How To Stock Up Your Spice Cabinet

by David

If 2020 is the year you want to be more experimental with your cooking or you just want to figure out how to use that exotic spice your friend who travelled abroad gifted you this is for you. Herbs and spices are your friends; they complement your cooking, baking and drinks.  It’s alright to stick to what you know but what we want to do is demystify some of the spices you have been avoiding by breaking down how you can incorporate them in your dishes and drinks and how to store them properly.

For The Basic Cook

Figuring out how to balance different spices to avoid overpowering your dish might be a little bit too advanced for you but you still know your way around a shaker or two.

  • Royco: Add a spoonful or two to thicken any stews and gravies.
  • Black pepper: Add to your food for a peppery taste, it’s great with pasta or potatoes or even in stews and soups.
  • Ground garlic: This is a decent substitute for fresh garlic than can be added as a quick fix to marinades or baked potatoes
  • Ground ginger: This is also a decent substitute for fresh ginger, is a great addition to tea or homemade dawa and can be added to stir-fried dishes.
  • Tea masala: Add a spoonful or two to boiling tea leaves to add that delicious spicy flavour you love in chai masala.
  • Fish masala: Add to your fresh or canned fish when making a stew or when frying.
  • Chicken Masala: Add to your normal chicken stew with coconut milk or add it to your beef (or tofu) stew if you want a lighter flavour.
  • Cinnamon: Add to your tea, milk, cakes, pancakes, some meat dishes, rice or spiced cocktail
  • Turmeric: This spice adds colour and subtle flavour to your dish when added in the right amount. Add it to any rice or meat-based dish. It is great with tofu as well!
  • Rosemary: This herb goes well in almost all dishes and drinks. Add it to your tea, infuse your liquor with it or add it to your marinades.
  • Knorr spicy beef and chicken cubes: These go great in stews, curries, gravies and pilau.
  • Curry Powder & Garam Masala: Add a spoonful or two to your stew to turn it into a fragrant and tasty dish.
  • Aromat: You can’t go wrong with this. Just add it to everything!
  • Baking Soda: This isn’t just for baking. If you ever find that your dish is too acidic, just add a pinch or two of baking soda and watch it work its magic.

For The Experimental Cook

You might be a more experienced cook who has passed the stage of over-salting food but you might need some help figuring out what to add these spices to.

  • Homemade Garam Masala: Take it up a notch by grinding your own whole spices to make a fresh spice blend that is great in stews and curries
  • Cumin Seeds: They smell great and a perfect for curries and rice
  • Cayenne pepper: If the heat of whole chillies is too much then this is the perfect substitute. Sprinkle it on everything from fried chicken to crispy tofu.
  • Coriander Powder: This is a great addition to curries and stews.
  • Jeera Powder: This is ground cumin seeds that goes well with curries and marinades.
  • Mixed Spice: Used in baking, this spice blend is mainly used in savoury recipes such as pumpkin pie.
  • Cardamon seeds and powder: Whichever form you use it in, it’s great when added to tea and baked or fried treats like donuts and mandazi.
  • All Spice: This strongly flavoured spice blend is used in everything from spiced pies and drinks to curries, stews and marinades.
  • Bay leaves: These are a great addition to any stews and curries.
  • Tandoori Masala: This tasty spice blend goes well in marinades and can also be mixed in with other spices such as cumin then added to stews and curries.
  • Chillies: Finding the right balance can be tricky but once added these pack a punch. You can add the chillies whole, take out the seeds to turn down the heat or turn them into a savoury oil.
  • Thyme: This beloved herb is a great addition to any chicken, fish or tofu dish.
  • Oregano: Dried or fresh, you can add this herb to your favourite tomato-based dishes. You can add it in moderation to dishes with a white sauce as well.
  • Garlic salt: This is a step above regular salt. It is full of flavour and goes well when added to chicken, seafood, tofu and pasta dishes.
  • Meat tenderiser: Pour some on your tough cuts of meat and leave for at least 30 minutes to make them much softer and easier to eat.
  • Cream of tartar: This acid is mostly used in baking to stabilize whipped egg whites, prevent sugar from crystallizing and as a rising agent in other baked goods. If you don’t have baking powder you can mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar as a substitute for every teaspoon of baking powder needed.


Sauces For All

It might be tricky to figure out how to use some of these sauces but fear not, here’s what each can be added to.

  • Soy sauce: This salty East Asian sauce is great when added to fried rice, marinades, stews and even on it’s own.
  • Fish sauce: We recommend adding this in moderation to any stew. It adds a wonderful salty flavour.
  • Teriyaki Sauce: Add this to your chicken with some brown sugar then grill, bake or pan fry. Thank us later.
  • Sweet Chilli sauce: This works great as an addition to any stir-fried food, fried rice or even as a dipping sauce.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: This is great for meats and tofu but is also a good substitute for tamarind (ukwaju)


Storage Tips

  1. For spices that you do not use often buy the smaller tins as ground spices lose their flavour after about 6 months.
  2. Store away from direct sunlight or heat.
  3. Spices are better when bought whole. If you can buy whole spices eg cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander etc and grind them yourself. The flavour will be stronger. Whole spices also keep their flavour for up to a year as compared to the ready ground that last just 6 months.
  4. If you choose to move your spices to other containers, make sure the lids are airtight to avoid moisture getting in and turning everything to mush.
Spice shelf life:


Leaves and flowers 1 to 2 years
Seeds and barks 2 to 3 years
Roots 3 years


Leaves 1 year
Seeds and barks 1 year
Roots 2 years



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