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herb and spice glossary
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abigslice blog Garam Masala: blended herbs Description: Blend mixture of herbs (bay leaves, cardomons, cinnamon, black cumin, cloves, black peppercorns and nutmeg). Uses: Use sparingly near the end of cooking Indian dishesGinger: spice (fresh, dried, crystallized or ground) Description: Light brown, gnarled and bumpy root from the ginger plant. Peppery, slightly sweet with a pungent and spicy aroma. Uses: Cakes, cookies, marinades; Chinese, Jamaican and German recipes; DON'T substitute dry ginger powder for recipes specifying fresh ginger.

Juniper Berries: spice (dried whole) Description: Slightly soft berries that resemble the size and color of blueberries. Pungent, piney flavor, bitter when raw, principle flavoring in gin. Uses: Marinades, game dishes, sauerkraut

Lemon Balm: herb (fresh sprigs) Description: Mint-like leaves, also called balm. Sweet, lemon flavor with a citrus scent. Uses: Jams and jellies, salads, soups, teas

Lemon Grass: herb (fresh or dried stalks or ground) Description: Long, thin, gray-green leaves. Lemon flavor and fragrance, very fibrous. Uses: Fish, chicken, shellfish, soups; Thai and Indonesian recipes

Mace: spice (dried blades or ground) Description: Brown outer covering of the nutmeg seed that turns yellow-orange when dried. Milder flavor and smell than nutmeg. Uses: Custards, fruit desserts (peaches, plums and apples), spice cakes and cookies, vegetables (carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower)

Marjoram: herb (fresh sprigs, leaves or ground) Description: Oval, inch-long pale green leaves. Member of the mint/oregano family. Aromatic, slightly bitter, similar to oregano, but much milder. Uses: Fish, patés, meat (esp. lamb), poultry, sausages, stuffings, vegetables

Mint: herb (leaves or flakes) Description: Peppermint and spearmint are two of the most popular kinds of the 25 or more varieties that exist. Strong, sweet, familiar cool aftertaste. Uses: Beverages, desserts, lamb, sauces, soups

Mustard Seed: spice (whole or ground) Description: White (or yellow) and brown (or Asian) seeds are two major types. The brown is stronger. Hot, very pungent. Uses: Meats, pickling, relishes, sauces and gravies.

Nutmeg: spice (whole or ground) Description: Gray-brown, oval seeds from the nutmeg tree. Mace is the spice obtained from the membrane of the seeds. Nutty, warm, spicy, sweet. Uses: Beverages (esp. egg nog), cakes, cookies, sauces, sweet potatoes, custards and breads

Oregano: herb (fresh leaves or crumbled dried) Description: Member of the mint family, related to marjoram and thyme. Strong, aromatic with a pungent "pizza" flavor. Uses: Fish, meat, poultry, tomato sauces; Greek, Italian and Mexican recipes

Paprika: spice (ground) Description: Dried, sweet red peppers ground into a powder. Slightly bitter, ranging from sweet to hot (Mexican is brighter in color and sweeter in taste than Hungarian, which is darker and more pungent). Uses: Dips, fish, poultry, salads (potato and egg), soups; necessary ingredient in goulash

Parsley: herb (fresh sprigs or crumbled dried) Description: Most widely used herb. Curly leaf and Italian (flat-leaf) parsley are but only two of the more popular varieties that exist. Delicate, slightly peppery taste. Uses: Sprigs used as garnish, herb mixtures (see fines herbes), sauces, soups, stews. Wide variety of uses.

