It can be easy to get into a rut when you are cooking by reaching for the same seasonings all the time; however, there is no reason to get into a rut because there are so many uncommon spices and herbs to try. Spices and herbs are such a wonderful way to flavor dishes. They make even bland vegetables taste wonderful, and they can provide depth to stews. Even a handful of fresh basil can make a huge difference in the flavor of dish. Yet, as wonderful as basil is, it is nice to try some uncommon spices and herbs every once in a while to keep your meals interesting.
Sumac berries are indigenous to Iran, and they are very popular in Middle Eastern cooking. These berries impart a deep red hue to the dishes they flavor, and they add a tart, lemony flavor. You can use sumac very lightly in place of lemon to add a lemony flavor to your meals. The lemony flavor of sumac makes it a great spice to have on hand, but there are other uncommon spices and herbs that you should also try.
Anardana is a spice that is often used in Indian and Persian cuisine. It is made from dried pomegranate seeds, but don’t expect this spice to taste like pomegranates. Drying the seeds brings out the tartness of the seeds and gives them a slight molasses flavor. Because of its deep molasses notes, Anardana pairs nicely with orange zest and cinnamon, but you can also lightly sprinkle it on steamed or roasted vegetables to give them a little boost in flavor.
Annatto seeds come from the fruit of the tropical achiote tree, and they are often used to add an orange color to dishes. In fact, annatto is commonly used to turn cheese orange! While it does add a brilliant orange color, annatto also adds subtle flavor to dishes. It is earthy and slightly peppery, and adding it to dishes can enhance the depth of the flavor.
4. Nigella Seeds
If you have had naan, an Indian flatbread, you have probably had nigella seeds. They are small black seeds that are commonly added to naan. However, they can be used other ways as well. They have a subtle onion scent and a peppery flavor, so they are great to add to vegetable dishes and stews.
5. Kaffir Lime Leaves
Kaffir lime leaves are common in Southeast Asian cuisine, which is why you will often find them added to Thai dishes. The leaves are used both fresh and dry, but when used dry they are used like bay leaves. Kaffir lime leaves can be hard to come by, but if you do happen to find them you should get some to try. They have a wonderful sweet, lemon flavor that will enhance your dishes.
Sassafras comes from the leaves of the sassafras tree, and it is the seasoning that gives gumbo its distinctive and wonderful flavor. It has a light flavor that is both sweet and peppery. While you should certainly try sassafras in gumbo, you can also use it in soups, stews, and to season vegetables.
7. Summer Savoury
In France summer savoury is quite common, and it is one of the main herbs used in Herbs de Provence, an herb mix that hails from France. However, summer savoury isn't a common herb in many home pantries. If this herb hasn’t found its way into your pantry yet, you should pick up some to try. It has a light minty, peppery flavor that is wonderful for vegetables, potatoes, stews, soups, and even egg dishes.
Hopefully, reading about all of these uncommon spices has inspired you to add a variety of new spices to your cooking repertoire. Which of these spices do you think you would like to try?