Healthy Tip: Cooking with Whole Spices

Add aromatic depth and fabulous flavor with whole spices like nutmeg, allspice, cumin, peppercorn and more. Learn how to use whole or grind fresh into our favorite “spicy” recipes.

Holiday time is the perfect time to spice up your menu, but did you know that using spices in their whole form adds a “whole” new dimension to cooking? Many years ago on a trip to India, my eyes were opened to the joys of spicing the “whole-y way.” Whole spices and spices freshly ground from their whole form add depth of flavor to foods that will quickly turn you into a devotee! I can remember being invited to dinner at the house of a well-known movie producer in Bombay (now called Mumbai). One of the many aromatic dishes we were served was a Basmati rice dish laced with whole cardamom pods, whole cinnamon stick pieces and whole cloves. I was used to “dirty” rice in Louisiana, but never had I come across such a delicate dish!Whole spices keep fresh longer than ground ones, and you can grind as much or as little as you need. To get started, keep the following on hand:

  • Cinnamon sticks

  • Whole cloves

  • Green cardamom pods

  • Whole nutmeg

  • Whole allspice berries

  • Whole star anise

  • Whole cumin seeds

  • Whole coriander seeds

  • Whole black peppercorns

  • Whole vanilla beans

There are plenty more whole spices, but this list will get you started. When grinding fresh whole spices, your best results will come with an electric spice grinder or coffee grinder. You can also use a mortar and pestle. Grinding fresh spices releases the delicious aroma and vital natural oils. For greatest results, dry roast whole spices, stirring constantly, in a

dry skillet for a brief 30 seconds to a minute over medium heat. The spices and seeds will become fragrant. Remove from heat, cool, and grind! Remember, it’s best to grind fresh spices just before you use them. The results are worth it! If you happen to have leftover ground spices, store in an air-tight container for up to a month. Here are some recipe ideas using whole spices:

For more tips and recipes using spices, check out our Holiday Spice Guide opens in a new tab.Do you have a favorite way to cook with whole spices? I’d love to hear about it!

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