While fresh herbs help flavor dishes all summer long, dried herbs and spices transform cold-weather dishes. If you’re new to cooking, or just starting to stock your pantry, knowing which herbs and spices you need on hand can be tricky. After all, herbs and spices can get pricey. Here are some must-haves, based on usefulness and health benefits.
Oregano: This fragrant herb lends its distinct flavor to Mexican, Greek and Italian cooking. On the health front, test-tube studies have found that key oils in oregano fight harmful bacteria.
Cinnamon: This warm winter spice is a quintessential flavoring in apple pie, but it’s not just for desserts. I add it to ground coffee before brewing and use a pinch in black bean chili. Cinnamon is ridiculously high in manganese, which helps you absorb other vitamins and minerals, contributes to bone health, and also has some calcium and iron.
Rosemary: This piny herb is a perfect complement to winter’s roasted meats and vegetables. Dried rosemary has traces of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and B6, iron and folate.
Cumin: This pungent spice is essential in many Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes. Ground cumin or cumin seed (which you can toast and then grind for the freshest flavor) is a must-have. Just one tablespoon of cumin seed delivers 22% of the daily value of iron and 10% of the manganese you need.
Turmeric: Curry powder owes its brilliant orange color and warmth to this spice. In studies, turmeric has rivaled the painkiller ibuprofen at easing joint pain; that’s probably because it can decrease inflammation. If you don’t think you’d use turmeric straight, stock up on curry powder instead.
Smoked paprika: Just a touch of this spice will lend smokiness to your entire dish, whether you’re making enchiladas or macaroni & cheese. Paprika is also known as capsicum — a type of pepper that’s a potent pain-reliever.
Cayenne: Cayenne is a sure way to add heat to any recipe. As a relative of paprika, it also has some powerful health benefits. It offers some pain relief, may slow the growth of cancer cells and helps stimulate your metabolism.