Spices of the world for your perfect pantry

Spices of the world can allow you to travel even if you can’t leave the house. Culinary tourism has given us a taste for world spices in our everyday cooking. If like most of us you are experimenting with a variety of foods and recipes from around the world you need to have the perfect stocked pantry. But if you are exploring the world’s food cultures where do you begin? What will last and what won’t’? How do you shop to make the most out of the ingredients you have and what are the pantry essentials?

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How to explore the spices of the world at home

First I suggest you make a pantry list of everything you have. Include in the list the herbs and spices you have that are still usable. I don’t know about you but I usually have a few in my spice cupboard that are past the sell-by date so I get rid of them. Even the smallest kitchen can have the perfect pantry.

Spices of the world for your perfect pantry

Pantry supplies should include the absolute basics as well as ingredients that will last a long time. This includes items like vinegar and oils, unsealed jars of jams and condiments. Try to pickle or preserve your fruits and veggies that might go bad before you can eat them.

If you are a vegan or vegetarian most of these grocery staples will work for you as well. A vegan pantry may not be in need of eggs, honey, milk and milk products like cheese but having a great supply of herbs and spices can add great depth of flavour. After all, remember tofu is just another ingredient that needs to be flavoured to be enjoyed.

Make sure you check out your storage space as well, you don’t want to buy stuff to have it hanging around on the counter or have to cook it quickly because you can’t fit it in the fridge.

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Unsual spices of the world for your pantry


There are 250 types of Sumac so don’t try and dry the berries from any old sumac tree. The spice is a red or purplish-red powdered spice made from the berries of the Sicilian sumac which is also known as the tanner’s sumac. The spice has a fruity sour flavour and is often used as an alternative to acids like citrus or vinegar.


Zhug is a middle eastern spice paste or sauce made from red or green hot peppers seasoned with coriander, garlic, salt, black cumin (optional) and various spices. Some also add caraway seed. Zhug may be red or green depending on the type of peppers used


A spice blend in every Middle Eastern home baharat means “spices” and it is used with any kind of meat, fish or poultry as well as in soups and stews. ingredients: black pepper, coriander, paprika, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cloves, and cinnamon

Ras El Hanout

Ingredients: cinnamon, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, chilli peppers, clove, dried ginger, sweet & hot paprika, fenugreek and turmeric, cardamom, mace, allspice, dry ginger, pepper.

Ras El hanout means “head of the shop” or more simply the best. Hailing from North Africa the blend literally is created by the head of the shop or family and each maker has their own special blend of herbs and spices.

It isn’t spicy but has a warming flavour with a sweet edge. Perfect for those traditional tajines and stews.

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Amchur Powder

Amchur or amchoor is made from unripe mangos that have been sliced, sun-dried, and then ground into a fine powder, Amchur powder is a commonly used souring agent in North Indian cooking. It is found in curries, chutneys, stews, soups, and vegetable dishes.


Asafoetida is a very stinky spice used in vegetarian and vegan cooking in India and is often used to replace onion and garlic. It’s a staple ingredient in Indian cooking, commonly used along with turmeric in lentil dishes like dal, and a variety of vegetable dishes.

Juniper Berries

Juniper berries are what gives gin its unique taste. Popular in European cuisines for its slightly sweet taste and added to marinades, brines, stuffing and sauces.


Ingredients: dried thyme, dried oregano, sumac, sesame seeds and salt. A spice blend whose name in Arabic means thyme and depending on the region may add other spices. For example in Palestine, they add caraway, in Syria, they add sumac to the mix.  

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Spices of the world pantry checklist

This handy pantry food list is available as a download in PDF form so you can print it out and the other is a separate Spices of the World list you can download as well.

Spices of the world articles to read

Creating fabulous Middle Eastern Spice blends at home

26 Hot Sauces From Around the World

Lebanese Food – 37 traditional Lebanese dishes

Edible Flowers

Asian seasonings and spices

The Origins of Barbecue

Creating your Spices of the world

Once you created your checklist (or downloaded this one) you can then start creating your basic pantry shopping list. You may find you spend a little (or a lot more) on this shop but you can rest assured it will never go to waste and you will always have ingredients to make something healthy.

an old cellar used as the perfect pantry

A well-stocked pantry will give you all your grocery essentials for creating dishes from India, Mexico, Africa, and countries around the world.

If you are looking for a great way to bring spice into your life why not try the monthly spice box from Piquant Post. You can take out a subscription and they send you a fabulous box of spices and herbs from different regions around the world with recipes. Cost is from $12 US a month free shipping in the US, plus shipping of around $10 to Canada.

DELHI, INDIA - MARCH 26: Indian shop on March 26, 2012, Delhi, India. Small shops like this are the most common in poor region of Delhi. Tourists can see the color of India in them.

Fruits and vegetables

This one is a tricky category as a lot of fruits and veg have a very short shelf life so make sure whatever gets on your list can be used soon if that is the case.

This is why you should always have some frozen veg in the house and it’s a great idea to have some frozen fruit as well.

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What about bread and grains? Bake your own bread – comes pre-formed and ready to bake with a good shelf life. If you have flour and other pantry basics you can make yeast-free bread with a few simply ingredients. Stock up on flatbreads that are easy to freeze and don’t take up to much room in the freezer. Things like corn and flour tortillas, naan bread, chapattis, lavash, pitas.

Dairy – cheese, milk, eggs

Eggs have a shelf life of around a month and milk can be bought in some places as UHT long life so keep a few cartons in the pantry if you can.

For vegetarians and vegans, tofu can be pre-cooked and frozen or simply drain the fresh tofu of water and wrap up to freeze. Tempeh can usually be kept in the fridge for up to 10 days or frozen for 10 months.

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For cheese lovers a good hard cheese will last a long time in the fridge, some of the oldest food in the world found by archaeologists was cheese and butter. If mold does start to form it is perfectly safe to cut it off and use the rest of the cheese.

You can also freeze cheese from cream cheese to cheddar it all freezes. Freezing will change the texture somewhat but it’s perfect for use as a recipe ingredient. If you have lots of little cheese ends lying around freeze them all in a bag to make a fabulous cheese soup.

Going beyond the best before date

This always trips up most of us a best before date does not refer to the safety of a product it refers to quality. So that brown banana may look bad but it is sweeter than ever and you can still freeze it for banana bread and fruit shakes.

Dairy products such as yoghurt, milk and eggs can often be used beyond the self by date and they are perfectly fine to consume just give it a smell before you add it to recipes.   

Freezing, Pickling and preserving the easy way

Virtually any vegetable can be pickled or preserved in some way. Lemons and limes can be preserved in salt to use in Middle Eastern recipes. Peppers can be roasted and stored in Olive oil. Fruit can be made into jams and jelly. Keep and clean the jars you have used and sterilize before using they are perfect for use for your pickles and preserves.

Pickled vegetables in mason jars ready for winter for the perfect pantry

 Meat, chicken and seafood

The best way to preserve meat is to double wrap it or place it in a freezer-proof container and store it in the freezer. Most meats will freeze extremely well and keep for several months. Good advice is to always have hamburger or mince in the freezer, buy in bulk and split into smaller amounts.

Fish, shrimp (prawns), smoked salmon, shellfish all freeze well. Freeze the pastry you make yourself or buy in packages. You can freeze bread, butter, cheese and even milk as long as it has a headspace to expand.

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what are you buying at the grocery store right now? What is your perfect pantry?

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