Making your own spice blends isn’t particularly challenging, but buying a single bottle of a blend is both more convenient and fiscally responsible than buying five bottles of five different spices. Plus, if you’re just getting into the world of seasonings and spices, blends can be a bit less intimidating.
I’m not saying you need all of these, but there are worse ways to spend your money and, if nothing else, they all make fantastic popcorn toppers. Here are some of my favorite blends in mixes, in no particular order:
- Lawry’s Seasoned Salt: This savory and slightly sweet American blend was created for prime rib, but I think it’s particularly perfect on potatoes, especially fried potatoes.
- Several of Trader Joe’s offerings: You guys already know how I feel about their Everything But the Bagel seasoning, but Trader Joe’s Chili Lime blend, their garlic salt grinder, the all-purpose 21 Seasoning Salute, and South African Smoke (with paprika and basil) are all quite fabulous as well. The only annoying thing is that they rarely have them all stocked at the same time, but you can usually supplement with Amazon.
- Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning: I come from a gumbo-making family, and Tony’s is pretty much the only cajun/creole seasoning we eff with. It can be a little on the salty side, which I don’t mind, but they have a salt-free version for those who are sensitive. Beyond gumbo, it’s pretty great on roasted vegetables and popcorn.
- Goya Adobo: It’s particularly helpful to this all-purpose Latin seasoning on hand during grilling season. It allows you to quickly add a hit of oregano and garlic to chicken, seafood, and vegetables.
- Tajin: This chili lime seasoning is good on almost anything edible or potable, but it is outstanding when sprinkled on mango or on the rim of a margarita.
- Cavender’s Greek Seasoning: This super-savory cult favorite is billed as a “tantalizing taste treat,” made form “an Ancient Greek formula,” though I don’t think the Ancient Greeks had access to MSG (which is too bad for them). Beyond MSG, the blend covers a lot of flavor bases with garlic, oregano, parsley and “five other spices.” I can’t say for sure, but I suspect two of them are marjoram and thyme.
- Old Bay: This blend of celery salt, crushed red pepper, paprika, and a whole bunch of other stuff is known as a seafood superstar, but it’s also delicious on corn on the cob, all potatoes, and and a variety of picnic salads. (Oh, and Bloody Marys.)
- Penzey’s poultry seasoning: White pepper, sage, and lemon peels are just a few of the flavors that make this poultry seasoning worth adding to most of your chicken dishes. It’s also quite decent on a pork chop.
- Za’atar: I don’t have a particular brand recommendation, but most Arabic grocery stores (and health food or boutique grocery stores) sell this blend of thyme, sumac, and toasted sesame seeds. It’s wonderful on all meats—especially lamb—but my favorite way to consume it is mixed in to labneh with warm pita.
- Chinese five spice: Made with roughly equal portions of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns, this warm, slightly pungent blend is right at home on roasted and stewed meats—hello, roasted duck—but don’t sleep on its sweet applications; it makes an excellent pear and apple pie. Find it an any Asian grocery store (and most American ones, too).
- Furikake: Seaweed, dried bonito, and sometimes MSG are just three of the things that make this umami-rich shaker worth having in your home. Eggs, vegetables, and a big bowl of plain rice are my favorite things to put it on. You can purchase it at any Japanese grocery store, or order it online.
- Montreal steak seasoning: Though this mixture of garlic, coriander, cayenne, black pepper, and dill was created to spice up steaks, it’s real (reader-approved) power lies in sprucing up vegetarian dishes like lentils and mushrooms.
Adding just a few of those to your cabinet will open up new worlds of flavor, and—as previously mentioned—they’ll really up your popcorn game. If I missed your favorite, let us know in the comments below. Together we can build better spice cabinets.