The Ultimate Herb & Spice Pairing Guide

Updated on December 28, 2017
Marla Watson profile image

Marla is a self-employed entrepreneur, a tinkerer, and classic over-thinker.

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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 I am in an medieval apothecary. When reality sets back in though, I realize that I only know how to use a fraction of the spices on the shelf: garlic, cinnamon, oregano, basil, and dill. That’s it. I leave the aisle defeated and accept my culinary limitations.

After making some serious lifestyle changes to get my health goals back on track, I have become 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. I thought it would be nice to share some of the things I’ve learned so far by preparing a spice pairing guide that can be referenced at a glance in the kitchen. I will be updating this over time as I uncover new things and feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below!

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!

General Spice Pairing Guide

Popular Ingredients
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
Beef
Basil, Bay Leaf, Caraway, Cumin, Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Marjoram, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Bread
Basil, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Lavender, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, 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
Chicken
Anise, Basil, Bay Leaf, Borage, Chives, Cinnamon, Cumin, Dill Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Lovage, Marjoram, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Corn
Chervil, Chives, Lemon Balm, Saffron, Sage, Thyme
Eggplant
Basil, Cinnamon, Dill, Garlic, Marjoram, Mint, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Savory, 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
Fruit
Anise, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Mint, Rosemary
Lamb
Basil, Bay Leaf, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Mint, Onion, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme
Mushrooms
Coriander, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Tarragon, Thyme
Parsnips
Basil, Dill, Marjoram, Parsley, Savory, Thyme
Peas
Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Rosemary, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Pork
Anise, Caraway, Cardamom, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Oregano, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Tarragon
Potatoes
Basil, Caraway, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme
Rice
Basil, Fennel, Lovage, Saffron, Tarragon, Thyme
Spinach
Anise, Basil, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Dill, Rosemary, Thyme
Squash
Basil, Caraway, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, ginger, Marjoram, Dill, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Savory
Stuffing
Garlic, Marjoram, Onion, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme
Teas
Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Citrus Peels, Hibiscus, Lemon Verbena, Licorice Root, Nettle Leaf, Spearming, Ginger, Red Clover, Rosehips, Roses, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Lavender, Thyme, Jasmine, Marjoram, Fennel, Rosemary
Tomatoes
Basil, Bay Leaf, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Garlic, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Turkey
Basil, Garlic, Marjoram, Onion, Oregano, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Source

Popular Spice Blends

In this section, I've taken some of the guesswork out of creating your very own herb blends for popular main ingredients.

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 seed
  • lovage, celery seed, lemon juice, black pepper
  • fennel seed, mustard seed, 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 seed, oregano, garlic
  • saffron, garlic, parsley
  • mint, parsley, lemon peel, caraway seed

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 seed, 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 seed, 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

Source

Popular Spices Around The World

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

Tips for Maximizing Flavors

  • 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 for salad dressings, allow the herbs to soak for at least 15 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Before working the flavors of herbs into meat, poultry, or fish, rub them with your hands before cooking.
  • For steamed or boiled vegetables, add the herbs to melted butter and allow to stand for 10 minutes before seasoning the vegetables with it.
  • Generally speaking, dried and fresh herbs can be used interchangeably in recipes. Use 3-5 times more fresh herbs than dried, depending on the strength of the herb.
  • For best flavor of foods with a long cook time, add the herbs during the last 20 or so minutes of cooking.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Marla

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