Want to make cooking and baking a little easier and quicker? Try grouping spices together by the ingredients you typically use in recipes.
For example, when cooking Asian or Indian dishes I go to the first shelf in my spice cabinet (number “1″ in the picture above) where I keep curry (two types, hot and regular), ground ginger, five spice, garam marsala, and sesame seeds. It is so much easier than hunting all around the cupboard trying to remember where I stashed the ginger.
Organizing by ingredient is especially helpful for those spices that are used only occasionally because those are the ones we typically have to go searching for.
It’s also convenient and saves time. I can’t reach the top shelf of my cupboard without a step stool, but I need all the space for spices. I used to run up and down the ladder for each spice I needed for a recipe- hardly the best use of my energy and time. Using wood caddies that fit my cupboard allows me to grab the whole caddy from the shelf to keep on the counter as I make the recipe – and I only need to use the step stool twice.
Baskets would also be a good way to store groups of spices. Check thrift stores for smaller, lower-sided baskets, wood boxes or trays that still allow you to see the spices above the sides. You can tie labels onto the containers that will help you remember the ingredients, like “Asian” or “Italian.” Or you can do what I did and use numbers for each container – the number 3 above holds all my Italian-type spices.
Classic spice cabinet turntables also work with this idea. I keep some of my baking ingredients on one turntable in a cupboard next to the stove. This includes cinnamon, cinnamon-sugar, allspice, espresso powder for baking, cupcake liners, and different cooking oils, like peanut and coconut.
Ideas of ways to group spice ingredients
Your groupings may look different based on what recipes you cook most often. Some ingredients are less recipe-specific, like parsley, so these “bridge ingredients” can be put in whichever grouping you have room for it in the container.
- Mexican/Southwest/spicy: taco seasoning, cumin, Mexican oregano, coriander, Cajun seasoning, cayenne powder, and chili powder
- Italian/Spanish: Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, basil, oregano (if not with Mexican), rosemary, fennel
- French: herbs de Provence, chervil, tarragon, dill, dry mustard, paprika
- Asian/Indian: curry powder, ground ginger, five spice, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, saffron, sesame seed
- Baking: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, vanilla and other extracts, salt, espresso powder, baking soda and powder, cream of tartar, poppy seed
Many of the spices listed in the groupings above are also used in Middle Eastern cooking. If you make a lot of these recipes, consider grouping cumin, turmeric, allspice, and cardamom together. Other groupings could include grilling rubs, liquid smoke, and specific grill spices in a grilling basket or a Thai-specific container that would include Thai basil, mint, and Thai chilies in addition to cumin and ginger. The goal is to help you streamline your cooking, so make the system work for the way you cook.
What ways do you like to organize your spices?