The Ultimate Herb & Spice Flavor Pairing Guide

Updated on April 14, 2020
Marla Watson profile image

Marla is a self-employed entrepreneur, tinkerer, and classic over-thinker who loves to get inventive in the kitchen.

Walking down the spice aisle is always the highlight of my grocery trips. The colors and textures of all the spices neatly displayed in tiny glass bottles lets me imagine for a moment that I am in an medieval apothecary.

Once, I only knew how to use a fraction of the spices on the shelf. But after making some serious lifestyle changes to get my health goals back on track, I became much more willing to venture outside my comfort zone. I really have to be adventurous to keep things interesting enough to stick to a healthier diet, and here are some of the best, most flavorful combinations I’ve learned so far.

Lists and charts of which spices and herbs go best together.
Lists and charts of which spices and herbs go best together. | Source

What Spices Go Together?

In this section, I've taken some of the guesswork out of creating your very own seasoning blends for popular main ingredients. After each main ingredient, I list several great spice-and-herb combo options that will taste great together (with acid and other flavor additions thrown in, too).

Beef

  • lemon juice, rosemary, black pepper
  • thyme, cloves, orange peel, black pepper
  • garlic, herbed vinegar, black pepper
  • mashed green peppercorns, onions, marjoram

Poultry

  • ginger, orange peel, sage
  • marjoram, thyme, apple cider vinegar
  • tarragon, shallots, lemon juice
  • basil, white wine vinegar, garlic

Fish

  • dill, lemon juice, mustard seeds
  • lovage, celery seeds, lemon juice, black pepper
  • fennel seeds, mustard seeds, bay, lemon peel

Green Vegetables

  • savory, chives, onions
  • dill, bay, rice vinegar
  • basil, nutmeg, marjoram

Yellow & Orange Vegetables

  • cinnamon, nutmeg, orange juice, thyme
  • ginger, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, lovage, celery leaf
  • beebalm, thyme

Cheese & Eggs

  • dill, chives, parsley, paprika
  • nutmeg, dry mustard, black pepper
  • oregano, garlic, thyme

Beans, Rice, & Grains

  • chilies, cumin seeds, oregano, garlic
  • saffron, garlic, parsley
  • mint, parsley, lemon peel, caraway seeds

Herb Butters

  • mint and dill
  • beebalm and lovage
  • lemon verbena and dash of orange peel
  • costmary and tansy
  • basil, sweet pepper, oregano, thyme
  • marjoram and garlic
  • garlic, sesame seeds, chives

Flavored Oils

  • oregano, thyme, garlic, olive oil
  • chervil, tarragon, shallots, peanut oil
  • ginger, cardamom, coriander leaf, safflower oil
  • saffron, garlic, olive oil
  • dill, garlic, sunflower oil
  • basil, chili, garlic, and olive oil
  • lemon verbena, lemon thyme, walnut oil
  • lovage, garlic, celery leaf, olive oil

Flavored Vinegars

  • rosemary, raisins, orange peel, garlic, white wine vinegar
  • sage, parsley, shallots, red wine vinegar
  • borage, dill, shallots, white wine vinegar
  • chilies, garlic, oregano, cider vinegar
  • mint, honey, cardamom, white vinegar
  • coriander leaf, garlic, rice vinegar
  • rose petals, violet petals, rice vinegar
  • dill, nasturtiums, garlic, cider vinegar
  • fennel leaf, garlic, parsley, white wine vinegar

Which spices taste best with which ingredients?
Which spices taste best with which ingredients? | Source

What Spices Go Well With...?

Cilantro: What herbs and spices taste good with cilantro?

Cilantro works well with garlic, onions, chiles, limes, basil, and mint.

Cumin: What spices go well with cumin?

Cumin is a very warm flavor that tastes great mixed with turmeric, curry, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, garlic, and saffron. It also pairs well with tomato, chickpeas, and yogurt.

Dill: What herbs and spices taste good with dill?

Dill goes well with basil, mint, cilantro, bay, borage, chervil, chives, garlic, onion, parsley, sorrel, and tarragon.

