until she discovered that she could just as easily customize her own chili seasoning.  And I remember one Thanksgiving when I was about to make a pumpkin pie only to realize that my cupboard was bare of the infamous pumpkin pie spice blend.  In a pinch it can be really helpful to know what’s in some common spice mixes so you can improvise and utilize what you have on hand.


Another reason to make your own spice mixes is because many commercial seasoning blends add a lot of salt to their mixes (most mixes actually list salt as the first or second ingredient).  Aside from the obvious concern of wanting to control how much salt is going into your food, there’s also the concern that you’re paying a premium for what basically amounts to seasoned salt (paying a premium for salt isn’t bad if the salt is say, fleur de sel or some other artisan salt…but the salt in these mixes is more likely than not just plain table salt!).


The last reason to make your own spice mix is the customization that it offers.  Say, for example, that you love baking apple pie; the premade apple pie spice mix available at the store typically contains cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger, but you don’t like ginger in your apple pie.  Instead of buying the premade mix, just make your own mix without ginger.


(Image Source)


Below are the components of some common blends.  Different manufacturers or geographic areas may include different spices and herbs in different proportions.  When you make your own seasoning mix, it’s completely up to you as far as the proportions go.  Also, you can use your personal preference when it comes to the spices/herbs that you include in your own mix (if there’s something you don’t like feel free to completely omit it).  I’ve listed the ingredients in order of decreasing amount to give you a relative idea of how much of each spice/herb to use:


·         Adobo (Spain and Latino countries):  Onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, oregano, coriander, saffron, dried citrus zest


(Image Source)


·         Advieh (Persia):  Cinnamon, cardamom, dried rose petals, cumin, coriander, allspice, ginger, cloves, black pepper


·         Apple Pie Spice:  Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice (and sometimes clove or cardamom)


·         Baharat (Middle East):  Cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, allspice, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom


·         Chili Seasoning:  Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne pepper


·         Chinese 5 Spice:  Chinese cinnamon (i.e., cassia bark), star anise, ground fennel seeds, Szechuan pepper, cloves


·         Curry:  Coriander, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, fenugreek seed, black or white pepper, garlic powder, ginger, fennel seed, cinnamon, clove, black or green cardamom, mace, bay, mustard seed, nutmeg


·         Garam Masala:  Cloves, coriander, cumin, bay, black and/or white pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, star anise


·         Herbs de Provence:  Summer savory, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, chervil, lavender, tarragon, bay (and sometimes fennel seed, oregano, and/or mint)


(Image Source)


·         Italian Herb Mix:  Parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme (and sometimes sage and marjoram)


·         Jerk Seasoning (Jamaica):  Allspice, thyme, sugar, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg


·         Old Bay:  Celery seed, mustard seed, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom


·         Poultry Seasoning:  Sage, thyme, pepper, marjoram (and sometimes parsley, rosemary, nutmeg, and/or celery seed)


·         Pumpkin Pie Spice:  Cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, allspice (and sometimes cardamom)


·         Quatre Epices (France and Middle East):  Black or white pepper, cloves, nutmeg, ginger


·         Ras el Hanout (Middle East and Northern Africa):  Cumin, paprika, allspice, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, clove, cardamom, nutmeg (and sometimes dried rosebuds, mace, anise seed, and/or orris root)



(Image Source)


·         Taco Spice:  Onion powder or minced onion, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper (and cornstarch, even though it isn’t a spice or herb)


·         Za’atar (Middle East):  Thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, oregano, marjoram

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Irene Gonzalez says:

    I too use spices, but still am not certain about ratio. I appreciate your response, above. Could you possibly list your basic or starting ratio suggestions for all of the mixes?
    I know that I am asking a lot, but I can’t fix the information. I recently purchased little bags of ethnic blends. There must be a generic ‘starting’ ratio.
    Thank you

    1. Irene, Thanks for your comment! Different people make their spice blends differently, so it can be hard to talk about certain blends in terms of ratios – it’s a little more relative than that, so I think of spice blends more in terms of proportion. For example, if making a batch of Pumpkin Pie Spice (which has cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and sometimes cardamom) I know that the main spice is cinnamon, and the next main spice is clove, and so on (this is because I’ve listed the ingredients in order of decreasing amount). If I really like cinnamon I might use 2 tablespoons of cinnamon and only 1 teaspoon of cloves; however, another person who really likes cloves might use 2 tablespoons of cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of cloves. Personal taste plays a huge role. Your mix won’t be “wrong” no matter how you make it – it will be customized for your personal preference. The best guideline that I can give is to make sure you’re using the most of the spice that’s listed first for each blend in my post above, but again, this is only because I’ve ordered the lists this way. I hope this helps!

  2. Wow! This is a great post and really informative aobut spice blends. We’ve made some of these here but I’m excited about some tha tI’m less familiar with (eg Quatree Epices and Old Bay.) When might you use some of these mixes?

  3. Faith
    When I saw the photo it took me back to the couple days I spent recently in Istanbul with my daughter. We immediately went searching for the Grand Bazaar and I was looking for sahlep, and found it at the spice bazaar, along with a few other wonderful spices. I loved that city so much!

