Right now is prime time to make the most of your pantry and raiding your spice rack is a great place to start. Rather than take the solo approach consider making a DIY spice blend. Bonus: It can help save you from cooking fatigue.
Not only is it a smart way to take advantage of rarely used spices that are on the brink of expiring, combining several different ingredients ensures your food will hit multiple flavor notes. Think of it as the difference between Sporty Spice and when she joins forces with Baby, Scary, Posh, and Ginger. (“I Turn to You” is decent enough, but it ain’t the Spice Girls.)
Progressive International Seasoning Containers, 2 for $7.99 from Amazon
Air-tight acrylic jars with shaker tops for storing your homemade blends.
Related Reading: How to Stock Your Kitchen Pantry
Here are some homemade seasoning blends that will help spice up your life:
Popcorn is a pretty blank canvas. Though you can’t go wrong with a simple salt and butter topping there are plenty of other ways to coat your kernels. Asian-inspired with a Black Sesame and Mustard blend is a great bet or take a detour to Italy with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Black Pepper, a fun riff on cacio e pepe. But for a sweeter take on the movie muncher, give it the Spicy Cinnamon-Sugar treatment. Get our Spicy Cinnamon Popcorn recipe.
This lip-searing spice mix is synonymous with Jamaican cooking. If you’d prefer a version that relies on easily obtainable ingredients, the Inquiring Chef’s take eschews the traditional fiery scotch bonnet pepper but a dose of cayenne keeps the heat levels high. Though jerk is most notable as a seasoning for chicken, feel free to use it on steak, pork, seafood, and vegetables. Get the Jerk Seasoning recipe.
Old Bay seasoning is a versatile and savory East Coast staple. Over a dozen components are in the mix so make sure you take inventory before preparing your blend. Whether or not you have access to a bushel of freshly caught Maryland crabs, toss it on home fries or fried chicken for a fabulous flavor boost. Get our Old Bay Seasoning recipe.
Louisiana gets all the credit for this peppery party that delivers Mardi Gras to your mouth. The fiery seasoning is ideal on seafood (especially shrimp), but keep it in mind for poultry as well. Ça c’est bon. Get our Cajun Seasoning recipe.
This multi-pronged spice blend, courtesy of Ray Lampe (a.k.a. Dr. BBQ) hits all the right notes: sweet, savory with just the right amount of heat. Apply it to a rack of ribs and you certainly won’t be singing the blues. Get our Big-Time Barbecue Rub recipe.
Fun fact: The recipe for ranch actually does come from a ranch, but not where you’d expect. Santa Barbara stakes the claim for this popular seasoning that’s also popular in liquid form. Try the dry version on tortilla chips or potatoes (whether baked, fried, or roasted). Get the Ranch Seasoning recipe.
Saco Powdered Buttermilk, $4.12 from Walmart
Add this to your spice cabinet for future experiments.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Buttermilk
Elevate your favorite cut of beef with this North-of-the-Border seasoning. The blend originated at iconic Montreal deli Schwartz’s which explains why the mix of paprika, pepper, salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, coriander, dill, and red pepper flakes would be familiar to fans of pastrami. Get our Montreal Steak seasoning recipe.
Related Reading: The Best Cut of Steak to Grill
There are those people who dread the annual arrival of pumpkin spice (a blaring siren signaling the end of summer) and those who rejoice in it. If you fall (no pun intended) into the latter category, the seasonal blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves is simple to make on your own. Incorporate it into mashed and/or roasted root vegetables in addition to desserts (pie, bundt cake, cupcakes) and, yep, lattes. Get our Pumpkin Spice recipe.
The makeup of this vibrant Middle Eastern spice blend varies regionally but core ingredients include cumin, sesame seeds, black pepper, salt and the namesake za’atar leaves, a resinous herb. (If you can’t find za’tar leaves, feel free to swap in thyme, oregano, marjoram, or a mixture of them.) The all-purpose seasoning adds new dimensions to baked salmon, hummus, and roasted chicken but there’s something truly magical when it’s sprinkled atop warm homemade flatbread brushed with oil. Get our Za’atar recipe.
As the name suggests, this herbaceous classic originates from the region of Provence in Southeast France on the Italian border. Consisting of thyme, tarragon, savory, orange zest, fennel, celery seed, lavender, white pepper and bay leaf, the flavor it adds to dishes is as complex as its list of ingredients. It’s particularly good as a rub on chicken and grilled fish, but also consider incorporating into homemade vinaigrette. Get our Herbes de Provence recipe.
No surprise, this kitchen sink seasoning hails from the Big Apple. If there’s shortage of the stuff at Trader Joe’s, you can always make it yourself. Beyond the bagel, it’s also great on avocado toast, popcorn and baked onto homemade rolls. Get the Everything Bagel Seasoning recipe.