Rosemary: What spices go well with rosemary?

Garlic and parsley are frequently paired with rosemary, and it can be used with curry and mint. It's a very aromatic herb, so it can be used by itself...especially for seasoning meat!

Spice Pairing Chart for Main Dishes (Proteins): Fish, Meats, Poultry, and Eggs

Protein (Main Ingredient)
Pairs Well With
Beef
Basil, Bay Leaf, Caraway, Cumin, Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Marjoram, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Chicken
Anise, Basil, Bay Leaf, Borage, Chives, Cinnamon, Cumin, Dill Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Lovage, Marjoram, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Eggs
Anise, Basil, Caraway, Cayenne Pepper, Chervil, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Fish
Anise, Basil, Borage, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Lamb
Basil, Bay Leaf, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Mint, Onion, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme
Pork
Anise, Caraway, Cardamom, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Oregano, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Tarragon
Turkey
Basil, Garlic, Marjoram, Onion, Oregano, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Which herbs and spices taste good with fruit?
Which herbs and spices taste good with fruit? | Source

Spice and Herb Pairing Guide for Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetable or Fruit
Pairs Well With
Asparagus
Chives, Lemon Balm, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Beans, Dried
Cumin, Garlic, Mint, Onions, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Thyme
Beans, Green
Basil, Caraway, Clove, Dill, Marjoram, Mint, Sage, Savory, Thyme
Broccoli
Basil, Dill, Garlic, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Oregano, Tarragon, Thyme
Cabbage
Basil, Caraway, Cayenne Pepper, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Marjoram, Sage, Savory
Carrots
Anise, Basil, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Clove, Cumin, Dill, Ginger, Marjoram, Mint, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Cauliflower
Basil, Caraway, Chives, Cumin, Dill, Garlic, Marjoram, Parsley, Rosemary, Savory, Tarragon
Corn
Chervil, Chives, Lemon Balm, Saffron, Sage, Thyme
Eggplant
Basil, Cinnamon, Dill, Garlic, Marjoram, Mint, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Thyme
Fruit (most types)
Anise, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Mint, Rosemary
Mushrooms
Coriander, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Tarragon, Thyme
Parsnips
Basil, Dill, Marjoram, Parsley, Savory, Thyme
Peas
Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Rosemary, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Potatoes
Basil, Caraway, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme
Spinach
Anise, Basil, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Dill, Rosemary, Thyme
Squash (all types)
Basil, Caraway, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, ginger, Marjoram, Dill, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Savory
Tomatoes
Basil, Bay Leaf, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Garlic, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Good herb and spice flavor pairings for meats, vegetables, and starchy dishes.
Good herb and spice flavor pairings for meats, vegetables, and starchy dishes. | Source

Spice Pairings for Side Dishes (Carbs)

Side Dish Ingredient
Pairs Well With
Bread
Basil, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Lavender, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Potatoes
Basil, Caraway, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme
Rice
Basil, Fennel, Lovage, Saffron, Tarragon, Thyme
Stuffing (Bread)
Garlic, Marjoram, Onion, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

Tips for Maximizing Flavors and Using Spices Properly

  • To get more mileage out of dried herbs, soak them for several minutes in a liquid that can be used in the recipe such as water, broth, oil, lemon juice, or vinegar.
  • When using herbs in salad dressings, allow the herbs to soak in the acid for at least 15 minutes to 1 hour before dressing the salad.
  • To work the flavors of spices and herbs into meat, poultry, or fish, rub them in with your hands before cooking.
  • For steamed or boiled vegetables, add the herbs to melted butter and allow this mix to stand for 10 minutes before tossing in the vegetables and serving.
  • Generally speaking, dried and fresh herbs can be used interchangeably in recipes, however the amount of each will vary since dried herbs are more concentrated in flavor. You will need to use 3-5 times more fresh herbs than dried, depending on the strength of the herb.
  • To achieve the best flavor in foods that cook for a long time, add the herbs during the last 20 or so minutes of cooking so that they don't lose their taste.

