Whether you’re new to plant-based cooking or consider yourself a plant-based culinary maven, there is one key culinary trick you need to know if you want your dishes to taste flavorful and dynamic: how to spice and season your food. Even if you’re armed with the freshest and most fragrant ingredients, if you don’t properly season your food, you’re really missing out on a world of heightened flavor profiles. After all, we can only experience five zones of taste — bitter, salty, sour, sweet, and umami or savory. So why not make the most of them?
We’ve taken a deep dive into our Food Monster App to bring you a collection of different spice and seasoning mixes that will help you amp up your culinary game and make all your ingredients shine with flavor. What are you waiting for? Get cooking!
1. Ayurvedic Garam Masala
Source: Ayurvedic Garam Masala
You cannot imagine any Indian cooking without the “quintessential” Ayurvedic Garam Masala! The secret to the popularity of Indian curries lies in the blend of spices that imparts the unforgettable zing to your taste buds. This recipe by Akshata Sheelvant includes only five spices and you can make it in less than ten mins using either of the two methods in the recipe. The first method is the easier way which uses pre-made spice powders. The second method is the traditional way that involves dry roasting the seeds and then making it into a powder form to form the garam masala spice mix.
2. Homemade Cajun Seasoning
Source: Homemade Cajun Seasoning
Dana Sandonato‘s Homemade Cajun Seasoning tastes like you’re down in New Orleans. It has the perfect amount of salt, smoke, and spice and is a great rub to put on vegetables before throwing them on the grill.
3. No-Salt Adobo Seasoning
Source: No-Salt Adobo Seasoning
When it comes to Latin American cooking, this No-Salt Adobo Seasoning by Desiree Rodriguez reigns supreme. It’s a dry rub that is used in a majority of dishes. While it is traditionally used to flavor meat, you can apply it to tofu, tempeh, seitan, and even vegetables — and because it’s made from a blend of common household spices, you can easily make your own, without the salt!
4. Sambar Powder
Source: Sambar Powder
Sambar Powder is a South Indian and Sri Lankan spice blend typically used to bring flavor to sambar, a lentil-based vegetable stew. But, you can also use it to spice up curries, roasted vegetables, and other creative ways, like as a spice for whole roasted cauliflower. Freshly made sambar powder is very flavorful and it adds a lot of taste to any dish. Try this recipe by Pavani Nandula.
5. Homemade Za’atar Blend
Source: Homemade Za’atar Blend
Homemade Za’atar Blend is a Middle Eastern spice blend that makes everything taste like magic, from chickpea salads to roasted eggplants. If you have trouble sourcing sumac, trusty Amazon or a local Middle Eastern shop might help. Either way, once you start making your own za’atar, like this recipe by Sasha Gill you won’t be able to stop sprinkling it on everything!
6. Homemade Montreal “Steak” Seasoning
Source: Homemade Montreal “Steak” Seasoning
This Homemade Montreal “Steak” Seasoning by Alenoosh Matakupan can be made at home using ingredients you likely already have in your spice rack! It is the perfect seasoning blend to sprinkle over vegetables for grilling or seitan. Save yourself some cash and a trip to the store with this recipe.
7. Sweet Smoky and Spicy Dry Rub
8. Serundeng: Indonesian Seasoned Coconut Mix
Source: Serundeng: Indonesian Seasoned Coconut Mix
Sprinkle this heavenly Serundeng: Indonesian Seasoned Coconut Mix from the Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking cookbook on your go-to rice or noodle bowls to spice them up! Caution: you might have a hard time not using it on everything. The mix features amchur powder is made from dried green mango. It can be found in the international section of well-stocked grocery stores.
Berbere is a fiery, aromatic, and highly flavorful seasoning blend from North Africa. Luckily, the main spices in berbere are fairly common, so it is very easy to make at home. To make Kat Smith‘s recipe, all you need is an empty bottle and a kitchen funnel. If you don’t have a kitchen funnel, make one yourself by rolling a piece of printer paper into a cone and taping down the edges. Trim the top, so it’s not too tall.
10. Chinese Five Spice Powder
Source: Chinese Five Spice Powder
Chinese Five Spice Powder is a sweet, spicy, pungent powder that results in bold, flavorful dishes. Just a small amount of this pungent spice blend goes a long way, adding a balance of sweet, savory, bitter, and sour to dishes. Traditionally, it is made from a blend of star anise, fennel seeds, cassia bark (also known as Chinese cinnamon), Szechuan peppercorns, and cloves. The whole spices are ground together into a fine powder that works well in such as soups, stews, and sauces as well as meaty dishes like veggie burgers, tofu, and tempeh. Try Kat Smith‘s version.
11. Fajita Seasoning
Source: Fajita Seasoning
Who needs to buy Fajita Seasoning? Did you realize it’s super easy and inexpensive to make yourself? You can make it as tame or spicy as you like by adjusting the amount of chili powder and cayenne. Make this recipe by Veronica Grace and sprinkle this seasoning on fajita veggies, soy taco “meat,” Soy Curls, tempeh, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, and more.
12. Simple Chipotle BBQ Seasoning Mix
Source: Simple Chipotle BBQ Seasoning Mix
Unlike most barbecue seasoning blends, this Simple Chipotle BBQ Seasoning Mix by Emily Brees leaves out the sugar. It’s great on veggies like roasted potatoes (such as in the photo above) or Brussels sprouts. It’s also a perfect way to season healthy snacks like roasted nuts, chickpeas, and popcorn!
Dukkah is a crunchy mixture of nuts, seeds, and spices that are typically used for dipping bread into. While its traditional use is humble but delicious, dukkah is quickly becoming an international favorite. The most common nuts in dukkah are hazelnut, but depending on the region, different ingredients may be used. Try Kat Smith‘s version!
14. Homemade Jerk Seasoning
Source: Homemade Jerk Seasoning
Use Nora Schlesigner‘s Homemade Jerk Seasoning as a flavor crust on veggie burgers, sprinkle it over grains and vegetables, or maybe even use it in salads and slaws.
Try this Bahārāt recipe by Kat Smith. It’s an aromatic, all-purpose blend of spices that is as ubiquitous to Middle Eastern cuisine as garam masala is to Indian food. Even the meaning behind their names is similar. While garam masala means “hot spice,” bahārāt is the Arabic word for “spice.”
If you’re looking for even more inspiration, we suggest continuing to actively learn about spices and different flavor profiles! Stocking these 10 Essential International Spices For Any Kitchen will set you up for many culinary delights, as will this Ultimate Spice Guide for Vegan Cooking.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to make your own vegan spice blends, or just finding tasty vegan recipes, then we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!