Commonly used spices include cinnamon, cumin, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Cayenne pepper, ground ginger and nutmeg are some other popular spices used in cooking. Home cooks also typically stock up on paprika, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cloves and basil.
Cooks who prepare Mexican dishes commonly use cumin, coriander, chili powder and oregano. Indian food usually incorporates turmeric, curry powder and cumin. Spices typically used in Mediterranean meals are rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano and basil.
Many cooks use spice blends containing multiple spices. Chili powder, which is used to season tacos, fajitas and grilled meat, contains cumin, oregano, dried chili peppers and cayenne pepper. The Indian spice blend Garam Masala contains cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander and nutmeg, in addition to cardamom and pepper. Star anise, fennel, Szechuan peppercorns, cassia and cloves are the ingredients in Chinese five-spice powder. A common spice blend used in French cooking is Herbs de Provence, which includes marjoram, thyme and rosemary. Lavender is also sometimes used in Herbs de Provence.
Spices lose potency over time and should be replaced every 12 to 24 months. Fresh spices have a strong, distinct aroma, so smelling spices is an easy way to tell whether a jar needs to be replaced. Direct sunlight causes spices to age more quickly.