5 Easy ways to use up your spices

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Cleaning out the spice drawer: you either love or hate the job. For every person that has a collection of barely-used spices from their wedding 20 years ago, there are folks who try to rotate through their spices yearly. But sometimes we get stuck on how to use up that last tablespoon of a spice without trudging through an obscure recipe (a recipe that probably barely uses a pinch of the herb or spice anyway). 

The good news is that we don’t need recipes – there are a handful of quick solutions to make using up your spices simple and painless:

1. Seasoned Butter

This is by far the easiest method to use up spices – soften a stick or two of butter on the counter, then mix in 1-2 tablespoons of salt-free herbs or spices. Try making a sweet blend with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg (honey is great in here, too). Or try a savory version with oregano, basil, and garlic (really any green herbs will work together!). Or go spicy with hot paprika, berbere or ground harissa. It’s all good on hot bread.

Use up at a dinner party, give away as gifts, or wrap and freeze until needed.

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2. Homemade Bread

Take your favorite bread recipe – an old standby – and toss in some herbs and spices to give it new life. A batch of bread dough that takes 4 cups of flour will easily take 2 Tbsp of mixed herbs or spices (as long as they are salt-free). Try equal parts cardamom, coriander and fenugreek for an east African flavor. Personally, I love a couple teaspoons of cracked, dried rosemary sprigs mixed with thyme, marjoram, or any other green herbs that need purging.

Naan in Tajikistan, photograph by Steve Evans.

Naan in Tajikistan, photograph by Steve Evans.

3. Bean Soups

Bean soups can take a lot of added flavor. Have fun adding a dash of this or that – by the time you’re done, you’ll likely wish you’d written your recipe down. For every quart of soup, add about 1 tablespoon of mixed herbs and spices. Turmeric makes any soup golden and has great health benefits. I really like adding smoked paprika for depth of flavor and 1 or 2 bay leaves are guaranteed to be good.

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4. Rice

Are you tired of plain-Jane white rice? Dump in some of your neglected herbs and spices! For every cup of white rice I make, I often add a good 2 teaspoons of seasoning – sometimes mild ones like tarragon or thyme, other times I’ll throw in a cinnamon stick with turmeric, coriander, ginger, and garlic. Just about anything works great – even mustard seeds or a couple of star anise. Use it up!

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5. Salad Dressing

Mix together 1/4 cup vineger with 1/2 cup olive oil and a little water – and whisk in green herbs – about one tablespoon makes a really flavorful dressing. Don’t forget freshly cracked peppercorns for some bite!

Bonus:

When in doubt? Sprinkle your favorite spices on homemade popcorn for a surprisingly delicious kick!

Also: our site is currently being redesigned for a simpler, cleaner look. The programmers will be adding a new feature where you’ll be able to search by ingredient – including spices or herbs – so you’ll soon have unlimited ideas with little more than the click of a mouse!! It’s going to be so fun.

6 Comments

  1. Pam the Goatherd says

    I love these ideas, especially the herbed butter. Unfortunately I never seem to have little bits of leftover herbs/spices. I buy in bulk at our local organic food co-op and have never, ever had anything sitting unused in the spice rack. But I won’t let that stop me from making some seasoned butter. Can’t wait to try some unusual combinations. Thanks for the suggestions!

    • Sasha Martin says

      You’re so good, Pam! I seem to always end up with odds and ends I want to clear out so I can get fresh ones 🙂

  2. Inspired by this post I gave the chicken for tonight’s dinner a generous rub with the last of my tandoori spice. The house smells wonderful now! I’m sure the drawer holds another forgotten spice that I can use with the butternut squash as well.

    I love the butter idea too; I’m not great with sauces and I suspect this idea could take many of our weeknight dinners up a notch. Thanks!

    By the way I share your enthusiasm for turmeric, apparently it’s one of the most powerful anti-cancer substances you can eat. I always put in a spoonful when I make roasted potatoes in my beloved air fryer (which is at least a couple times a week); they come out with the most wonderful golden hue. Using up the turmeric is never a problem!

    • Sasha Martin says

      Love it! And yes, Turmeric is so, so good -on many levels. I love the idea of putting it on potatoes. And I’ve always wondered about those air fryers… sounds like a good tool for you! 🙂

  3. Denise says

    Ok, there probably needs to be an intervention between me and purchasing spices. I could open a store I have so many and yes my house always smells like spices. I love wondering into ethnic markets and buying one of each spice I see. Just so much fun. Off to smash butter and mix away. Insomnia is not my friend.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Ohhh fun – spice is a great smell – makes people hungry 🙂 Hope your butter came out great!

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