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Herb & Spice Blends Explained

I don’t know about you but when I am trying out new recipes I don’t always have each ingredient in my store, so I wanted to put together an easy guide to all of the herb and spice blends. This way you can see what is meant by terms like Italian Seasoning and see where you can make your own and play with substitutions if needed!

mixed herbs and spices made at home
Herb & Spice BlendEssential IngredientsOptional IngredientsHow To PrepareUses In Cooking
Chinese Five Spicecinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercornsCayenne Pepper, Pink PeppercornsUsing a Pestle and Mortar crush a teaspoon of each ingredient togetherUseful in making egg fried rice, stir fry, or even added to fish dishes.
Bouquet GarniParsley, Bay Leaves and ThymeOregano, Rosemary, ChervilTie them together with kitchen twine, or if dried use a cheeseclothAny casseroles, stews, sauces
Cajun SeasoningPaprika cayenne, garlic powder, pepper and oreganoFresh garlic can be substituted as can marjoramUse a pestle and mortar to crush the dried oregano to a powder and add to the spices.BBQ food, perfect on aubergines or courgettes or as a meat rub equally.
Fines HerbesFrench tarragon, parsley, chives, and chervilSpring onions can replace chives and dill can be a good replacement for tarragonfinely chop the ingredients in equal parts and add to cooking freshstews, hot pots, casseroles and quiches
Italian SeasoningRosemary, Thyme, Oregano, BasilMarjoram, Sage, Parsley, Black PepperMix the dried leaves in a hand blender until fine and add to cookingTomato sauces, Pizza sauce, pasta dishes, veal, roast Mediterranean vegetables
Herbes De ProvenceRosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Savory.Lavender, Fennel, Sage, French TarragonMix the dried leaves together with a hand blender until a finer leaf is possibleAdd at the start of cooking. Risotto, pasta dishes, fish, meat or vegetarian
Sachet D’epicesDried Thyme, Bay Leave, PeppercornsPink Peppercorns, Lemon Thyme, Oregano, RosemaryBut the dried leaves and peppercorns into a cheesecloth pouchIdeal for any dish that needs flavor added without adding texture. Stews, gammon, hams etc
Quatre EpicesGround pepper, Cloves, Nutmeg, dried GingerCinnamon, turmericadd to flour for cakes or to oil for pan frying meatsFrench cuisine uses include cakes to poussin.
BaharatCumin, Cinnamon, Cloves and black peppercorns.Turmeric, GingerAdd to dishes as they are cooking or to onions at the startCous Cous, Rices dishes, Curries, Roast Aubergine
Mixed SpiceCinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger & ground cuminturmeric, clovesAdd to the flour mix when bakingbread, fruit loafs, cakes

These are the classic mixes, but do not be afraid to take out certain herbs or spices that your family wont like. This is the beauty of making your own blends. So let me talk you through the traditional spice and herb blends and mixes, then learn how to mix it up a little bit more!

How To Make Chinese Five Spice At Home

  1. Chinese Five Spice is made of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. If you have a well stocked cupboard you can make this blend for yourself. The real flavor coming through is the aniseed from the star anise and the fennel seeds. Therefore you can substitute one for the other and double up on it. Equally if you do not have Szechuan peppercorns, pink or black peppercorns will be a good replacement. If you do not have cloves a good substitute can be a mixture or cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
spice and herb mixes
You can put cinnamon and star anise whole into cooking, then fish them out.

If you have the ingredients ready made as ground versions great. Then you will just mix them in equal parts. Similarly you can use a Pestle and Mortar Set to grind the spices to near dust. In this case you may want to avoid that and instead use a sachet to keep your cinnamon sticks and star anise in. This will mean that you can pull out of any dish without fishing around and missing a few of them!

What makes Chinese five spice so singular is that aniseed flavor from the fennel and star anise. So possibly if you don’t have one, double down on the other. Alternates to fennel would be dill and this can be quite subtle when dried, so include it fresh. For a full set of ideas for replacements for Chinese 5 spice have a look at my latest article here.

Using Bouquet Garni With Added Spice

  1. Bouquet Garni pronounced as bow-Kay Gar-nee this is French for a ‘garnished bunch’ so we are sort of free to use the herbs we like. The benefit of using a hand tied bunch of herbs is that we can lift them out of the cooking and leave no woody or soggy herbs in the dish. There are the classic ingredients of parsley, bay leaves and thyme, but you can add or take away and still have a tasty way to add nutrients to your food.
bouquet garni
Bouquet Garni is not fixed, we have traditional ingredients, but you can mix it up to suit each dish.

There is nothing wrong with playing around with this classic bouquet garni mix, using sage or rosemary is quite common. Even better is using it more as a sachet d’epice where we add an extra spice here and there to dried herbs.

How To Make Cajun Seasoning

  1. Cajun Seasoning is really useful in any store cupboard. It includes paprika cayenne, garlic powder, pepper and oregano. Therefore you can mix it up with chilli powder instead of paprika or take out the garlic powder if you would rather use fresh garlic. When you make your own spice mixes you can blend as you like.
different spice can change a dish
Cajun Salmon is beyond delicious

Our recipe for Cajun seasoning needs  3 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 tablespoons ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon cayenne. If you are using in a stew or casserole, add them to the start when you are frying off the onions. You can add a teaspoon of the Cajun spice mix to rice as it is cooking and it works in jambalaya very well!

