Dictionary of Herbs and Spices

Dictionary of Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices add that special something to cooking, turning simple food preparation into an art form. This dictionary of herbs and spices will help you get a hold on the most common varieties that you see throughout our database of recipes. Under each entry, find several suggestions for how to cook with that herb or spice with a link to specific recipes. We hope you will contribute to the dictionary with less common entries and your favorite recipes! Write to us here.

Herb And Spice Dictionary

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z  

Allspice (berries)- This fragrant spice comes from the dried berries of an evergreen tree native to Jamaica, Mexico and Honduras. Reminiscent of a mix of cloves, nutmeg, and other spices, allspice is used for baking, pickling spice, and jerk seasonings.

Coffee Can Pumpkin Bread

Pickled Chipotle Chiles

Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin

Anise- These small, oval seeds are related to dill and cumin and come from Spain and Mexico. They taste and smell like licorice. Anise is used in baking sweets, making liqueurs, and in the curries for stoups and stews in India and the Middle East.

Middle Eastern Souvlaki

Italian Braided Easter Bread

Lemon-Anise Biscotti

Basil- Although there are many types of basil used in cooking (sweet basil, lemon basil, purple Thai basil), the basil leaf is known for its pungent aroma and flavor similar to mint and clove. Basil is a versatile herb well suited to tomatoes, meat dishes (especially in Thai cooking), and is a primary ingredient in pesto sauce.

Thai Basil Chicken

Fresh Tomato Pie


Bay Leaves- Grown in the Mediterranean, bay leaves, with their sharp and savory taste, are an important part of American cooking and many French dishes. One or two whole leaves are added to sauces, stews, and soups, but removed before serving. Putting a couple leaves in stored grains helps to repel insects.

Lentil and Chestnut Soup

Beef and Cabbage Casserole

Salmon Baked in Milk with Bay Leaf and Onion

Caraway- This seed, the fruit of an herb in the parsley family, is sweet, nutty and tangy. Caraway seeds are popular in rye bread, cheese, and sprinkled over lamb or pork before roasting. Caraway helps to reduce the smell of cabbage in many dishes.

Cabbage Gratin

Brewed Brat Sandwich with Caraway Kraut

Russian Black Bread

Cardamom- A member of the ginger family, this expensive spice comes from ground cardamom seeds and has an intense, sweet flavor. A little goes a long way with this spice. Cardamom is used in Arabic countries to flavor coffee, in many Scandinavian dishes, and in many curry blends in India.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cardamom Jam

Chicken with Coconut Curry Sauce

Gesthemane Beef

Cayenne Pepper- Made from the dried pods of chili peppers, this fiery spice is popular in Mexican, Southwest American, Indian, and Italian cooking. It has little aroma but is hot to the taste.

Black Bean Cakes

Jambalaya Shortcakes with Cayenne Cream

Captain's Choice Tilapia

Celery Seed- Small, dried brown seeds from the same species as the vegetable celery with a similar warm, slightly bitter, flavor.

Tomato Apple Relish

Rummage Salad

Slow-Cooker Rustic Stew

Chervil- Related to parsley, this aromatic herb, with a more distinctive taste, is popular in French cooking. Chervil is used like parsley in things like mashed potatoes, soups, and hamburgers. It is a milder alternative to raw onion.

Herb Spread

Lobster Ravioli

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Cilantro- The young leaf of the coriander plant, this herb is popular in Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Asian cooking as a cooling counterpoint to fiery spices. The taste is a mix of parsley and citrus.

Island Chicken with Fruit Salsa

Avocado Salad

Santa Fe Pasta

Cinnamon- Probably the most common baking spice, cinnamon is made from the dried bark of various laurel trees, native to Sri Lanka and other regions. Cinnamon has a sweet and woody taste and is used in beverages, apple dishes, and many savory meat dishes.

Moon Chai Tea

Apple Butter Pork Loin

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Cloves- Cloves are dried, unopened flower buds from an evergreen tree native to Madagascar, Brazil, and other areas. Cloves, with their very strong pungent, sweet taste, are used in spice cookies and cake, and many other savory dishes.

Applesauce Cookies

Old German Spice Cake

Peking Duck

Coriander- Coming from Morocco and Romania, coriander is a mild seed with a flavor similar to that of a lemon and sage blend. Coriander is used in Middle Eastern cooking, sausage making, curries, and the whole seeds are used in pickling and special drinks.

Sri Lankan Crab Curry

Orange Ratafia


Cumin- Available in seed and ground forms, cumin is the dried, pale green seed (like caraway) from a member of the parsley family. Cumin is often used in Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes. Cumin has a nutty, warm flavor.

