Types and Definition of Herbs and Spices used in Hotel Kitchen

Spices: The term spice comes from Latin meaning \’Fruits of the earth\’. Spices, as distinguished from herbs, are derived from various part of the plants. For example, Cinnamon is taken from the bark, cloves from the buds, saffrons from the flower, allspice from the fruit, ginger from the root, mustard from the seed etc.

Herbs: Herbs are the second category of flavouring agents used in the food, the term herbs come from Latin meaning \’Grass\’. Herbs are defined as the leaves and stems of soft-stemmed, non-woody plants. Example Savory, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano etc.

Below you can find the list of most commonly used spices and herbs in the hotelkitchen department. All chefs should have a very good understanding and knowledge about the type of spices and their use in cooking.

1. All Spice Berries

Type – Used as whole or ground. 

Characteristics – Small brown berry. Flavour resembles a combination cinnamon, clove & nutmeg. 

Used in – Sausages, braised, eats, poached fish, cooked fruits, puddings etc.

2. Anise / Star Anise

Type – Whole or ground spice.

Characteristics – Licorice flavour, native to Spain, China.

Used in – Cookies, pastries, bread.

3. Basil

Type – Herb leaf, fresh or dried.

Characteristics – Aromatic green leaf, member of the mint family. Can be grown fresh in warm weather

Used in – Tomato dishes, pesto egg dishes, salads, marinades, fish, compound butter.

4. Bay Leaf

Type – Whole leaf herb.

Characteristics – Stiff, dark green, oblong leaf, pungent aroma. Comes from Laurel tree

Used in – Stocks, soups, sauces, Roast or Braised meat etc.

 5. Bouquet Garni

Type – Flavouring Mix.

Characteristics – A personal selection of herbs, vegetables and occasionally spices, often tied with a string.

Used in – Stock, Soups, Sauces etc.

6. Caraway

Type – Whole Spice, Seed.

Characteristics – Dark Brown, Curved seed. Grown in Northen Europe.

Used in – Rye bread, cabbage, sauerkraut, Other Europian Cuisine.

7. Cardamom

Type – Whole pod or ground seed spice.

Characteristics – Tiny brown seeds, white on green pods, sweet & aromatic expensive. Origin or Native of India & Guatemala.

Used in – Pickling, danish pastries, curries etc.

8. Cayenne

Type – Ground spice, seed.

Characteristics – Ground hot red pepper. Very powerful. A native of French Guiana.

Used in – Very small amounts in soups, sauces, fish, egg etc.

9. Celery Seed

Type – Whole or ground spice, seed.

Characteristics – Tiny brown seed, with strong celery flavour. Too much can create a hot spice effect.

Used in – Salads, dressings, pickling, tomato dishes, marinades etc.

10. Chervil 

Type – Herb leaf, fresh or dried.

Characteristics – Mild flavour of parsley and tarragon.

Used in – Soups, salads, sauces, egg dishes, chicken, fish, dressing etc.

11. Chili Powder 

Type – Ground spice or blend.

Characteristics – Blend of ground cumin, chili pepper, oregano, allspice. 

Used in – Chili, Stews, sauces, ground meat etc.

12. Chives

Type – Fresh, Dried, frozen.

Characteristics – Fine, hollow, green top of a very small onion.

Used in – Salads, egg * cheese dishes, fish soups, sauces.

13. Cilantro

Type – Leaf herb, dried or fresh.

Characteristics – Light green aromatic leaf. The shape of flat parsley but much more pungent flavour. Leaf taken from coriander seeds.

Used in – Salads, salsa, sauces, soups, dressing etc.

14. Cinnamon

Type – Stick or ground spice.

Characteristics – Aromatic bark from cinnamon or cassia tree with a reddish brown colour. A native of India. 

Used in – Preserves, stewed fruits, bread, pastries, desserts, ham, hot beverages.

15. Clove

Type – Whole or ground spice.

Characteristics – Dried flower bud of tropical clove tree, pungent, sweet in flavour. A native of Indonesia.

