If you don’t cook for large groups of people and you don’t make a wide variety of home-cooked meals from scratch on a daily basis, you can run into a problem. Even small jars of infrequently used herbs and spices can be difficult to get through before their shelf life has come to an end. Most dried herbs and spices don’t exactly spoil; it’s more like the flavor becomes less potent. Thankfully, herb and spice blends exist, so you don’t need to keep jars of spices you use a quarter teaspoon of for one dish you eat once a month.


Seasoning mixes often have the added benefit of coming with instructions on what to use them with. For example, two of the blends I have on hand now are an Italian herb mix and Fox Point seasoning. The Italian herb mix consists of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, and cracked rosemary and it offers suggestions on what to use it with. It can be sprinkled onto chicken or fish, mixed into a salad, or 1 tsp per quart can be added to your homemade pizza/spaghetti sauce. The Fox Point seasoning (salt, shallots, chives, garlic, onion, and green peppercorn) comes with a recommendation that you add it to baked chicken, roasted vegetables, eggs, or fish fillets. It even has a brief recipe for a vegetable dip: 3 Tsp Fox Point, 2 Tbsp water, and 1 cup of sour cream mixed together.


So if the idea of keeping a few dozen jars of herbs and spices around doesn’t appeal to you, here are some suggestions for versatile seasoning mixes to keep on hand.


Chinese Five-Spice Powder

Star anise, fennel, cloves, cassia, and Szechuan peppercorns

Chinese five-spice powder is meant to bring a sort of sweet heat to a dish. If you aren’t a fan of black licorice, this might be one to avoid. This is a blend typically used with meats; dry rubs and marinades are where it does best.


Creole Seasoning

Paprika, oregano, basil, cayenne pepper, garlic, thyme, granulated onion, salt, and ground black pepper

Creole seasoning is an easy one to find use for. If you want that nice, Southern heat in your stew, gumbo, rice, crab, or shrimp, Creole seasoning is the way to go. If you’re looking for other ways to enjoy this mix, try adding it to omelettes, scrambled eggs, french fries, or vegetables.


Old Bay

Bay leaves, allspice, celery salt, cardamom, paprika, ginger, mustard, and cloves

Old Bay’s traditional use is with seafood in general, but especially crab and shrimp. Its salty and tangy flavor lends itself well to many dishes other than fish and shellfish, such as chicken, vegetables, popcorn and french fries. If you enjoy that New England flavor, you’ll find plenty of good ways to use Old Bay.


Pumpkin Pie Spice

Cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, mace, and allspice

While it’s not the kind of thing you’d season a chicken breast or tofu with, pumpkin spice still finds use outside of just being the blend of spices used in making pumpkin pie. One rather popular choice is the pumpkin spice latte- homemade and exactly how you want it. Add it to yogurt, ice cream, coffee, or anything you’d like to taste like the distilled essence of Autumn. If you want something a little heartier, try sprinkling some over squash before you roast it in the oven.