Peppercorn: spice (whole, ground or cracked) Description: Most widely used spice. Berries from the pepper plant that grow in grape-like clusters. Black, white, green and red peppercorns are processed from the berries. Hot, peppery. Uses: Enhances flavor of most meats, poultry and sweet dishes

Poppy Seeds: spice (whole) Description: Tiny (less than 1/16 inch in diameter), blue-black seeds from the poppy plant. Crunchy texture, faint nutty flavor. Uses: Breads, cakes, pastries, salad dressings, vegetables, meat sauces

Rosemary: herb (fresh sprigs or whole dried) Description: Silver-green, pine needle-shaped leaves; member of the mint family. Sweet, hint of lemon and pine. Uses: Casseroles, fish, fruit salads, lamb, chicken, soups, stuffings, tomato sauce

Saffron: spice (whole threads or powdered) Description: Most expensive spice. Dried yellow-orange stigmas from the crocus plant. Adds bright yellow color to foods. Mild and distinctive flavor. Should be steeped in hot liquids before use. Uses: Rice, poultry, sauces, stews (bouillabaisse), Spanish recipes (paella), Swedish cakes and breads

Sage: herb (fresh sprigs, dried whole leaves, crumbled, ground) Description: Narrow, oval, gray-green leaves. Musty, minty, slightly bitter, "sausage" flavor. Uses: Chicken, duck, goose, pork, sausages, stuffings

Savory: herb (fresh sprigs or crumbled dried) Description: Two types: summer and winter. Summer savory is slightly milder, but both are strongly flavored and should be used sparingly. Summer is generally preferred. Closely related to the mint family. Minty, aromatic, slightly pungent. Uses: Beans (lima beans, string beans and lentils) meats, sauces, soups, stuffings, vegetables

Sesame Seed: spice (dried whole seeds) Description: Tiny, flat seeds pale ivory (most common), brown, red or black. Familiar hamburger bun garnish. Nutty, slightly sweet. Uses: Breads, cakes, cookies, dips, poultry, salad dressings, seafood

Tarragon: herb (leaves, whole or crushed) Description: Delicate, narrow, pointed, dark-green leaves. Mild licorice flavor. Uses: Eggs, meats, pickling, poultry, salads, sauces, dressings, "fines herbes" blend

Thyme: herb (leaves or ground) Description: Garden thyme (most common) is a bush with gray-green leaves, member of the mint family. Very aromatic, minty, tea-like. Uses: Fish, meats, poultry, soups, stocks, vegetables (eggplants, mushrooms, potatoes and summer squash)

Turmeric: spice (ground) Description: Intense yellow-orange root of a tropical plant related to ginger; used to flavor and color food. Use carefully as it can stain. Pungent, slightly bitter, earthy flavor. Uses: Primary ingredient in American-style mustard, Curries, East Indian recipes

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Allspice: spice (whole or ground) Description: Dark-brown, pea-size berries from the evergreen pimento tree. Also called Jamaica pepper. Pungent flavor that resembles a sweet mixture of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Uses: sausages and braised meats, poached fish, breads, cakes, cookies, stewed fruits, pies, puddings.

Anise Seed: spice (whole or ground) Description: Small green-brown, comma-shaped seeds. Member of the parsley family. Sweet licorice flavor. Uses: breads, cakes, candies, cookies, fruit sauces, Southeast Asian recipes, Italian Sausage.

Basil: herb (fresh leaves, or dried and crumbled) Description: Most varieties have green leaves, some purple. Member of the mint family. Sweet, peppery flavor, aromatic. Uses: chicken, eggs, fish, pasta, pesto, tomatoes, Italian and Mediterranean recipes

Bay Leaf: herb (dried whole leaves) Description: Leaves from the evergreen bay laurel tree, also called bay laurel or laurel leaf. Earthy, pungent aroma. Uses: Meats, pickling, sauces, soups, garam masala, stews, vegetables

Borage: herb (fresh leaves) Description: European herb with hairy leaves. Faint cucumber flavor. Uses: Salads, teas and vegetables

Caraway Seed: spice (dried whole seeds) Description: Seeds from an herb in the parsley family, Nutty, licorice flavor, familiar rye bread flavor. Uses: Breads, cheese spreads, pickling, vegetables, cabbage, and German, Austrian and Hungarian recipes.