Used in – Marinades, stocks, sauces, braised meats, ham, pastries, fruits and cakes, pickling etc.

16. Coriander

Type – Whole or ground spice.

Characteristics – Seed of cilantro leaf. Round, light brown seed. Slights aromatic flavour. Native to Argentina and Morocco. 

Used in – Pickling, sausage, stock, pork, curries, gingerbread, salsa, dressing etc.

17. Cumin 

Type – Whole or ground spice.

Characteristics – Small seed resembling caraway, but lighter in colour. Grown in Mexico.

Used in – Ingredient in chilli and curry powder blends. Sausage, meats, salsa, egg & cheese dishes.

18. Curry / Curry Powder

Type –  Ground blend, spice.

Characteristics – Mixture of approx. 20 or more spices, peppery, yellow in colour, include turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, clove, cinnamon etc. Spiciness can very from mild to very hot.

Used in – Curry dishes, vegetables, soups, sauces, meat, fish dish etc.

19. Dill 

Type – Whole seed, leaf either fresh or dried.

Characteristics – Herb and seed with dill pickle flavour. Seed is more pungent than the herb/leaf.

Used in – Seed is used for pickling, soups, marinades etc. Herb is used in salads, soups, fish & shellfish, vegetables, sauces, vinegars etc.

20. Fennel

Type – Whole seed.

Characteristics – Greenish brown seed, similar in flavour to Anise. Mostly grown in America, Asia and Africa.

Used in – Sausages, Curry, tomato, sauces, marinades, fish, pickling etc.

21. Fine Herbs

Type – Herb Blend.

Characteristics – Generally a bouquet blend of three or more herbs used to enhance various dishes. Finely chopped herb mixture chives, tarragon, parsley, basil, savory etc.

Used in – Herb sauce, compound butter, broiled meats, fish etc.

22. Garlic 

Type – Fresh or dried. Used as a whole bulb in case of fresh and granulated powder or mixed with salt for dried garlic.

Characteristics – Strong, aromatic member of the onion family.

Used in –  Used widely in many dishes or cooking.

23. Ginger

Type – Spice, fresh whole, dried powder, candied crystalized or pickled.

Characteristics – Light brown knobby root from the tropical plant.

Used in – Baked goods, desserts, fruits, curry dishes, pickling, chutney, Chinese and Asian cuisine etc.

24. Juniper Berry

Type – Whole Spice.

Characteristics – Slightly soft, purple burry, piney flavour. Its used as the principle flavour of Gin.

Used in – Marinades, game dishes, sauerkraut.

25. Mace

Type – Whole blade or ground spice.

Characteristics – Made from the outer covering of nutmeg. Orange-red in colour. Aromatic, similar to nutmeg in flavour but milder.

Used in – Baked goods, desserts, fruits, Indian curry dishes, sausage, fish, vegetables, salads and sauces.  

26. Marjoram

Type – Dried herb leaf.

Characteristics – Grey green herb from the mint family. Similar to oregano but milder.

Used in – Beef, beal, lamb, sausage, pates, poultry, stews, soups, vegetables, salads, sauces.

27. Mint

Type – Herb leaf used as fresh or dried.

Characteristics – Aromatic herb with cool flavour. Spearmint and peppermint are most common.

Used in – Lamb, fruits, tea, desserts, tea, fruit, beverages, peas, carrots, potatoes, soups, sauces etc.

28. Mirepoix

Type – Flavoring Mix.

Characteristics – Mixture of vegetables, herbs, and spices used to enhance the flavour of meat, fish and shellfish dishes. Common ingredients are onion, celery, carrot leek, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, clove, thyme and rosemary.

Used in – Stocks, soups, sauces, roasts etc.

29.  Mustard Seed

Type – Whole or ground seed.

Characteristics – Very pungent seed, seen in white, yellow or brown.

Used in – Blended with vinegar to prepare the mustard sauce. Pickling, sauces, curries, salsa. Mustard sauce is used for salad dressing, sandwiches, ham, sauces etc.

