Herbs and spices can add a unique flavor to any dish. Rather than getting frustrated or overwhelmed, have fun trying different ones! Like most things, there’s a learning curve.
We promise you that the more you incorporate herbs and spices into your cooking style, the more comfortable you’ll become. Before you know it, you’ll be flavoring your favorite foods without giving it any thought!
Food for thought:
- Looking for fabulous flavor? You can drastically reduce the amount of butter or oil used in most dishes by creating flavor with herbs and spices. Do you think it’s worth familiarizing yourself with herbs and spices since they can help cut down on your calorie consumption?
- Did you ever notice that some extracts are labeled as “concentrate” or “imitation” versus pure? Why choose an “imitation” item with artificial flavors, added coloring, corn syrup or sweeteners when you could have it in pure form?
- Is salt one of the three tastes that most people develop cravings for? Could this be a reason many processed food companies add salt to flavor their foods… to increase your craving for their products?
- What styles of foods match your personal flavor preferences – plain, spicy, earthy? Incorporate some of your favorite flavors when you prepare food.
Use herbs and spices to boost flavor and spice yourself skinny
Adding spices to your food can play a huge role in weight loss because many are anti-inflammatory and can increase your metabolism. Now that we’re more confident cooking with herbs and spices, we’ve started to crave healthier food because it no longer tastes bland or boring.
What should you steer clear of when it comes to herbs, spices and ways to flavor food?
- When using premixed seasonings or packets such as “steak seasoning” or “Italian seasoning,” check the ingredients listed and watch the sodium levels. Some of these mixes have extremely high sodium levels and added ingredients other than just the spices.
- Avoid imitation extracts and extracts that are labeled concentrate. Watch out for: imitation vanilla, rum, cherry, coconut, banana, butter and orange.
- Avoid minced or jarred items canned in oil.
- Avoid bottled lemon or lime juice that has added ingredients.
- Avoid sweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes.
- Avoid Worcestershire sauce containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
So, what’s okay to eat when it comes to herbs, spices and ways to flavor food?
- The herb or spice itself, fresh or dried
- Extracts that are pure unsweetened extracts
- Minced or jarred items containing the item itself, water and minimal salt (no added oil)
- Unsweetened cold-pressed pure lemon or lime juice not from concentrate
- Unsweetened dehydrated coconut (flakes or shredded)
- Worcestershire sauce with basic ingredients
Some things to look for on labels when checking herbs, spices and flavorings
- If you are purchasing minced or jarred items such as artichokes, ginger or garlic, the only added ingredients should be the item itself, water and minimal salt. No oils should be added.
- If you purchase lemon or lime juice, make sure the only ingredient is the lemon or lime itself.
- 100% pure extracts
- Unsweetened coconut
Some of our favorite herbs, spices and flavorings for you to try
- Toasted sesame seeds for topping teriyaki dishes and stir-fries
- Bay leaves for flavoring soup and stews
To heat things up
- Cayenne pepper
- Ground or crushed red pepper flakes
- Ground Jamaican allspice (used in many jerk-style recipes)
- Ground white pepper
- Old Bay
- Whole peppercorns, ground
- Himalayan pink salt (small grain)
- Celery seeds
- Curry powder
- Ground allspice
- Ground ginger
- Dill weed
- Parsley flakes
Other ways to flavor your food
- Infused EVOO
- Juice from an orange, lemon or lime
Minced (If you are pinched for time, you can purchase minced products.)
Ways to add flavoring to your baked goods
- Cacao powder or nibs
- Pure extracts, such as vanilla
- Unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes
Our three most frequently used spice blends:
- Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt – This salt blend is so good, you’ll want to use it on everything. Use it on meat, poultry, vegetables, seafood, soups, stews, casseroles, pasta…the list is endless!
- Mediterranean Greek Herb by Spiceology Spice Blend – The perfect blend of herbs, garlic, onion, and tomato. Use this versatile blend on everything from proteins to vegetables, to top pizza and salad. The sky’s the limit with this one.
- Citrus Lime by Spiceology Spice Blend – This blend is packed with orange, lime, and sweet heat. Use it to make epic fish tacos or on chicken and beef. You can mix it with butter or oil to baste vegetables or sprinkle it on grilled corn.