Indian Kheema

Basic Texas Chili

Chicken Tacos

Dill- Both the leaves and the seeds from this feathery frond plant are used in cooking. Both have a sharp taste, but Dill Weed is mellower and fresher than Dill Seed. Dill is often added to cold salads and dips, hot potato dishes, and delicate meats.

Golden Herb Rolls

Salmon in Lemon-Dill Sauce

Chilly cucumber dip

Fennel- All parts of the fennel plant are used in various ways in cooking. Fennel seed is similar to anise but is sweeter and more aromatic. It's used in chili and soups. Fennel leaves have a sweet flavor well suited to fish and veal sauces.

Chicken Breast with Fennel and Tomatoes

Barbecue Sauce Spare Ribs

Fennel Cleanser

Ginger- Ginger is a warming, pungent root that is crushed and powdered to make the spice. Ginger is used in baking, as with gingerbread, and in many Asian dishes.

Shrimp Kabobs in Ginger Marinade

Ginger Carrot Soup

Gingerbread with Orange Glaze

Mace- The nutmeg tree produces two spices: nutmeg and mace. Mace is the outer covering of the nutmeg seed which is dried and slowly roasted to create the spice. Mace is similar to nutmeg, but more pungent. Mace is used in both sweet and savory dishes and is often the dominant flavor in doughnuts.

Challah (Braided Bread)

Spiced Beef

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Marjoram- The leaf of a plant member of the mint family, marjoram is indigenous to the Mediterranean and is used in flavoring meat dishes. It has a delicate sweet flavor and a bold floral aroma, and helps to deepen the flavor of foods like spinach and mushrooms.

Grilled Chicken with Pico de Gallo

Rice Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Herb Butter-Roasted Turkey

Mint- Mint comes from the leaf of a perennial herb, which is usually dried. The popular flavor is strong, sweet, and cooling. Mint is used in soups, lamb dishes, and chocolate desserts, just to name a few.

Mint Mocha

Irish Fresh Pea Soup

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Mint and Orzo

Mustard- Mustard seed comes from the brown and white mustard shrubs native to Asia. Brown mustard is more pungent. The spicy taste of whole mustard seed and powdered mustard enhances meat dishes, salad dressings, and the process of pickling.

Fridge Pickles

Apple Orchard Barbecue Sauce

Rummage Salad

Nutmeg- The tall nutmeg tree produces two spices: nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg comes from the inner brown seed of the tree's "fruit," and is sweeter than mace, made from the outer covering of the seed. Nutmeg is a baking spice, common to fruit dishes, and an essential part of eggnog.

Old Fashioned Eggnog

Sausage-Stuffed Eggs Gratinee

Apricot French Toast

Oregano- Like mint, oregano comes from the dried leaf of a perennial herb. Oregano is peppery with a pungent odor, and is responsible for the distinctive taste of pizza. The herb is popular in hearty meat dishes, tomato sauces, and blends well with garlic and lemon.

Pizza Quattro Stagioni

Chipotle Country Ribs

Greek Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

Paprika- This bright red powder comes from a mild red pepper, and is the main flavor in Hungarian cooking. The flavors of paprika range from sweet and mild to spicy hot, and many consider Hungarian paprika the best. Paprika is popular in shellfish dishes, casseroles, and as a garnish.

Hungarian Style Chicken and Noodles

Country Style Quail

Baked Low Fat French Fries

Parsley- This herb leaf is most popular as a garnish (and a breath freshener), and is more often used dried than fresh. The light, fresh flavor and scent lends itself to many different dishes and the appearance adds to any presentation.

Coq Au Vin

Creamy Seafood Pasta

Mushroom Onion Soup Pepper- Pepper is the most popular spice in the world and comes from dried peppercorn berries. Black peppercorns, of which the Tellicherry variety are the most prized, add spice to most cooking and give the best flavor when freshly ground. White peppercorns are produced when the black peppercorn berries are allowed to ripen and the husks are removed.

Easy Pepper Steak

Egg Foo Yung

Ginger Spice Cookies

Poppy Seed- From a yellowish brown opium plant, poppy seeds are tiny and nutty-tasting. The crunchy seeds are used in baked goods, like muffins, are popular in desserts, and are used in fish and vegetables dishes.

Chilled Creamy Poppy seed Pasta and Fruit Salad

Raspberry Poppy seed Muffins

Sun-Dried Tomato Sticks

Rosemary- Also an herb in the mint family, rosemary comes from the needle-like leaves of an evergreen shrub. Rosemary has a lemon and pine aroma and flavor. The herb is used in teas, rice, pizza, baked goods, and many different sauces.

