Are you looking for herbs and spices to use instead of salt? Adding a pinch of salt can instantly improve any meal, but adding nothing but salt gets unhealthy and boring very quickly! To improve your cooking skills, here are some great herbs and spices to use instead of salt you can use to add more flavour to your healthy dishes.
Table of contents:
- black pepper
- star anise
- bay leaves
1 Black Pepper
One of my favorite herbs and spices to use instead of salt is black pepper. Ground pepper is a staple in any savoury dish and pairs well with salt. It’s best added with salt at the start of a dish, to give a base flavour to meats or sauces. Pepper has an earthy and vaguely hot taste, but isn’t aromatic or overwhelming. Pepper tastes best when ground from whole peppercorns, and also has a lot of health benefits!
A distinctive red spice, paprika has a spicy flavour but is milder and sweeter than some spices. Paprika can also have a smoky flavour, and works well in lamb, chicken or fish dishes. Paprika also pairs nicely with a lot of vegetables and other herb and spice blends.
Cumin has an earthy and smoky flavour. You can get fresh seeds or ground powder, though the seeds provide a richer flavour. Cumin also has a nutty flavour and pairs well with other spices, such as cinnamon and coriander. Try it out on lamb-based savoury dishes and you might be surprised!
A warm, aromatic spice that is available whole or in seed form, cardamom is commonly used in Asian spices or curries. It pairs nicely with cinnamon and has amazing health benefits.
Turmeric is a distinctive yellow, and adds a splash of colour to savoury dishes. Despite tasting different, turmeric is a great alternative for the more expensive saffron. Used in many South Asian dishes, turmeric is essential in most curries. Bear in mind that a little turmeric goes a long way. As it cooks, its flavour intensifies.
6 Star Anise
Commonly used in Chinese cooking, it has a strong anise flavour with a faintly liquorice aroma. A prominent flavour in Chinese 5-spice, star anise is great in traditional fall or winter recipes. It also adds a depth of flavour to slow-cooked casseroles, and can be added to dishes and removed at the end of cooking.
A staple of any decent spice rack, cinnamon works wonderfully in both sweet and savoury dishes. You can use whole sticks (make sure to remove them before eating!) or buy ground cinnamon. Add some to a cake or crumble and you’ll taste the difference. Or use it to add warmth to a savoury dish.
Like cinnamon, ginger can be fantastic in sweet or savoury dishes, as it’s peppery but with a slightly sweet twist. Ginger can be bought ground or fresh, and fresh ginger can be grated or chopped for different variations in flavour. Ginger is delicious when added to stewed fruits or curries, and can enhance other spices in dishes.
Nutmeg has a sweet flavour that can add warmth to sweet dishes. You’ll get the best flavour when you use freshly grated nutmeg. Try combining it with cinnamon and cloves in baked goods, or even add a little ginger to your apple pie for a mouthwatering taste.
Cloves have a strong sweet, but spicy flavour. Be careful, however, as these should be used in moderation to avoid overwhelming every other flavour. Cloves work well with other sweet flavours, such as cinnamon, allspice, vanilla or even basil.
While technically not a spice or herb, garlic is a must have in every kitchen. Garlic is hugely versatile and can be bought ground or in powder. The bulbs can be diced, crushed or made into a puree. Garlic itself has a strong, spicy flavour that tends to sweeten when cooked. Garlic can be added to nearly any savoury dish, and pairs wonderfully with lemon, parsley or rosemary.
Chives are lovely for those of you who aren’t a fan of onions. Finely dice and add to savoury dishes at the last minute, or use as a garnish, as prolonged heat will destroy the flavour. They pair well with sour cream or potato based dishes.
Coriander is like marmite - you either love it or hate it. You can buy seeds or leaves, and each has a different flavour. The leaves have an earthy, lemony flavour and are best added to savoury dishes later on as heat destroys the flavour. The seeds have a warm flavour with a hint of citrus, and go well in curries, salads or soups.
Mint has an incredibly distinctive smell and taste. It works well with sweet or savoury, and is fairly easy to grow on your windowsill. Mint works well in salads, and fresh mint makes a fantastic mojito!
Rosemary is an aromatic herb that can easily be overpowering, so add in moderation. Rosemary gives the best flavour when whole sprigs are added to slow roasted, savoury dishes such as stews or roasted veggies. Just be careful to remove the sprig before serving!
Fresh dill has a strong, mildly sharp taste with a lovely crunch. Fresh dill will give loads more flavour than dried and can last a while if it’s stored in the fridge. Aside from plenty of documented health benefits, dill works well with green vegetables but is best used in moderation.
Most of us have heard of oregano, as it’s a staple of Greek or Italian cuisine. Oregano is warm and aromatic, with a slightly bitter flavour. This herb can be used dried, but will give a better flavour when used fresh. It’s great for marinating meats, poultry or seafood, and really brings out the best of tomato based dishes such as spag bol or pizza.
Parsley has a vaguely bitter and grassy flavour, but it is very mild and will not overwhelm other flavours. As with most herbs, it works best when the leaves are diced and added fresh. Parsley works in nearly any savoury dish, but pairs especially well with garlic and lemon.
Sage is a robust herb, like rosemary, but with a stronger hint of lemon. Unlike most herbs, sage does not lose flavour with prolonged cooking, so it works wonderfully when added to slow cooked dishes. Traditionally use in French or Italian cooking, sage pairs well with other robust herbs such as oregano, rosemary or thyme. It works well with pork and beef based dishes. Add a little to your stuffing and taste the difference!
Not as robust as some herbs, tarragon needs to be added toward the end of cooking so heat doesn’t destroy the flavour. Tarragon has a unique flavour -l bitter, but with a hint of liquorice. Try a little with fish, poultry or egg-based dishes.
Thyme needs a long cooking time to release it’s strong, slightly earthy and minty flavour. Add whole sprigs to slow-cooked meals and casseroles but make sure to remove them at the end. Thyme works well with beef or pork dishes, but try adding a fresh spring to roasted veggies for amazing flavour!
Sweet and peppery, fresh basil gives the best flavour. The basil plant needs humidity, but grows surprisingly well on windowsills. Basil works well in savoury dishes, such as sauces, but pairs well with tomato dishes too. Try sprinkling a few leaves on a store brought pizza to make it amazing!
23 Bay Leaves
Unlike most dried herbs, dried bay leaves retain a lot of their flavour. Fresh bay leaves have a bitter taste, but when dried they’re very aromatic with a taste slightly like thyme or oregano. Add a few to your sauce for extra flavour, though I’d recommend removing them before serving.
Another delicate herb, marjoram is related to mint and oregano. Marjoram tastes similar to oregano, but is sweeter and more delicate, lacking the spicy undertones of other herbs. Add later in cooking to avoid destroying the favour. Marjoram pairs well with soup or cheese dishes, stew or roast chicken.
So there you go - 24 amazing herbs and spices to spice up your cooking! A pinch of salt will always improve your dishes, but adding a little variety can make you feel like a proper chef. Try mixing different herbs together and see what amazing flavour combinations you can come up with.
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