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Ingredient Guide

How to Use Different Spices

21 December 2022 - Written by  Tilda Kitchen

How to Use Different Spices

With a stocked spice rack and Tilda® Rice, flavorful meals packed with spices are just minutes away!

By learning how to make the most of your spice rack, enhancing your favorite recipes or exploring international dishes is easier than you think. When you have Tilda® Rice on hand and a stocked spice rack, not only are mealtime possibilities endless, but you can also whip up a flavorful meal whenever a craving strikes!  

Firstly, what are spices? Herbs and spices both come from plants; while herbs are fresh, spices are derived from the dried parts of a plant including roots, stalks, seeds or dried fruits. Another important distinction is potency. While herbs offer a more subtle flavor, the general rule for spices is that less is more. 

Let’s get started by exploring some spices you probably already have stocked in your pantry!

What are Cloves?

The clove, which is the immature bud of the clove tree, has been a sought-after spice for centuries. From its tropical origins to its central role in European spice wars, this complex spice has had a big influence on international cuisine.

Found in many recipes – from curries to hot drinks – this small but mighty spice adds distinctive warmth for recipes all around the world including Indian, African, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Mediterranean dishes.


Intensely warming, cloves possess a fiery combination of spicy, sweet and bitter notes. A little goes a long way, so use them in moderation so they don’t overwhelm the other subtle flavors in your recipe.


Whole cloves are often used to give depth of flavor in slow-cooked meat and rice dishes and turn up the wow factor when studded into meats or vegetables. Grinding cloves releases the flavor, offering instant impact for quick meals.


Both whole and ground cloves can be used in an array of recipes when you’re craving sweet and bitter notes with a spicy kick: 

  • Simply push the stems of whole cloves into meat to gently infuse a boost of flavor. 
  • Drop them into stocks, soups and stews or add them to rice for a subtle lift. 
  • Simmer buds in mulled wine and spiced cider or use in a fruity dish to add complexity. Just remember to take out whole cloves once you’re done; they’re woody and bitter if you bite into them. 
  • Ground cloves are often included in spice rubs and marinades, including Chinese five-spice, ras el hanout and garam masala. 
  • The burst of intense flavor from ground cloves also gives depth to sweet dishes like gingerbread and pumpkin pie.


Cloves pair well with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice – as they all are rich in flavor yet slightly sweet. Additionally, the heat from cloves pairs well with peppercorns.


Whole cloves have a more subtle flavor, so if you’re using ground cloves when a recipe calls for whole cloves, just use ¾ of the stated amount. If you don’t have any form of cloves, you may very well have a satisfactory alternative. For example, allspice has a very similar flavor profile, and nutmeg – especially when mixed with cinnamon – will also do the trick.

What is Coriander?

All parts of the cilantro plant – also known as Chinese parsley or dhania –  are edible; the zesty herb includes the fresh leaves and stem, while dried seeds are known as coriander.


The main difference between fresh and dried coriander is the intensity of the flavor. Though fresh cilantro loses flavor when cooked, it packs a punch when sprinkled as a garnish just before serving. Dried Coriander, on the other hand,  is more mellow and only adds a subtle hint of flavor . As a result, dried coriander  should be added early in the cooking process, allowing sufficient time for the subtle flavor to infuse into dishes like stews or marinades.


The fresh leaves and stems of the herb have a distinctive, slightly sweet aroma and a fresh, fragrant sage-citrus flavor. 

For a warm, spicy citrus tang, simply heat coriander seeds. In contrast, ground seeds offer more prominent roasted, nutty aromas.


Fresh, citrusy coriander leaves are top rice dishes, curries, soups and stews in a variety of cuisines including Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisine. It also adds something special to chutneys, salads, salsa and guacamole, and is often mixed into chicken and pork dishes or colorful stir fries.

The dried fruit, or seeds, take on a different character. When crushed or ground, coriander is found in rubs, marinades, and curries.It’s popular in both sweet and savory recipes, bringing a zing to cakes and pastries and enhancing the subtle flavors of root vegetables in soups and stews.


