Organizing Your Spice Cabinet

To make cooking easier, and to keep your kitchen in order, organize spices and dried herbs by cuisine, using this simple guide.

Ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of spices spilling from your cupboard? It seems that whenever you need a particular seasoning—from cumin to cardamom and basil to bay leaf—it finds its way to the far back, leaving you sorting through scores of jars and bottles for that certain one.

When working with clients they often ask me how I know which herbs and spices work together and how to go about building flavor.  This is no small task and something even the best chefs are constantly trying to master.  I've put together this fun little guide to help you navigate the spice aisle and your cabinet so the next time you're craving a certain cuisine or just looking to get creative with flavors you will have some guidelines.

In my house, I arrange my spice cabinet by cuisines.  I stick to the basics but have my Mediterranean flavors snuggled together, Asian flavors paired up, and so on. That way, when I'm looking to use basil, I know that the other bottles near the basil will go well in the dish also.

Organizing Spices by Cuisine:

Mediterranean (Greek)—allspice, anise, basil, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, dill, fennel, garlic, mint, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, thyme

(Italian)—basil, fennel, garlic, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme

Middle Eastern—cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, mint, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, black pepper, poppy seeds, sesame seeds

Asian (Chinese)—chile peppers, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds

(Japanese and Korean)—chile peppers, ginger, sesame seeds

(Vietnamese)—Thai basil, chile peppers, cilantro, garlic, ginger, mint, star anise

(Thai)—Thai basil, chile peppers, cilantro, coriander, cumin, curry, garlic, ginger, mint, turmeric

Indian—allspice, anise, cardamom, chile peppers, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, mint, mustard seeds, nutmeg, paprika, pepper (black and white), poppy seeds, saffron, sage, tamarind, turmeric

Latin American (General) – chile peppers, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, garlic, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, thyme

(Caribbean) – allspice, bay leaf, chile peppers, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, curry, dill, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, tamarind, thyme

(Mexican)—chile peppers, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, oregano, saffron, vanilla

African (North)—cumin, garlic, mint, parsley,

(South)—chile peppers, cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, turmeric

Chart Design and Research by Dorie Obertello

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie's full bio »

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