  4. This is really helpful! I often cannot find certain spice mixes, or I have so many spices I can just do it myself. Why buy pumpkin pie spice when I know I have all those spices sitting in my cabinet!

  5. What a great and informative post!! I just bought a bunch of spices from an Indian market, so this is quite useful. Thank you.

  6. i also visited the Spice Market when i was in Turkey. Your photos reminded me of my time there. :)

  7. faith ive learned a lot!! brilliant and excellent guid to spice blends!! keep it up!

  8. What an excellent post Faith! I like to make my own spice blends when I can. My family prefers my taco seasoning to the store-bought ones. This is a great post to refer back to!

  9. Veronica M. says:

    I really like this post! It’s funny, Our Best Bites just put up a post on spices as well, though the focus is different than yours. Do you have recipes for the spice blends, like how much to use? I’m trying to start making my own spice packets like for dressing mixes and taco seasoning, etc. and so far I only have measurements I like for a ranch dressing mix.

    1. Veronica, As far as measurements go, a lot of it depends on personal preference (for example, I know a lot of people who don’t like cumin, so if they want to make chili seasoning, they may want to decrease the proportion of cumin used, or omit it altogether) and how much of the seasoning mix you’re making (for example, do you want to make a couple of cups and save the seasoning mix for a few months, or do you want to make enough for one recipe…this is why I like to work in ratios instead of actual measurements). I listed the ingredients in order of decreasing amount (or in some cases equal amount…for example, when I make Chinese 5 Spice I usually use equal amounts of all spices), but that’s based on my preference for each spice in each mix (for example, I prefer more chili powder than cumin in my chili seasoning, but maybe someone else would prefer more cumin than chili powder). I can give you my go-to taco spice mix (which is enough for about 1.5 lb of ground meat): 1 TB onion powder or minced onion, 2 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste), 1/4 tsp black pepper, 2 tsp cornstarch. I brown the ground meat and drain off the fat (if necessary), then to the same pan add a large diced onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. I combine all spices and add them to the cooked beef/onion mixture. I also add a few tablespoons of tomato paste and a couple cups of water; simmer on medium to medium-low heat for about an hour or until the meat mixture is thick. I hope this helps! Feel free to let me know if there’s another seasoning mixture that you want specific measurements for and hopefully I’ll be able to help! Let me know if you try the taco seasoning! :)

  10. well, this post is a keeper for sure–what a helpful collection! incidentally, this baharat sounds AMAZING. :)

  11. This is one of the most useful posts ever! I am definitely bookmarking it. I can’t wait to start making my own spice blends. Thank you SOOOO much!!

  12. What great information. This post will come in handy. I use spices and spice mixtures all of the time. Thank you Faith!

  13. Thank you, thank you for this wonderful, informative post. I am copying the entire thing and keeping it in the kitchen.
    You did so much work on it and your photos are wonderful!

  14. I love buying my spices in bulk. I save so much money. Thanks for listing all of these. Great info! That last shot looks so pretty!

  15. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie says:

    Excellent guide to spice blends! And beautiful pictures!

  16. What a very lovely post. Gorgeous gorgeous photos of the spices. Beautiful.

  17. I love this post!!! I have made some spice mixes before, mostly because in the uber-vanilla town where I live it’s sometimes hard to find certain “ethnic” spice and mixes… but there are so many in your list that had never thought about. Very well done.

  18. I loved reading this post, Faith. It is very informative and I can tell that you put alot into it. SO, THANKS!

  19. Absolutely amazing post… great work! I can speak from experience that homemade ras el hanout with rosebuds and garam masala with saffron are amazing and so worth the effort!
    Also, if you run out of a prepared mix you now know how to make your own! Thanks so much for the great work!

  20. What a wonderfully unique post! I LOVE shopping in spice stores for some reason. Maybe because I get to smell all sorts of new things. We had a Penzy’s I used to visit and there is a really cool small one in St. Augustine. I might just have to go back for a visit!

  21. Lovely post. I’m just blown away by the beauty of all the spices!

  22. Wow! What a wonderful resource. Thanks for sharing; I’ve never thought about making my own blends (other than apple pie and pumpkin pie spice). I’d been wondering what Za’atar tasted like, and now I have my chance to make some…once I locate sumac.

  23. Faith, you put so much work into this awesome post. I learn so much from you all the time, but here more than ever! I will link back to this post and I am gonna tweet and Facebook it now. I agree with you about making your own custom spice blends. It is so freeing to be able to to add or leave out spices or herbs according to our taste preferences. I feel like I just took a world spice tour :)

  24. I recently made a taco seasoning and a ranch dressing seasoning mix. I love that you posted all these combinations in one place!

  25. Wow, Faith, I never thought to make my own spice mix! Sounds good! Which is your favorite? Maybe you can have a giveaway for spice mixes that you made yourself. And let me win, of course. ;p

  26. Karyn Bernard (French Charming) says:

    What a great post my friend, so informative, you know you really are the best!

    We grow a lot of herbs but have never tried blending our own spices. Thank you for all of the different blends…The Italian is going to love this!

    Love and hugs,

Similar Posts