6 Spices for Your International Pantry

Over the years I’ve amassed a large pantry. I have several items I try to always keep on hand no matter what  like canned beans and pasta. Spices weren’t something I put much thought into until I decided I really wanted my food to taste more authentic. Whether purchasing a pre-made spice blend or making your own (I’ve made a few) these spices and spice combinations bring you closer to the authentic taste of many international dishes. Here are 6 spices for your International Pantry.

6 Spices For Your International Pantry

Chinese Five Spice

Chinese 5 Spice is a spice blend that combines star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and Szechwan peppers. It’s the blend I use in my General Tso’s Tofu as well as my Bacon and Shrimp fried rice. It’s not necessary to make the dishes but it does provided that added oomph. But don’t limit its use to your Asian or Asian inspired dishes. I’ve also added it to barbecue sauce and grilled peaches. Depending on the recipe it can even be used as a substitute for star anise.


Adobo is my go to spice blend. When I need to throw something together this is what I pull out of the pantry. Whether it’s pork chops or chicken I know this spice blend will add flavor. Adobo is a combination of salt, oregano, garlic, turmeric and black pepper. It’s in my pastelon (costa rican lasagna) recipe as well as my fav party food pastel. I’ve also used it to replaced sazon in dishes. When you don’t have much time it’s a stress free way to add lots of flavor to your food.

Garam Masala

Garam Masala is an aromatic Indian spice blend. It’s a combination of coriander, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, fennel, mace, cloves, cardamom and bay leaves. There are several other spices that are sometimes used to create this spice blend. This spice blend really elevated several of my dishes (some I’d been working on for years). I use garam masala to make gobi pakora (cauliflower fritters) and chicken tikka masala. It helped me achieve the flavors I was looking for.

Curry Powder

I love curry. Thai curry, Jamaican curry, Indian curry – I love it all. But I must admit the curry powder I keep on hand is Jamaican curry powder. It’s a blend of turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, salt, cumin, allspice, pepper and garlic. I sometimes add some curry powder to my Indian dishes. But the main recipe I use this spice combo for is my Jamaican Curry Chicken. It’s delicious and full of flavor.


Cumin is a spice that needs a little more shine. It’s in lots of spice blends and curry powders. So versatile it’s used in food by everyone from Peru to Morocco to India. I first realized the power of cumin when I started making my chili spice blend from scratch. It was cooking for hours but it just didn’t taste right. Then hubby comes in and adds some cumin and everything is perfect (go figure). Now I use cumin in tons of dishes from my ground beef gyro to my Peruvian quinoa soup. The nutty flavor of cumin pairs well with other spices.

Red Chili Flakes

Red Chili Flakes are a great addition to the pantry because there are so many delicious recipes that call for chili peppers. Whether Thai chili peppers or aji peppers etc. But I try to be thoughtful of other people’s palates (especially my little ones) and this allows me to add the heat I want after a dish is finished.  Do certain peppers add different flavors and types of heat? Yes, but when you are trying to dial back the heat this is also a good choice. I’ve added red chili flakes to shrimp and grits  and my sausage with spinach and mushrooms without the complaints.

So, if you’ve considered cooking more international food these are 6 spices you might want to add to your pantry. Of course, it’s okay to start with just one. Go ahead, you won’t be sorry.


Spices should be kept away from direct sunlight and heat. Yes, move your spices away from your stove.

Which spice is your favorite spice?



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