Popular Spices Around the World: How to Add a Regional Flavor

Region
Popular Herbs & Spices
African
ginger, garlic, fenugreek, chilies, black pepper, cloves, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, turmeric, peppercorns
Cajun
allspice, basil, bay leaves, caraway, cardamom, cayenne, celery seed, chives, chilies, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, dill, garlic, lemon, mace, marjoram, mustard seed, nutmeg, onion, oregano, paprika, parsley, peppercorns, saffron, salt, savory, tarragon, thyme
Caribbean
thyme, marjoram, basil, cilantro, shallots, allspice, arrowroot, ginger, garlic, chilies, Jamaican jerk seasoning*, nutmeg, lemon, mace, lime
Chinese
Chinese 5 Spice*, star anise, cinnamon, fennel seed, ginger, Szechuan peppercorns
French
Fines Herbes*, Persillade*, Herbes de Provence*, nutmeg, tarragon, saffron, chives, chervil, parsley, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, sage, bay leaf, peppercorn
German
bay leaves, borage, caraway seeds, chives, dill, juniper berries, marjoram, parsley, thyme, white pepper, mustard seed, celery seed, coriander, dill seed
Indian
ginger, turmeric, chilies, saffron, cumin, garam masala, curry powder*, coriander, black pepper, fenugreek, fennel, nutmeg, cardamom, star anise, basil, mint, bay laurel, cloves
Italian
oregano, black pepper, parsley, bay leaves, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram
Japanese
cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, ginger, turmeric, orange peel, sesame seeds, wasabi powder, Japanese 7 Spice Blend (Shichimi Togarashi)*
Latin America
cilantro, oregano, thyme, parsley, mint, allspice, cayenne pepper, chilies, chili powder*, cloves, coriander, sage, Adobo*, cacao, celery seed, sea salt, chia seeds, cumin, Jamaican Jerk Seasoning*, lime, paprika, peppercorns
Mediterranean
arugula, basil, bay leaf, dill, fennel leaves, marjoram, spearmint, oregano, parsley, purslane, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme, garlic
Thai
basil, lemon basil, ginger, shallots, lemongrass, lime leaves, spearmint, coriander, garlic, chilies, turmeric, bay leaves, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder*, galangal, green peppercorns, holy basil, mace, nutmeg, star anise
(*) indicates popular commercial blends of multiple spices
Which herbs and spices taste best in tea?
Which herbs and spices taste best in tea? | Source

Which Herbs and Spices Can Be Used as Teas?

Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Citrus Peels, Hibiscus, Lemon Verbena, Licorice Root, Nettle Leaf, Spearmint, Ginger, Red Clover, Rosehips, Roses, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Lavender, Thyme, Jasmine, Marjoram, Fennel, and Rosemary.

A Word of Caution

When preparing food for children, pregnant women, or people with compromised immune systems, it is always best to do a little research on the herbs or spices you plan to use in your dish. Erring on the side of caution is especially important when using herbs from your own garden or making tea. Some of the plants used to make popular spices have very poisonous leaves, stems, or berries. Stay safe and have fun!

Questions & Answers

  • Do fresh fennel and basil pair well together?

    Yes, fennel goes well with basil...as well as cilantro, chives, garlic, oregano, parsley, sage, shallots, and tarragon

  • Do thyme and dill mix well?

    Yes! There are several combination including both in the article for different types of foods--see Spinach and Tomatoes for other spice ideas.

  • What is jerk seasoning made from?

    The history of jerk seasoning is pretty interesting...but for the most part modern jerk seasoning includes scallions, black pepper, hot peppers, thyme, cinnamon, garlic, and nutmeg.

  • What herb works well with rosemary?

    Garlic and parsley are frequently paired with rosemary. Also can be used with curry powder and mint. It's a very aromatic herb so it can be used by itself....especially for seasoning meat!

  • Vegan Spaghetti with Oregano: what additional seasoning can be added?

    If the sauce has tomatoes the following might also go well with it: Basil, Bay Leaf, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Garlic, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme.

© 2017 Marla Watson

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    • profile image

      Krisz 

      8 months ago

      Is meat rub with herbs can be use in another cooking aside from roasting?

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