Opting to replace a few spices in your cabinet with higher-quality options can level up your cooking (and baking!) in a profound way. 

By Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé
May 19, 2020
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When was the last time you bought spices? If you’re not sure, it might be time to freshen up your spice cabinet. Like any other food, spices can go bad. Sure, the results aren’t going to make you sick, but reaching for fresh, high quality spices can completely change your cooking. Think of coffee beans—if you’re using old, dried-out beans, you’re not going to get as much flavor. Spices are the same way. The longer they sit, and the longer it’s been since they were ground, the less flavor, color and scent they’ll carry. But you’re not going to overhaul your spice cabinet all at once. That’s why we’ve picked four spices to upgrade for maximum, delicious impact.

Black Pepper

For many American cooks, black pepper is an afterthought, something you sprinkle onto most food without really considering what it tastes like. I’ve always been a fan of black pepper, but when I tasted Diaspora Co.’s single origin Aranya pepper, I stopped in my tracks. The flavor is familiar, with a fruitier and more herbaceous taste, and an almost sweet undertone. It’s sure to change the way you think about pepper forever, and definitely leave you wanting more. Pre-order now to get in on the 2020 harvest (yes, it’s that fresh.)

Smoked Paprika

Smoked paprika is one of my favorite items to recommend to people who haven’t experimented much with dried spices. If you think of essential seasonings as salt, pepper, and an Italian seasoning blend (no shade) pick up a bottle of Burlap & Barrel’s smoked pimentón paprika. Common in Spanish cooking, it’s a mild powder with an aromatic smoky, savory flavor that is excellent for adding extra oomph—especially to vegetarian cooking. I also sprinkle it on popcorn, over hummus, and add it to Mexican dishes like black beans or guacamole for a meatier, smoky flavor.

Cumin

If you associate cumin with packaged “taco seasoning” you’re correct. Those packages often consist mostly of salt and cumin, which begs the question: Why are you buying them? Combine cumin with smoked paprika for a super-simple meat rub, or sizzle the seeds in hot oil as a base for many South Asian dishes. For added points, try buying Spicewalla’s whole cumin seeds and grinding them in your coffee grinder for the freshest, most pungent flavor.

Cinnamon

If you find yourself reaching for cinnamon in your baking, Burlap & Barrel’s royal cinnamon will completely shake up your routine. This variety, which is grown in Vietnam, has notes of honey and citrus that will make your snickerdoodles and cinnamon buns shine. Because Burlap & Barrel’s spices are so fresh, you’ll find the cinnamon is also great raw, sprinkled over oatmeal or on top of yogurt, with none of the powder-y blandness of the grocery store variety you’ve probably had in your pantry for a half-decade.