A quick guide to flavoring
Meat and seafood
- Fresh and dried herbs: cayenne, cilantro, ginger, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme
- Other: garlic, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce
- Fresh and dried herbs: Caribbean blend, cayenne, curries, jerk blend, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme
- Other: garlic, ginger, lemon, pesto, soy sauce, white wine
- Fresh and dried herbs: cilantro, curry, dill, lemon zest, jerk seasoning
- Other: citrus, ginger, lemon, mustard, pesto, soy sauce
- Fresh and dried herbs: curries, Old Bay, jerk seasoning
- Other: citrus, ginger, lemon, soy sauce
- Fresh and dried herbs: curry, cinnamon, mint, sage
- Fresh and dried herbs: fennel, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme
- Other: cranberry, garlic, honey, mustard
- Fresh and dried herbs: oregano, peppercorn, rosemary, sage, thyme
- Other: cranberry
Steamed or roasted vegetables
Fresh and dried herbs:
- Chili flakes, chili powder, dill, oregano, rosemary, thyme
- Butter, coconut oil, EVOO, lemon, pesto
These particular herbs pair well with:
Basil: bread, chicken, cheese, fish, pesto, pasta, pizza, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, tomato sauce, veal, vegetables (eggplant and zucchini in particular)
- Cuisines: Italian
- Thai basil pairs well with coconut and lemongrass
Bay leaf: used mainly in fish and meat stew and soups, slow cooked sauces
Cayenne pepper/chili powder: beef, chicken, eggs, potatoes, rice, sauces
- Cuisines: Cajun, Indian, Mexican
Cilantro: beef, chicken, curry, guacamole, shrimp, salsa, tomatoes
- Cuisines: Mexican, Thai, Indian, Chinese
Dill: carrots, chicken, cucumbers, cottage cheese and sour cream, cole slaw, pickles, potato and egg salads, potatoes, salmon, shrimp, tomatoes, yogurt dips
- Cuisines: American, Greek, Mediterranean
Garlic and onions (while not herbs, garlic and onions add a pop of flavor to almost any meal): beans, curries, fish, lamb, marinades, meat, soups, sauces, stews, stir-fries, vegetables
- Cuisines: Generally speaking, any cuisine… both are extremely versatile
Ginger: beef, curries, marinades (especially ones made with citrus, soy sauce or liquid aminos), rice, shrimp, stir-fries, sweet potatoes, vegetables (carrots, onions and bok choy in particular)
- Cuisines: Caribbean, Indian, Middle Eastern, Thai
Mint: chocolate, cold pasta/whole grain salads such as tabbouleh, eggplant, jam/jellies, lamb, lemon zest, pistachios, pork, potatoes, salads, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon
- Cuisines: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Oregano: beef, chicken, chili, Greek salads, lamb with tomato, meatloaf, pasta, pizza, pork, tomato sauce
- Cuisines: French, Greek, Italian, Mediterranean
Parsley: chicken salad (dried parsley), cold pasta/whole grain salads such as tabbouleh, dips, garnishes, lemon zest, pasta, potatoes, pommes frittes and fries, soups
- Cuisines: American, Italian, Middle Eastern
Rosemary: beef, bread, fish, lamb, olive oil, potatoes, poultry, pork, stews, holiday stuffing
- Cuisines: American, French, Mediterranean
Sage (similar to thyme): beef, cream sauces, pasta, poultry, sausage, holiday stuffing
- Cuisines: American, French, Mediterranean
Thyme: beef, lamb, pork, poultry, steak, stews, vegetables
- Cuisines: American, French, Mediterranean
FULLfood facts and fun
- When storing flours and loose spices in your kitchen cabinets, stick a bay leaf in the container. This helps to preserve freshness, discourage mold growth and deter insects from invading your flours and spices.
- We prefer the flavor of stone ground Himalayan pink salt over table salt. In our opinion, it tends to have a milder, slightly smoother flavor.
Substitutions that are considered FULLfoods
- Rather than using soy sauce, we use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos in recipes. Unlike most soy sauce, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is non-GMO, preservative-free and gluten-free, making it a much better option in our opinion.
- To substitute dried herbs for fresh, the general rule of thumb is:
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped = 1 teaspoon of crumbled dry or ¼ teaspoon ground dry
Tips and preparation
- Consider drying your own herbs and spices. If you buy or grow an excess of a fresh herb, hang it to dry.
- Familiarize yourself with what certain spices and herbs pair well with.
- I love cooking salmon with dill, lemon juice and white wine.
- When cooking diced yams, I love to toss them in cayenne pepper, cinnamon and a dash of salt and pepper.
- You can make dips using some of your favorite herbs! Just mix them to taste with Greek yogurt. A good one to dip vegetables in is plain Greek yogurt, parsley, salt, dill, garlic and the juice from half a lemon.
- Coconut flakes are a delicious way to top smoothies.
Tips when eating out
- Pay attention to the menu when eating out. Look at which spices, herbs and flavors are paired with certain foods. This will help you become more familiar with flavors that compliment one another.
- Go through your kitchen and eliminate any “no-no” herbs, spices and flavorings.
- If you’re unfamiliar with herbs and spices, try using one of our favorite blends. When you’re comfortable using the blends, transition to trying individual herbs.
- Don’t be intimidated by herbs; instead, experiment with them! Start by preparing a meal this week using an herb you have always thought about trying and enjoy the added flavor. Some of our favorite herbs that are easy to use and enhance the flavor of a wide variety of foods are fresh basil, thyme and rosemary.
- If you don’t mind spicy, purchase cayenne pepper or hot sauce and add it to some of your favorite foods. See if it sets a new spin on flavor!
To learn more about real-food basics, check out the rest of our Healthy Staples!
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