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.
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).
- lemon juice, rosemary, black pepper
- thyme, cloves, orange peel, black pepper
- garlic, herbed vinegar, black pepper
- mashed green peppercorns, onions, marjoram
- ginger, orange peel, sage
- marjoram, thyme, apple cider vinegar
- tarragon, shallots, lemon juice
- basil, white wine vinegar, garlic
- dill, lemon juice, mustard seeds
- lovage, celery seeds, lemon juice, black pepper
- fennel seeds, mustard seeds, bay, lemon peel
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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|
Basil, Bay Leaf, Caraway, Cumin, Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Marjoram, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Anise, Basil, Bay Leaf, Borage, Chives, Cinnamon, Cumin, Dill Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Lovage, Marjoram, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Anise, Basil, Caraway, Cayenne Pepper, Chervil, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Anise, Basil, Borage, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Basil, Bay Leaf, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Mint, Onion, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme
Anise, Caraway, Cardamom, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Oregano, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Tarragon
Basil, Garlic, Marjoram, Onion, Oregano, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Spice and Herb Pairing Guide for Vegetables and Fruits
|Vegetable or Fruit||Pairs Well With|
Chives, Lemon Balm, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Cumin, Garlic, Mint, Onions, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Thyme
Basil, Caraway, Clove, Dill, Marjoram, Mint, Sage, Savory, Thyme
Basil, Dill, Garlic, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Oregano, Tarragon, Thyme
Basil, Caraway, Cayenne Pepper, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Marjoram, Sage, Savory
Anise, Basil, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Clove, Cumin, Dill, Ginger, Marjoram, Mint, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Basil, Caraway, Chives, Cumin, Dill, Garlic, Marjoram, Parsley, Rosemary, Savory, Tarragon
Chervil, Chives, Lemon Balm, Saffron, Sage, Thyme
Basil, Cinnamon, Dill, Garlic, Marjoram, Mint, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Thyme
Fruit (most types)
Anise, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Mint, Rosemary
Coriander, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Tarragon, Thyme
Basil, Dill, Marjoram, Parsley, Savory, Thyme
Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Rosemary, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Basil, Caraway, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme
Anise, Basil, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Dill, Rosemary, Thyme
Squash (all types)
Basil, Caraway, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, ginger, Marjoram, Dill, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Savory
Basil, Bay Leaf, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Garlic, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Spice Pairings for Side Dishes (Carbs)
|Side Dish Ingredient||Pairs Well With|
Basil, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Lavender, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
Basil, Caraway, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme
Basil, Fennel, Lovage, Saffron, Tarragon, Thyme
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|
ginger, garlic, fenugreek, chilies, black pepper, cloves, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, turmeric, peppercorns
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
thyme, marjoram, basil, cilantro, shallots, allspice, arrowroot, ginger, garlic, chilies, Jamaican jerk seasoning*, nutmeg, lemon, mace, lime
Chinese 5 Spice*, star anise, cinnamon, fennel seed, ginger, Szechuan peppercorns
Fines Herbes*, Persillade*, Herbes de Provence*, nutmeg, tarragon, saffron, chives, chervil, parsley, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, sage, bay leaf, peppercorn
bay leaves, borage, caraway seeds, chives, dill, juniper berries, marjoram, parsley, thyme, white pepper, mustard seed, celery seed, coriander, dill seed
ginger, turmeric, chilies, saffron, cumin, garam masala, curry powder*, coriander, black pepper, fenugreek, fennel, nutmeg, cardamom, star anise, basil, mint, bay laurel, cloves
oregano, black pepper, parsley, bay leaves, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram
cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, ginger, turmeric, orange peel, sesame seeds, wasabi powder, Japanese 7 Spice Blend (Shichimi Togarashi)*
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
arugula, basil, bay leaf, dill, fennel leaves, marjoram, spearmint, oregano, parsley, purslane, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme, garlic
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 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 spice works well with Cilantro?
Answer: Cilantro works well with garlic, onions, chiles, limes, basil and mint.
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: 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: 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: Can I use basil and cumin at the same time in a soup?
Answer: Sure, don't see why not.
© 2017 Marla Watson
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?