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The Ultimate Herb & Spice Flavor Pairing Guide

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.

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?

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?

Spice and Herb Pairing Guide for Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetable or FruitPairs 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.

Spice Pairings for Side Dishes (Carbs)

Side Dish IngredientPairs 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

RegionPopular 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

Which herbs and spices taste best in tea?

Which herbs and spices taste best in tea?

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

Question: What herb works well with rosemary?

Answer: 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!

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

Answer: 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.

Question: What spice works well with dill?

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

Question: What spice works well with Cilantro?

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

Question: Do fresh fennel and basil pair well together?

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

Question: Do cardamom and rosemary work together?

Answer: They do! If you goole "cardamom and rosemary" some really delicious recipes come up!

Question: What spices go well in a burger?

Answer: Garlic powder or fresh minced garlic, onion powder paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Some people include brown sugar as well. My husband has always used A1 sauce and salt and pepper. He mixes it into thawed hamburger before he makes patties to cook...it's a good burger so I imagine the spices in A1 would be complimentary as well.

Question: Do thyme and dill mix well?

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

Question: What is jerk seasoning made from?

Answer: 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.

Question: What pairs well with onion chutney, cracker- or bread-wise?

Answer: Toast and/or cheesy toast with sharp cheddar cheese is a popular combination. I'm sure it would be good on crackers too, but I don't know of any particular type that may be better than another.

Question: Can I use basil and cumin at the same time in a soup?

Answer: Sure, don't see why not.

© 2017 Marla Watson

Comments

Spicey Meatball on August 23, 2020:

For someone who presents themself as knowledgeable in pairing spices, perhaps you should have been more honest and revealed your apparent hatred of all things celery...celery seed, celery powder, celery salt.

Don't attempt to argue that celery is a vegetable, not a spice. That argument would eliminate onion powder from your "favorite list of spices".

Let me know if I'm missing something...or are you?

Krisz on October 16, 2019:

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