A Look Inside Our Team’s Spice Cabinets
Most humans, by nature, are undoubtedly nosy, and we here at Serious Eats will be the first to admit that curiosity drives a lot of what we do. There’s a particular joy that comes from seeing how other people live—their relationships, their homes, even their routines. (Just look at the flood of social media content dedicated to how influencers organize their bathrooms or get ready for the day).
So, in this vein, we decided to do our own version of peaking into the bathroom cabinet and asked our editors to share pictures of the arguably the most essential part of every kitchen: their spice cabinets. From tidy and chaotic to pristinely labeled and carefully stacked, the Serious Eats team’s approach to spice organization truly runs the gamut. Unsurprisingly, all of the team’s cupboards are stocked with ingredients that make us even more excited about cooking. So for this edition of Into the Spice Cabinet, here’s an inside look at the most well-stocked part of our kitchens.
My absolute favorite spices of all are coriander seed and cardamom; to me, there’s no such thing as too much of either (which is something I need to be mindful of when developing recipes, since a lot of people aren’t quite as extreme about them). In recent years, my spice cabinet has been full of products from Burlap & Barrel; the quality is great, they pay equitable prices to farmers, and Ethan, one of the co-founders, is also a friend who lives in my neighborhood, so I’m happy to support them. I’ve ripped through their wild mountain cumin, cloud forest cardamom (reminder to self: need to order more), and “silk chili,” which is their Aleppo pepper offering. Beyond that, and without cataloging everything in my pantry, I also rely a lot on both basic Hondashi as well as dashi tea bags like these (oh, and the shichimi togarashi and sansho pepper powder are amazing). As for my spice pantry itself, as you’ll see, it’s a mess. A couple years ago I did a big organization project of my pantry, and I had everything neatly arranged and organized in containers, but it’s slowly spiraled out of control as I’ve bought more and more products without the space to hold them. For now, it’s just going to have to stay like that. —Daniel Gritzer, senior culinary director
We have a huge range of spices in our kitchen, most of which are from the direct-to-consumer company Burlap & Barrel. Their spices are, in my eyes, unparalleled, and I am particularly in love with their Royal Cinnamon, Wild Mountain Cumin, and Purple Peppercorns. But we also have things like whole avocado leaves from Masienda, Sichuan peppercorns from The Mala Market, and Mexican oregano and whole (and powdered) chiles from Rancho Gordo. We also have a huge range of salt (both sea salt and mined) from a variety of countries, as it’s a thing we seek out whenever we travel. —Jake Dean, updates editor
My spice cabinet is filled with a range of spices from Diaspora Co., Burlap & Barrel, Oaktown Spice Shop, and Kalustyan’s here in New York City. I bake a lot, so you’ll always find vanilla beans, vanilla paste, vanilla sugar, and cinnamon in my pantry. A friend introduced me to chaat masala, a blend that includes amchoor (powdered dried green mango) and kala namak (a black salt with a savory, funky flavor), and now I use it to season all my favorite snacks: nuts, chips, and popcorn galore! Like Daniel, I rely a lot on dashi tea bags, and I make sure to keep bonito flakes on hand so I can whip up a batch of miso soup whenever I want. I also keep a variety of seeds—fennel, poppy, caraway, nigella—so I can make my favorite crackers from Gail’s Bakery in London. Oh, and for everyday cooking: Burlap & Barrel’s Purple Stripe Garlic Powder is my favorite. It just adds an incredible depth of flavor. This unfortunately does not all fit into my spice cabinet and a lot of it lives in my linen closet, which I’ve turned into a pantry! —Genevieve Yam, culinary editor
Many of the spices I have are bought at Whole Foods, purchased when I realize I’ve run out (or don’t have) something while shopping for a recipe. However, I do have a handful of favorite things I seek out: peppercorns from Kalustyan’s (I currently have their Tellicherry peppercorns), spices from Spicewalla (I love their turmeric, curry powder, and sumac), spice mixes from Spiceology (their blends are especially fun come grilling season—I like to use them for chicken wings cooked in my Traeger), and vanilla extract and paste from Heilala. We featured the latter in our guide to aromatic vanilla extracts, so I feel validated! —Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, commerce editor
Having just moved—which entailed throwing a lot of old foodstuffs away—my spice cabinet has been distilled to only include the ones I most frequently use (okay, and a few oddball additions I couldn’t bring myself to give up—looking at you, pickling spice!). And one old reliable, a spice I use very often (enough to buy a bulk bag of from Patel Bros) is cumin. Growing up, my mom would put cumin in tons of dishes, and I’ve followed suit with cumin-spiked chilis, curries, stir fries, and even bean soup. You’ll also find whole black peppercorns for everyday cooking, juniper seeds and wormwood from a vermouth-making stint, and—embarrassingly—everything bagel spice mix. But before you judge, know it was actually for making bagels! I also recently got a jar of Aleppo pepper from a local specialty foods shop, and I sprinkle it on pretty much anything, but most especially enjoy it on my morning hard-boiled egg. —Grace Kelly, associate commerce editor
Admittedly, our spice drawer is a total mess, but we love it anyway. We like to keep both whole and ground spices on hand depending on what might work better for a particular recipe, and we’re big fans of having Penzeys spices, located in Wisconsin, for easy access to fresher milled cumin than what’s normally at a grocery store. We use cumin in almost everthing we cook, and sometimes ground cumin is just better at working the aroma and flavor into the base of the dish. I also like keping dashi packets and Yawataya Isogoro shichimi togarashi that my brother sends me from Japan—it’s super convenient to have both on hand for when we need a quick flavor boost. The last spice I wanted to highlight isn’t in this drawer, and that’s because we keep it next to the salt by the stove: Aleppo pepper. Its soft, fruity heat is just too tempting to not sprinkle on most things we cook. —Jesse Raub, commerce writer
I recently moved back in with my parents as a temporary venture, and while it’s been an adjustment, the one thing I’m most excited about is using their kitchen. Aside from it being fully stocked with equipment my tiny New York City apartment couldn’t fit, their spice cabinet is also loaded with so many spices that it’s practically overflowing. The main flaw? My mom, the home-cooking queen, uses scent to identify many of the spices, and even after my attempts to label everything, she’s reluctant to follow suit whenever a new spice enters the mix. Until I train my own nose, I need her close by most times I cook, but the trade off is worth it for the ingredients she has available—we’re talking everything from Lebanese tahini to Palestinian za’atar and whole allspice (my mom much prefers keeping whole spices on hand and grinding them every time she cooks).
I’ve also incorporated my own spices since I’ve been back, including Burlap & Barrel’s Aleppo pepper and black Urfa chili, which are my favorites to add to almost anything. (As other staffers have mentioned, the brand’s spices are top notch, and I’ve recently started gifting them to other food-loving friends.) And it never hurts to have Fly by Jing’s Sichuan chili crisp on hand for an extra boost of flavor for anything from eggs to quesadillas. —Yasmine Maggio, associate editor