Cumin and coriander work together in stews, chillies or soups, rubbed on chicken, pork chops or lamb. They boost the taste of roasted vegetables and can be used to flavor the cooking water for rice, quinoa or couscous. After all, the warmth and nuttiness of cumin compliments the zestier, citrus tones of the coriander.

The fresh herb blends well with basil and mint for breads, yogurts, dips, butter and mayonnaise. Coriander is also often paired with garlic, lemon, lime and chillies to flavor anything from salads to stir-fries like in this Bombay Tawa Pulao, which is garnished with coriander and lemon juice.


Cumin has a similar warmth that makes it a popular replacement for coriander in curries, chillies, soups and stews. Caraway is another direct swap, featuring the same aromatic oils for a similar earthy, slightly sweet flavor.

What is Nutmeg?

Nutmeg is made from the seed of the tropical, evergreen tree used to flavor soups, meats, drinks and desserts. It can be found in a variety of cuisines, playing both a savory role in curry spice blends like garam masala and curry powder and also adding sweet notes in Indian puddings. 

It’s common in Indonesian dishes such as soups and stews as well as taking the star role in jerk and ras el hanout seasonings prominent in Middle Eastern and West Indian. We’d be remiss to not mention all the American desserts it’s in including pumpkin pie.


Warm and comforting, nutmeg tastes nutty and earthy with subtle sweetness.


Nutmeg can be grated directly into or on top of your dish, or used as a key component of an aromatic marinade.This versatile spice not only livens up root vegetables and leafy greens, complements the tang of onion and enhances the flavor in fish, chicken and lamb, but it also works wonderfully in both béchamel sauce and curry, peps up pasta and vegetables and spices up baked desserts and stewed fruit. 


Nutmeg blends beautifully with sweet cinnamon and earthy flavors from both spices – such as cardamom, cloves, ginger and cumin – and herbs – both coriander and thyme. 


Other savory stand-ins include mace, ginger or cloves and cinnamon or all-spice for sweeter dishes. 

Substitution Tip: All-spice can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio, but only use half the stated amount when swapping in cinnamon.

What is Cumin?

Famed for its ability to bring out hidden depths of flavor, cumin is one of the most widely-used spices in the world. Cumin is probably more common in your cooking than you know; after all, it’s a key ingredient in chilli powder and various popular spice mixes.  Cumin is most commonly associated with Indian cooking, as it is a central component of popular spice blends such as garam masala and curry powder, but the possibilities are practically endless with this spice. Wherever you are in the world, cumin’s earthy aromas are probably at work in typical spice blends: 

  • garam masala
  • curry powder
  • Bahaarat
  • Tex Mex
  • Achiote

Believed to have originated in South Asia, this versatile seed belongs to the parsley family, adding character to curries, soups and stews.


Cumin has a quite pungent flavor. Cumin is naturally bitter but, when heated, the seeds give off a warm aroma while releasing their essential oils, developing that characteristic earthy flavor.


Dry roasting involves gently toasting the seeds in a pan without oil – shaking the pan occasionally – until their rich aroma releases. Once cooled, they can be ground up with a pestle and mortar. This toasting process boosts the flavor in the paste for this Chicken Curry as well enhancing the marinade used in Lamb Biryani.


Cumin pairs well with coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves as well as many herbs including rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage and mint.


Ground Coriander: Both in the parsley family, coriander and cumin taste quite similar; however, coriander has a greater intensity so cut the amount in half.

Caraway seeds: Also in the parsley family, caraway seeds have distinct licorice and citrus notes 

Cinnamon: If you wish to swap out cumin’s nutty earthiness for sweeter notes, cinnamon will do the trick.

What is Turmeric?

Part of the ginger family, turmeric brings an earthy flavor and its signature golden color to any dish. It is mostly commonly associated with South Asian and Middle Eastern recipes. Both sweet and savory dishes from India and Nepal are infused with its unusual flavor, while Indonesian cuisine often features it in soups and stir-fries. It’s also a staple of Persian cooking, particularly in stews and as a base in spice mixtures.


