3 Versatile Spice Blends To Elevate Your Cooking, From A Spice Expert

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Variety of Spices in Small Bowls

Image by Lumina / Stocksy

We're always game for simple tips and tricks to make cooking that much easier, and when it comes to seasoning your favorite dishes, it doesn't have to be a challenge.

We reached out to spice expert Kanchan Koya, Ph.D., to get some of her favorite spice blends for three cuisines: Indian, Chinese, and Mexican. These blends can be used on all your favorites, from spicing up chicken and fish to vegetables and soups or even your next batch of rice.

Grind the spices up in a spice or coffee grinder, seal them up in an airtight container, and you've got three blends to elevate any dish, any time:

1. Garam Masala

Garam masala is a classic Indian spice blend that's used in a ton of dishes. Strong and spicy, it's great for whipping up chana masala or your favorite curry. It's also great in soups, like this winter squash soup recipe, for when you need a bowl of warming comfort. Here's what you need to make your own:

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 20 cardamom pods
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 4 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • ½ a nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
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2. Chinese 5 Spice

The classic Chinese five-spice blend is used on rubs for everything from chicken to salmon to steak. Beef and broccoli, anyone? It's another warming blend, and traditional Chinese medicine is big on fueling the digestive fire with lots of warm dishes and drinks, and this blend is great for that. Try it on roasted vegetables, or even toast nuts with it to snack on or add to salads. These are the five spices you'll need:

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise pods
  • ½ teaspoon whole cloves
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

3. Mexican-Inspired Blend

And lastly, for Mexican dishes, Koya offered this easy blend that uses eight spices you probably already have in your pantry. Similar to what you might find in your store-bought taco seasoning, you can add it to fajitas, taco fillings, and anything else you can imagine (rice bowls, huevos rancheros, this Mexican-inspired quinoa...need we go on?) This blend is versatile, savory, and pretty great with just about everything:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Experimenting in the kitchen with the tastes of different cuisines is a great way to broaden your palate and get creative with your cooking. With these blends, it's incredibly easy to spice up your favorite Indian, Chinese, and Mexican dishes in no time at all.

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