30. Nasturtium

Type – Leaf and seed.

Characteristics – Plant with yellow, orange, and red flowers with sharp casting leaves and seeds with a pungent odour.

Used in – Salads, pickling mustard.

31. Nutmeg 

Type – Whole or ground powder. 

Characteristics – Sweet, aromatic, the kernel of nutmeg fruit. Grown in Netherlands and India.

Used in – Baked goods, pies, cream, sauces, soups, chicken, veal, vegetable dishes, desserts and bread.

32. Oregano

Type – Leaf or ground herb either fresh or dried. 

Characteristics – Pungent herb, similar to marjoram, but stronger. Native to Italy and Mexico, grown domestically.

Used in – Italian and Mexican dishes, tomato sauces, soups, sauces, pizza, stews, meats, pasta etc.

33. Paprika

Type – Ground Spice.

Characteristics – Ground from the dried sweet red pepper. Spanish: Bright & Mild. Hungarian: Dark & more pungent.

Used in – Fish, seafood, meats, salads, sauces, dressings, garnish etc.

34. Parsley

Type – Fresh leaf herb in bunches. Dried. 

Characteristics – Green leaf, curly or flat, With delicate sweet flavour. Is an excellent source of vitamin C.

Used in – Garnish, fried, stews, sauces, salads, vegetables, potatoes.

35. Pepper 

Type – Whole as peppercorns / black, white or green cracked/fine ground or powder. 

Characteristics – Small hard berry. Black Pepper: Pungent, aromatic. White Pepper: Made after removing the black outer covering which is milder. Adds a sharp tang to all foods. Gree: PAcked in mild brine.

Used in – Widely used in many food dishes.

36. Rosemary

Type – Whole leaf herb, fresh or dried. 

Characteristics – Light green leaf resembling pine needles. Very aromatic. Once grown, very healthy and strong, even in cold weather.

Used in – Lamb, fish, beef, sauces, soups, stews, salads and marinades.

37. Sachet Bag

Type – Spice Mix.

Characteristics – Various spice tied in a small cheesecloth sack.

Used in – Braised meats, game stews, picking etc.

38. Saffron

Type – Whole threads spice.

Characteristics – One the stigmas from the saffron crocus are used. Very expensive, give a bright yellow colour to foods. Mild distinctive flavour.

Used in – Used in Indian and Arab cuisines. Flavour and colour baked goods, rice, potatoes, soups, sauces, curry, meats.

39. Sage

Type – Whole rubbed, or ground herb leaf, fresh or dried. 

Characteristics – PUngent grey green herb with fuzzy leaves, oblong shape.

Used in – Stuffins, meats, poultry, soups, stews, salads, fish.

40. Savory

Type – Fresh or dried herb leaf. 

Characteristics – Fragrant herb of the mint family. Available in Summar Savory or Winter Savory, Summer Savory is preferred more.

Used in – Salads, eggs, vegetables, stuffings, soups, meats, fish, sauces.

41. Sesame

Type – Whole or seed. 

Characteristics – Small yellowish seed with a nutty taste. High oil content produced in Asia. 

Used in – Can be roasted and used in bread, rolls, salads, oriental cuisine etc.

42. Tarragon

Type – Fresh, dried, pickled, herb leaf.

Characteristics – Delicate green herb that is both mint & liquorice-like. Small oblong leaf.

Used in – Bearnaise sauce, Tarragon vinegar, chicken, fish, salads, dressings, eggs.

43. Thyme

Type – Fresh or dried herb leaf, crushed or ground. 

Characteristics – Tiny brownish green leaf, very aromatic.

Used in – Soups, chowders, stocks, sauces, meats, poultry, salads, dressings.

44. Turmeric

Type – Ground Spice

Characteristics – An intense yellow root of the ginger family. Mild but peppery flavour.

Used in – Curry powder, pickles, relish, salads, eggs, rice, Indian curries etc.

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