Cardamom: spice (whole pod, seeds or ground) Description: Seeds are in pods the size of a cranberry, inside of a white or green pod. Member of the ginger family. Spicy-sweet, pungent aroma, expensive. Uses: Cakes, cookies, curries, fruits, Indian recipes, Scandinavian breads

Cayenne Pepper: spice (ground) Description: Powdered seasoning made from a variety of tropical chiles, including red cayenne peppers. It is very hot and spicy, so use with caution. Also called red pepper. Looks like paprika. Very hot, pungent. Uses: Meats, eggs, cheese, Cajun recipes

Celery Seed: spice (whole or ground, sometimes mixed with salt - celery salt) Description: Seeds from wild Indian celery called lovage. Slightly bitter, strong celery flavor. Uses: Sparingly for pickling, salads (potato and cole slaw), soups, stuffings

Chervil: herb (fresh sprigs or crumbled dried) Description: Curly, dark-green leaves. Member of the parsley family. Mild celery-licorice flavor. Uses: Main ingredient in "fines herbes", also used to season eggs, chicken, fish, salads, shellfish and tomatoes.

Chili Powder: spice (ground) Description: Seasoning blend made from ground dried chiles, coriander, cumin, garlic, oregano and other herbs and spices. Mild to hot. Uses: Chili, eggs and cheese, soups, stews, Mexican dishes

Chives: herb (fresh stalks, or frozen and freeze-dried) Description: Slender green, grass-like with hollow stems. Related to the onion and leek. Source of vitamin A. Onion or garlic flavor. Uses: Appetizers, cream soups, fish, salads, egg and cheese dishes, sauces, shellfish and part of "fines herbes" blend

Cilantro: herb (fresh leaves) Description: Bright-green stems and leaves from the coriander plant, resembles parsley. Also called coriander and Chinese parsley. Pungent, soapy fragrance. Uses: Fish, rice, salsas, salads, and Italian, Latin American and Mexican recipes

Cinnamon: spice (whole sticks or ground) Description: Bark from the Ceylon (buff colored) or Cassia tree (dark reddish-brown). Aromatic, pungent. Cinnamon sticks are added to dishes during the cooking process for flavor, are not meant to be eaten. Uses: Cakes, cookies, hot drinks, pies, vegetables (carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes)

Clove: spice (whole or ground) Description: Reddish-brown, nail-shaped buds from the tropical evergreen clove tree. Aromatic, pungent, sweet. Cloves should be used with care as the flavor can become overpowering. Uses: Baked beans, fruit pies, ham, pickling, sauces, spice cakes and cookies

Coriander: spice (whole or ground) Description: Seeds from the coriander plant, related to the parsley family (see cilantro). Mixture of lemon, sage and caraway flavors; musty. Uses: Baking, pickling, and Mexican and Spanish recipes, sausage, curries

Cumin: spice (whole or ground) Description: Dried fruit from a plant in the parsley family. Slightly bitter, smoky, nutty, hot. Uses: Chili and curry powder blends, fish, lamb, pickling, sausages; Middle Eastern, Asian and Mediterranean recipes.

Dill Seed: spice (whole or ground) Description: Dried seed from the dill plant. Tangy, "dill pickle" flavor, more pungent than the herb. Uses: Meats, salads, sauces, vegetables

Dill Weed: herb (fresh whole or dried) Description: Feathery green leaves from the dill plant. Pungent, tangy. Uses: Breads, fish, pickling, salads, sauces, vegetables

Fennel Seeds: spice (dried whole) Description: Oval, greenish-brown seeds from the fennel plant. Aromatic, slight licorice flavor, larger than anise seed. Uses: Breads, fish, sauces, sausage, soups, Italian recipes

Fines Herbes: blended herbs (crumbled dried leaves) Description: French seasoning made from a mixture of finely chopped herbs, usually chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon. Uses: Cheese, eggs, fish, poultry

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