Savory Pork Stew

Low Fat Cheese Muffins

Grilled Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon

Saffron- Since it takes around 35,000 flowers to produce a pound of saffron (from the flowers' stamens), saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Saffron is dark orange and thread-like, with a spicy flavor and aroma. Saffron, even crushed, is added right before serving to retain its full flavor and aroma.

Yellow Rice

Paella Salad

Halibut Fillets with Creamy Saffron Sauce

Sage- Also in the mint family, sage is the herb leaf from an evergreen shrub and has an earthy and warm flavor. Soft, silvery sage leaves are often ground lightly. The herb is featured in many holiday dishes, salads, and meat dishes.

Chicken Burgers with Sage Pesto

Sage Corn Bread

Fried Sage Omelet

Sesame Seed- The tiny yellow, red, or black seeds come from an annual herb and have a mild and nutty flavor. Sesame seed is the most common produced seed and is used in many breads, stir-fries, pasta, and other dishes.

Catfish Roasted with Sesame Seeds, Basil, Garlic and Spinach

Crockpot Sesame Seed Chicken

Golden Herb Rolls

Tarragon- The dark, pointed green leaves of this shrubby herb have a flavor similar to anise. The most popular variety is French Tarragon, with the flavor of sweet licorice. Tarragon is very popular in French cooking, in fish dishes, and in herbal vinegar for cooking.

Tomato Tarragon Bisque

Tarragon Lover's Scallops

Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp

Thyme- Thyme comes from the tiny, gray-green leaves of an herb in the mint family. Thyme leaves are often dried and ground. The versatile herb has pine, mint, and lemon flavors, and a subtle aroma. Thyme works well with poultry, soups, lamb, eggs, and more.

Irish Lamb Stew

Thyme-Rosemary Tea Bread

Thyme Beef Stroganoff

Turmeric- Much like ginger, turmeric spice comes from an underground stem and is a main ingredient in most curries and curry powders. While you probably wouldn't call turmeric hot on its own, the root is certainly warm and aromatic. The chemical curcumin in turmeric gives curry powder its bright saffron yellow color, and is responsible for the spice's kick.

Cholay (Curried Chick Peas)

Thai-style Tilapia

Tandoori Chicken

Reviews (7)

  • would love to see an exchange table for converting fresh herbs to dried herbs in case of a emegency and we do not have or can't get fresh.

    Flag as inappropriate scooter24  |  October 23, 2010

  • Here are 20 reasons to add turmeric to your diet:

    1. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.

    2. When combined with cauliflower, it has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.

    3. Prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice.

    4. May prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide.

    5. Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia.

    6. Is a natural liver detoxifier.

    7. May prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.

    8. May prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer.

    9. It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects.

    10. Has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice.

    11. Is a natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor.

    12. May aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management.

    13. Has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.

    14. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

    15. Boosts the effects of chemo drug paclitaxel and reduces its side effects.

    16. Promising studies are underway on the effects of turmeric on pancreatic cancer.

    17. Studies are ongoing in the positive effects of turmeric on multiple myeloma.

    18. Has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.

    19. Speeds up wound healing and assists in remodeling of damaged skin.

    20. May help in the treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.

    Turmeric can be taken in powder or pill form. It is available in pill form in most health food stores, usually in 250-500mg capsules.

    Once you start using turmeric on a regular basis, it's fun to find new ways to use it in recipes. My favorite way to use it is to add a pinch of it to egg salad. It adds a nice flavor and gives the egg salad a rich yellow hue.

    Contraindications: Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction. Though turmeric is often used by pregnant women, it is important to consult with a doctor before doing so as turmeric can be a uterine stimulant.

    Reported legalsec224  |  June 2, 2010

  • THANKS SO MUCH. I still need help of how to use the following spices I found in an international market in Atlanta. I don;t have idea how to use them.: TUMERIC, CARDAMOM, MASALA PUNJABI, RED TANDURI,
    I would appreciate any help or ideas.

    Flag as inappropriate cpmty8  |  February 28, 2010

  • This is great! Really need to know spices. Can you tell us about extracts, rum, almond,"good" vanilla, etc. How many wks., mons., they should last or we keep them in our spice cabinet? Thanks, very much! pickup2

    Flag as inappropriate pickup2  |  February 18, 2010

  • I really appreciate your help on the spices. Both my parents were great cooks but somehow passed me up.

    Flag as inappropriate orangeblossom  |  October 26, 2009

  • Thank you for explaining the different spices. Some spices I have not used due to not knowing what recipes they would work well in.

    Connie B.

    Flag as inappropriate Jameson  |  September 6, 2009

  • this is a great reference. i put it on my favorites list

    Flag as inappropriate lange  |  August 16, 2009

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