If you are using with meats or roasting vegetables, add some rock salt to make this into more of a rub. the mix for us that works well is 2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning to 1 teaspoon of rock salt. Using your hands literally rub it on to the meat or fish or vegetables before you start to grill them. Perfect BBQ food every time!

What Are Fines Herbes Made From

  1. Fines Herbes are made from french tarragon, parsley, chives, and chervil. When they are fresh you will use equal quantities of each ingredient, finely chopped and added to your cooking. Some recipes call for these 4 key ingredients to be in a sachet to prevent the wilted and soggy leaves from looking unappetizing in your meal. This makes sense and it is relatively easy to use cheesecloth to make a pouch, tied together with kitchen twine or to buy Cotton Muslin Bags like these from Amazon, or local cookery stores.

We use a lot of fines herbes in omelettes or stews and really we mix it up a lot. Parsley, basil, coriander any soft wood herbs are ideal. You can fix the quantities of each of your fresh herbs yourself. We grow all our own herbs and so this can be quite seasonal. There is scope to grow herbs on your windowsill and use them in this way too.

When to Use Italian Seasoning

  1. Italian Seasoning is made up of dried Rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano. It is the oregano that really gives it the Italian taste. Like a lovely fresh pizza sat out in the glorious sunshine of Rome.

Our Italian Seasoning recipe calls for 4 tablespoons of oregano, 1 tablespoon Rosemary, 1 tablespoon thyme and 2 tablespoons basil. This can then be stored in a mason jar and used liberally when needed.

rosemary sprigs ready to preserve
Rosemary is easy to preserve and well worth it as the taste and aroma do stay as intense when dried

Tomato rich dishes, risotto, pizza sauce, veal, lamb or any dish that requires a rich earthy aroma. Italian seasoning does not have to be limited to cuisine from that part of the world, try it in stews and casseroles too.

How To Use Herbes De Provence

  1. Herbes De Provence are traditional to the Provence region of France and go well in many French cuisine. Very similar to Italian Seasoning and includes Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Savory. In Northern America the trend is towards a sweeter mix, so Lavender is added.
lavender cut on a wooden bench
Lavender can be dried in the sun and makes a good addition to herb and spice mixes.

Our recipe for Herbes De Provence is pretty simple; 3 tablespoons dried thyme. 1 tablespoon dried savory. 2 tablespoons dried oregano. 2 tablespoon dried rosemary. 1 tablespoon dried marjoram. 4 tablespoons dried parsley.

We use a lot more parsley than many recipes but it really does lose a lot of the intensity of flavor when you dry parsley. So a little bit more is needed.

Store in a large mason jar in a dark cupboard at ambient temperature. As long as it is airtight it will last a long time. I would make it up in bulk if I were you as it is such a useful herb mix.

How To Use Sachet D’epices

  1. Sachet D’epices are a mixture of herbs and spices in a pouch. This way they will avoid being left in your cooking. Hardwood herbs like bay leaves and lemon verbena work especially well in a cheesecloth pouch or muslin drawstring bag.

Traditionally dried thyme, bay leaves and peppercorn are used. You are free to mix it around and use any herbs in a sachet or pouch. The spice mix that you use can be any mix or blend you chose.

What Is Quatre Epices

  1. Quatre Epices is French for ‘four spices’ and is used in French cuisine as an allspice and in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine as well. Our recipe includes 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground clove and 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. You can take out the ground ginger and use fresh or stem ginger, depending on the recipe. There are benefits to it all being ground though as you can sieve it with the flour for any baked dishes, or pop a few teaspoons into the water when cooking rice dishes.

It is designed to bring out the flavors in cooking, so it enhances meats and fish dishes. If you wished to make your own sausages for example, then this mix would be perfect. It brings with it a warmth of flavor and aroma.

How To Make Baharat

  1. Baharat is a complete all rounder from the Middle East. Used almost like an allspice would be in Europe. This contains 1 teaspoon ground Cumin, 1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground Cloves and 1 tablespoon ground black pepper. Sometimes 2 teaspoons of paprika are added to give color and a slight heat. It is a family friendly spice mix as it is not hot and spicy but much more layered and gentle. Most dishes we use this in go well with fresh parsley or coriander chopped on top as a garnish.

Simple recipes would use this mix when frying off onions or added liberally as the rice was cooking. It works very well in one-pot recipes that you can leave to cook all day and return to a wonderful aroma.

spice mixes that are homemade are best

Simple Changes To Mixed Spice

  1. Mixed Spice is perfect in any Autumnal or Winter cakes. Heavy with fruit and dark in colour. Our recipe is to mix the spices in this quantity, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cumin. You can make this up in batches and store in airtight containers in a dark cupboard.

If you added turmeric to this mix then you could also see a richer colour through your cake.

What Next

It is ironic that what the plant uses a natural defense to stop predators eating their leaves, is also what makes it so super tasty to us!

I would always urge you to make your own herb and spice mixes and blends. Get confident with the classic mixes and then go rogue and create whatever you fancy! Culinary rules were made to be broken. I have put together a free guide to help with converting measurements for fresh and dried herbs. Available here, it is a helpful table to print out and keep somewhere near your recipe books!

A herb mix can be a great way to replace any one herb you don’t like, for example coriander can be quite divisive! So a good familiarity with the taste profiles of other herbs can be really useful!

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