Spice it up instead of adding high-calorie, high-fat ingredients for flavor! Here are five more must-have dried herbs and spices to add some excitement, as well as health benefits, to your next meal. (Be sure to check out Part 1 of this series for five other seasonings you might be missing out on.)
This sweet herb has been used since WAY back in the day — archaeologists have found ancient Egyptian writings alluding to dill, and it’s even been mentioned in the Bible. We consider it under-rated today and theorize this is simply because people don’t know how to use it.
Dill is best paired with chicken, lamb (think Greek) and fish, especially salmon and halibut, like this halibut with lemon butter caper recipe from Closet Cooking. Not a seafood person? Try this spinach and sundried tomato stuffed chicken with prosciutto.
Dill is a key component in that delicious Greek yogurt sauce known as tzatziki, so try making your own homemade dip or sauce with plain yogurt, chopped cucumber, a little bit of lemon juice and dill. The seasoning also makes for a fantastic garnish for sandwiches and can add just the right touch of flavor to egg salad and potato salad.
Health benefits: Dill contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, and monoterpenes, which help neutralize particular types of carcinogens. Dill is also a very good source of calcium and a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, iron and magnesium.
Our favorite seasoning to say — although, to be fair, we still haven’t figured out how to pronounce asafetida — paprika is the orangey red spice you often see sprinkled on top of deviled eggs. (Speaking of, we insist you try this incredible deviled eggs recipe from April Bloomfield’s The Spotted Pig.)
Paprika — which is actually a type of ground pepper known as Capsicum annuum — can be used in rubs for just about any meat or fish, though we particularly recommend it on chicken and pork. The seasoning varies in heat from very spicy to mild and sweet — the regular seasoning simply marked “paprika” at your local grocery store will most likely be a very mild version. It’s also a great way to add some flavor to rice, stews, soups, bean dishes and roasted veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash.
Health benefits: Paprika is very high in antioxidants and vitamin C. In fact, when you look at the amounts, pound for pound, paprika actually contains more vitamin C than citrus fruit.
The spice also contains capsaicin, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties — it can ease arthritis and joint pain — and its positive effect on blood circulation. Certain plant enzymes in paprika can aid in digestion.
A relative of the ginger family, cardamom is an aromatic herb native to the Middle East, North Africa and Scandinavia. According to McCormick, the ancient Greek and Romans used it to scent perfume, and it’s actually still used in the cosmetic industry today.
Though it’s most commonly used in Indian cuisine, cardamom’s spicy-sweet taste makes it a good match for chicken, duck, lentils, roasted potatoes, oranges, rice and squash. It’s also used as a flavoring for coffee — try sprinkling a little in your morning cup ‘o Joe next time. Cardamom works for sweet foods too, and is often used in baking, like this clementine pound cake from Food52.
Health benefits: Cardamom contains high amounts of limonene, which boosts antioxidant activity, according to Livestrong. Various research has linked it to lowering blood pressure and helping to prevent blood clots, and some studies have suggested it could inhibit colon-cancer cell growth and proliferation.
Another staple of Indian cuisine, curry powder is a spice mixture typically containing coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and red pepper. It’s surprisingly versatile and can be used in more than just curries.
Try using it to season carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, parsnips, tomatoes, cauliflower, squash, and chicken or shrimp salad. And write this down: Using a little curry powder in deviled eggs is phenomenal. Add a little to the April Bloomfield recipe we mentioned in the “Paprika” section.
Health benefits: The amount of turmeric varies from one curry powder mixture to the next, but turmeric adds its own health benefits. Research has suggested it helps with easing the pain and swelling in joints caused by arthritis, and curcumin — a component of turmeric — has been associated with cognitive improvements.
According to Livestrong, one study found that precancerous growths inside the mouth decreased in size after one week of curry consumption, and another found that adding curry powder to hookah water had the potential to reduce the cancer-causing effects of tobacco smoked through hookah pipes.
Coriander, another herb contained in curry powder mixtures, has been studied for its ability to reduce inflammation, help prevent diabetes, lower cholesterol and protect against salmonella infection. It’s also a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese.
While not as complex as some of the other seasonings we mentioned, lemon pepper is a good seasoning to have on hand. It’s a combination of lemon zest and cracked black pepper — the lemon zest is mashed with the pepper so the citrus oil can infuse the pepper. This seasoning is easy to overdo, so keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way.
Use lemon pepper in spice rubs for meats, especially chicken and fish like tilapia and halibut. Here’s a delicious and simple recipe for lemon pepper chicken from Rachael Ray to get you started. The seasoning is also great on rice, couscous, tofu, potatoes and pasta.
Health benefits: Citrus peels have high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C, according to Livestrong, and some studies suggest it could have cholesterol-lowering effects and help prevent diabetes. Black pepper has been shown to improve digestion and promote intestinal health; plus it offers some antioxidant and antibacterial effects.