Let Your Spice Cabinet Inspire You


By Palmer Nowak @heartsofpalmer

What should I make for dinner? Why is that question sometimes so hard to answer?

Typically, we stare at the fridge and hope that something will come to us. But what if your spice cabinet could guide your decision making?

Your spice cabinet can be used as a tool to empower you and help you narrow down what type of cuisine you would like to make the most. It starts with two simple exercises: simplifying the spice aisle and understanding what types of spices fit certain types of cuisines.

Simplify the Spice Aisle: Setting You Up for Success

Consider this exercise a step towards enjoying cooking at home more than ever.

Start fresh: Start by pulling all spices out of your cabinets and throw out anything that is expired or you don’t like cooking with. Get excited about using your revived collection to its full potential!

Get the right equipment: Say goodbye to mismatched, hard-to-organize bags, bottles and containers from the grocery store. Invest in airtight, easy-to-store containers and use a Sharpie to label them.

Whether you store your spices in a drawer or cupboard you can find wonderful products online or at discount stores. You will need about 30 jars/containers.

It will be incredibly satisfying to have everything in uniform, easy-to-access containers. When something is easily accessible you are more likely to use it.

Simplify the spice aisle: Use the list of spice groups below as a complete list of what you will need.

Head to the grocery store and make a commitment to stick to the list. This concise collection of the basics is all you will ever need.

Once you finish your shopping trip, place all spices into their containers and organize your cabinet in the following groups.

Feel confident that you will be able to stay on top of your inventory and re-stock as needed.


• Basil

• Oregano

• Thyme

• Sage

• Rosemary

• Bay leaf

• Tarragon

• Savoury


• Sumac

• Coriander

• Cumin

• Curry powder

• Garam masala

• Ginger

• Turmeric


• Cinnamon

• Nutmeg

• Allspice

• Cloves (ground)


• Sesame seeds

• Flaky sea salt (for garnishing)

• Kosher salt (for general use)

• Black pepper

Understand Which Spices Belong to Which Cuisine Type

Once you have a spice cabinet filled with the basics, you can rely on it to satisfy cravings of any type of cuisine. Take note of which spices match which type of cuisine and trust these combinations to deliver delicious results.

Not sure what to make with the ground beef in the freezer? Season it with a combination of Mexican spices, add tomatoes, beans, bell peppers and beef broth for a quick and easy chilli! Garnish with cilantro, sour cream and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Roasting a whole chicken? Focus on French flavours by rubbing the chicken with butter, generously apply salt, thyme and black pepper. Stuff with three whole garlic cloves, one sliced lemon and a few bay leaves.

Serve with French green beans and baby potatoes.

Find a printable guide of spice pairings and recommendations on my website Hearts of Palmer.

Italian: basil, red chilli flakes

Greek: oregano, thyme, rosemary

Indian: coriander, cumin, curry powder, garam masala, ginger, turmeric

Spanish: paprika, oregano, rosemary

Mexican: chili powder, cumin, cayenne

Asian: sesame seeds, ginger, red chilli flakes

French: thyme, rosemary, tarragon, bay leaf, savoury


Spice blends. Are they worth it?

Once you have the basics in your cupboard, pre-mixed spice blends become unnecessary.

Save money and cabinet space and feel empowered by controlling the salt and sugar levels in your food.


Extend the shelf life of your spices by keeping them in a dark, cool cabinet, rather than on the countertop.

Store them in airtight containers.

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