Turmeric has a subtle earthy, almost musky, flavor with a satisfyingly peppery aftertaste. While both varieties are slightly bitter, fresh turmeric offers a brighter flavor – sometimes even described as citrusy – over its dried counterpart. 


When dried and powdered, it is commonly mixed into marinades or spice rubs or part of the base of a sauce, soup or stew. In fact, it’s one of the key ingredients in curry powder, a blend that takes dishes like Spiced Chickpea Curry to the next level. Because of its slightly bitter bite, it usually needs to be balanced out by other ingredients that will take the edge off – such as mellowing ghee, butter, coconut oil, coconut milk, or other fats commonly added to curry.

Treat fresh turmeric as you would fresh ginger: Peel, slice, mince, or grate into an array of foods and drinks. Blend it into smoothies, brew into a tea, or add its famous earthy flavor to soups, stews or curries – the possibilities are endless. It’s also less potent than powdered form, so it can be added more liberally.


To prepare fresh turmeric, simply grab a vegetable peeler or paring knife and slice off its skin. Alternatively, you use the chef’s trick of rubbing the stem with the back with a spoon to remove the hard outer layers. Then, slice, grate, crush or blitz your turmeric. 

Kitchen Tip: Turmeric’s signature bright yellow-orange can permanently stain almost anything it touches, so always wear gloves if you’re handling fresh turmeric and avoid cooking (or eating) it in your favorite clothes.

Storage Tip: As one of the biggest problems with refrigerating turmeric root is mold growth, this step is key: remove excess moisture with a paper towel.  


If you’re looking for dried spices that taste great with turmeric, reach for cumin, cinnamon, or paprika. If you’re cooking with fresh turmeric, then fresh ginger is an equally punchy partner. Just ensure you use them sparingly, as both of these fresh ingredients are pretty strong, and can quickly overpower other ingredients. 


In terms of flavor and color, saffron is regarded as the best substitute for turmeric. Though you don’t get the same golden hue that turmeric promises, ginger and cumin mimic the taste. As they are a bit stronger, use them sparingly. 


A member of the ginger family and a close relative of turmeric, cardamom can be found in a variety of sweet and savory recipes including in coffee, rice dishes, and pastries. 

While closely associated with Southeast Asian dishes, cardamom is a universally loved spice that appears in a variety of signature rice dishes from different countries. Green cardamom is primarily used in Nordic and Middle Eastern cuisine, while recipes originating from India and Asia use both black and green, and often specify which variety should be used. 


Green cardamom has a pungent pine flavor and aroma, with hints of lemon and mint.

White cardamom is simply bleached green cardamom; however, the bleaching process does dull the flavor slightly so it’s a little less punchy. 

Black cardamom has smoky notes and is notable for its complex, earthy, bittersweet aroma. This variety is the most prevalent spice found in a traditional chai tea blend. 


Cardamom pairs well with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves –  spices found in many Indian spice blends, including garam masala and chai tea – as well as rosemary. 


Powdered cardamom is found in garam masala, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy this spice.

Crush: You can also crush the pods lightly, then add them to stews or soups. The outer pods will dissolve, but the little black seeds within will pleasantly spice the mix. 

Simmer: You can also simply add the pods to boiling rice for an easy added pop of flavor . The flavors seep into the water and add a delightful flowery note. But don’t forget to remove the pods before serving, as biting directly into a pod can give you a flavor shock.

Toast: For sensational flavor, toast green cardamom pods in a dry skillet for a few minutes. Once cooled, remove the seeds and grind them in a ​mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a coffee grinder. Whip up a fragrant Butternut Squash Curry combining freshly made curry paste and whole spices — cardamom pods as well as cumin and mustard seeds — to enhance any vegetable and rice dish.

Kitchen Tip: There’s no need to clean your grinder; cardamom adds an irresistible floral aroma to your coffee – and tea –  so any residual powder will enhance your next cup.


To get the warm aroma and earthy flavor that cardamom offers, the best substitutions are allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If you want to mimic the spice’s complexity, use a mix of cinnamon and ginger.

With a little help from Tilda® Rice, you’ll be preparing perfectly seasoned meals in no time!