DIY Food

6 Homemade Spice, Salt, and Sugar Blends to Keep Within Reach

November 14, 2015

Like water-skiing, calculus, and poker, spice organization is a skill—an art—that simply eludes me.

The only space we had for spices in my childhood home was a deep, three-shelved cabinet; the spices extended all the way to the back wall. To need, say, dried oregano or a cinnamon stick or just a half-teaspoon of mace was to remove every jar from the cabinet, peering at the labels of each until the desired spice was located; then all of the removed spices had to be shoved back into the cabinet, and the door closed quickly so as to keep them from springing out. (Never mind the poor, unsuspecting soul who would open the cabinet next.)

Just right for all the small things you want to keep on hand. Photo by James Ransom

As you might suspect, this was not a pleasant experience. My mother and I spent a lot of time devising new systems—none of which held.

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But I really think my latest strategy, which was inspired by our new exclusive open-shelved, apothecary-style spice cubby from Peg and Awl, will work.

The idea is to corral the spices I use the most—and the spices I want to use more of—and set them out in plain sight for easy access. I'll put homemade, mortar-and-pestle-ground spice blends there, too; keeping them where I can see them will make me actually use them, instead of getting all excited about them and then losing them to the depths of the spice cabinet.

Here are a few ideas for sugar and spice blends to keep within reach:

Left to right: Furikake-inspired salt, anise sugar, lemon sugar, cinnamon-cardamom sugar, matcha salt

To make, combine about 1 teaspoon flavoring for every 1/4 cup sugar or salt. Mash lightly in a mortar & pestle to release the flavors.

  • Cardamom pods + ground cinnamon sugar for stirring into coffee or sprinkling onto caramels
  • Tomato salt to put on radishes, eggs, and the rim of your Bloody Mary
  • Lemon peel sugar for sweetening tea
  • Star anise sugar to sprinkle over yogurt, rice pudding, or a pot of mulling wine or cider
  • A furikake-inspired salt, with nori + sesame + Korean red pepper, to toss with popcorn, rice, tofu, or roasted vegetables
  • Matcha salt for bringing color and brightness to popcorn, fish, and stir-fries

What are your best tips for organizing an ever-growing collection of spice jars? Please send help (via the comments.)

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


judy October 15, 2017
I guess this is an old post. I would have like dot see actually recipes and not just ingredient lists.
Marissa K. December 17, 2015
I am not very tall and found cupboards do not suffice for my major supply of spices. So I put them in a drawer with labels on the top and alphabetize them. It is great!!! I can see them all and get inspired to add things spontaneously now that I can see them all! Out of sight, out of mind.
Nancy November 15, 2015
I also keep a few blends around that I use constantly, which helps reduce the investment in & clutter of a huge spice collection (though I've loved that and may go back to it).
I usually keep about 4 going, one warm, one spicy, one herbal, one cumin-based.
*Cinnamon Plus (maybe Hawaidj for coffee, British baking spice or the like). I use that on toast, in baked goods, in tomato dishes, in brewing coffee or flavoring tea.
*A spicy rub or all purpose seasoning, for grilling, meats, vegetables, soups. Once upon a time it was Emeril Lagasse's Essence. Now it's Texas All-Purpose Rub from Ari White, an El Paso native now working in New York.
*One herbal blend, e.g. Italian, herbes de Provence or Za'atar.
*One cumin-based or curry, currently one of Julie Sahni's curry blends.
I will rotate these with others, either favorites like Vong Table Salt or when learning a new dish/cuisine like Jerk Chicken.