A Few Rarer Spices that Kick Up the Common

What kind of kitchen would it be without cinnamon, cumin, ginger and cayenne, right? But now the question is, what kind of kitchen would it be if you had mace, sumac, saffron and kaffir? These rarer spices can add great depth and subtle nuances to everyday dishes and specialty recipes. You can find them in either our Bulk Spice or general spice aisles.

Fenugreek — Fenugreek seeds are a common to Middle Eastern cooking. They are also often used in chutneys and curries or as a rub for meat and can be used whole or ground. The taste of the seeds is similar to burnt sugar, which is ideal in strong dishes. Try it in lentil soup or saag paneer!

Juniper Berries — Juniper berries have a sharp, tart taste and are most often used to cook wild game like venison. The flavor works with the deep, rich flavors of meat, so it can be used in roasts, stews and more. We like them in everything from casseroles, marinades and stuffings to sweet dishes such as fruitcake.

Kaffir Lime Leaves — Dried kaffir lime leaves are a staple of Thai dishes, but can also be used in baking to flavor a coconut icing or in any dish to add lime flavoring without the moisture.

Mace — Mace comes from the waxy red covering that goes around nutmeg seeds. This, of course, means that it has a similar taste to nutmeg, but a touch more peppery. It’s used in both savory and sweet dishes like stews, curries, sauces, and homemade pickles, as well as breads, pies, custards and more.

Pasilla de Oaxaca Chile — This chile is interesting because of its smoky flavor — much more smokiness than heat. It is used in a lot of vegetarian dishes, where the smokiness creates a similar flavor to meat (this makes it very nice in mushroom dishes). It is excellent in salsas and with bean dishes or in soups!

Saffron — The most expensive spice in the world, saffron is the dried yellow stigmas from a small purple crocus. This crocus produces only three of these threads each and it takes 225,000 to make just one pound of saffron. The stigmas are carefully hand-picked and then dried (an extremely labor-intensive process). Fortunately, a little saffron goes a long way as both a colorant and flavoring. Known for what it does to energize dishes with a pungent, earthy essence, it is commonly used in bouillabaisse and paella.

Saigon Cinnamon — Saigon cinnamon is related to cassia cinnamon (which you probably have in your spice rack right now) but is largely produced in Vietnam and has a more complex and pronounced aroma. You can really taste the difference when you use it in a pie or bread or puttanesca.

Sumac — native to the Middle East, the sumac bush produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into coarse powder. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, that is more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. A small sprinkle also adds a beautiful pop of color to any dish. It is a staple in baba ghanoush and fattoush, but try it sprinkled on melon or yogurt!