Cooking can seem like a mysterious venture for the uninitiated, and nothing causes more head-scratching for beginner cooks than spices. What goes together? How do you know how much to use? Often it can seem easier to just buy a pre-mixed blend, but those are usually more expensive, less fresh, and contain more preservatives and artificial flavors than the raw ingredients.
Luckily, it’s not hard to get to know which spices work. Of course, the only way to find out what you like–and to fix most, common cooking mistakes–is to keep practicing and taste at every step. Remember, it’s a lot easier to add more in than to take flavors out.
While you can mix together whichever spices you like, there are a few classic blends that everyone should know how to whip up. For a great pizza or pasta sauce, make an Italian blend with basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Or, on the sweet side of the spectrum, mix up some pumpkin pie spice with cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. You can say goodbye to expensive pumpkin spice lattes (and cakes, and muffins, and everything else) and use your homemade blend all autumn long.