Add Life To the Menu With Spice Mixes

Spices at the market Marrakech, MoroccoAs you probably know from history, North America was discovered by Columbus’ expedition in the 15th century because Europe wanted to find a shortcut to India, with whom they had been trading in valuable spices. Back then, spices were mostly used to help preserve food in the days before refrigeration and to mask the off flavor of food starting to spoil.

In general, herbs are the fresh leaves of a plant, such as sage, oregano and basil. Spices are usually considered the seed, berry, bark, root or rhizome (creeping root) of a plant. In common practice, once fresh herbs are dried, they’re considered spices.
For almost all of human history, spices have been prized for their medicinal properties and today there is new focus on how spices enhance our health and stave off aging. The right spices can make such a difference in the benefits and flavor of a dish. That’s why I like to do my homework and work with the FoodTrients test kitchen team to create age-defying recipes with lots of flavor.
One thing you need to know about spices is that they fall into categories that provide different benefits. For instance:

  • Immunity-boosting spices include turmeric, cumin, clove, allspice, citrus zest and star anise.
  • Cleansing spices, which help detoxify the body, include cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, bay leaf and hibiscus.
  • Restorative spices can boost your body’s function and include garlic, cardamom, pomegranate, fenugreek and thyme.
  • Calming spices include sage, basil, saffron, mint and lemongrass.

Spice blends are an easy way to get creative in the kitchen and enjoy flavors of the world. There are countless blends from all cultures and most are simple to make with ingredients you can find in most any supermarket, ethnic market or online, such as Spice Ace in San Francisco, CA.
Here are some spice blend recipes from a variety of regions around the world. Some of them are more familiar blends, while others are deliciously exotic. They all will add a little more adventure and health benefits to your menu.

Fresh herbs Basil rosemary thyme savory white background

Herbs de Provence (France)
Made from herbs that grow readily in the South of France, use them to season, meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and egg dishes.
1 tsp. each:
Dried basil
Fennel seed
Dried marjoram
Dried oregano
Dried thyme
Dried lavender (optional)

1 Tbs. each:
Dried rosemary
Dried savory

Mix together and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place.

Spoon filled with red hot paprika powder

(Yield: About 1 cup)
This bold, flavorful blend is great for any number of savory dishes. Try it on salmon or in stewed tomatoes.

6 Tbs. smoked paprika
3 Tbs. sweet Spanish or Hungarian paprika
3 Tbs. dried cilantro
2 Tbs. ground cumin
2 Tbs. coarse sea salt
1 Tbs. ground dried lemon peel
1 ½ tsp. ground black pepper

Mix together and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place.

Moroccan spice stall in marrakech market

(Yield: About ½ cup)
This sweet/savory blend gives an exotic flavor to lamb, poultry and vegetables like carrots and cauliflower.


2 Tbs. each:
Ground cinnamon
Ground cumin
Ground coriander seed

1 tsp each:
Ground cayenne pepper
Ground cloves

Mix together and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place.

Spices and nuts at wooden table

(Yield: About 1 ¾ cup)
This blend of nuts, seeds and spices is used as a spread on flat bread or as a dip.

1 cup toasted almonds or hazelnuts
1/3 cup whole coriander seed
3 Tbs. cumin seeds
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbs. sumac
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

1. In a large skillet, toast the salt, coriander and cumin over low heat, for 3 minutes, stirring continuously.
2. Put all the ingredients except the sesame seeds into a food processor; pulse until it becomes the consistency of coarse sand.
3. Add the sesame seeds; mix to incorporate.
4. Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator.


(Yield: About 1 ¼ cup)
Use this robust spice mix to flavor stir-fries, soups and stews. It packs some (but not too much) heat.
½ tsp. fenugreek
½ cup ground Mexican chilies
¼ cup Hungarian or Spanish paprika
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice

Mix together and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place.

indian spices in terracotta pots, colourful spices, group of spices

(Yield: About ¼ cup)
You almost always find this simple spice blend in Indian homes where they add it to fruit salads or sprinkled onto melon. It’s also good sprinkled on grilled chicken or fish. You can find amchur (dried mango powder) on Amazon and even Wal-Mart.

2 Tbs. cumin seeds, roasted for a minute over medium heat, then ground
1 heaping Tbsp. amchur powder
1 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
1 tsp. Hungarian or Spanish paprika

Mix together and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place.
Indian Tandoori Chicken Wings And Sauces

(Yield: About 2/3 cup)
Gives an exotic twist to summer barbeques! Shake it onto beef, lamb, chicken, shrimp or swordfish on the grill.

3 Tbs. ground ginger
3 Tbs. ground coriander
1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 Tbs. Hungarian or Spanish paprika
1 Tbs. ground black pepper
2 tsp. sea salt
1 ½ tsp. each:
Ground turmeric
Ground nutmeg
Ground cloves
Ground cinnamon

Mix together and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place.

Soba noodles with beef, carrots, onions and sweet peppers

(Yield: About 2/3 cup)
This blend is used on noodles, rice and in miso soup. It’s also great sprinkled on avocado. Try it on popcorn. If you add it to olive oil and rice vinegar, it makes a great marinade for chicken or shrimp.

1 Tbs. each:
Black peppercorns
Dried tangerine (or orange) peel
Red chili peppers, ground
2 Tbs. nori flakes (dried seaweed easily found in urban markets or online)
2 tsp. each:
Sesame seeds
Black sesame seeds
Garlic powder

1. In a food processor, pulse several times till ingredients are incorporated and chunky.
2. Store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place.

Various Spices on grunge background

(Yield: About ¼ cup)
There are more than five spices in this blend, but they incorporate the five flavors—sweet, bitter, salty, pungent and sour. Adds a spicy, complex flavor to stir-fries and roasted meats.

5 star anise, whole
4 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns
2 tsp. each:
Fennel seeds
Coriander seeds
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into medium pieces

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat to toast all the ingredients (except cinnamon) and stir until aromatic; let cool.
2. Grind the toasted ingredients and the cinnamon in a food processor or spice grinder for about 20 seconds, until it becomes a fine powder.
3. Store in an airtight glass container in a cool, dark place.

Finally, here’s a spice blend from the Age Beautifully cookbook that you can always have on hand to enhance brownies, cakes, hot chocolate, even Mexican mole. It’s a handy way to add extra flavor and antioxidants.

Chocolate Food Explosion with Cocoa Powder and Chocolate Chips

(Yield: About 1/3 cup)

8 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tsp. instant coffee
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cardamom (brown, not green)
1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake well.

About Grace O

GRACE O is the creator of FoodTrients®, a unique program for optimizing wellness and longevity. She is the author of two award-winning cookbooks – The Age Gracefully Cookbook and The Age Beautifully Cookbook, which recently won the National award for Innovation from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. She is a fusion chef with a mission to deliver delicious recipes built on a foundation of anti-aging science and her 20 years in the healthcare industry. Visit to learn more. Email us at
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