When to Add Spices?

When is the best time to add spices to a dish?

In order to get the most flavor out of a spice and into a dish, the best time to add in a spice is generally earlier rather than later.

Yet, as with most things, there are exceptions.

When to Add Spices

The Best Time to Add Spices to a Dish

When to add spices into a dish depends mostly upon the form of spice being used.

  • Dried and powdered spices will have more impact on the flavor of a dish if they are introduced near the beginning of the cooking process.

  • Fresh spices and herbs picked from the garden are most flavorful if added in at the end of the cooking process.

  • Timing is key when adding a spice to a dish.

  • Although it’s true that the amount of spice used is important to the spiciness of a dish, equally important is getting the most out of the spice that is being used.

  • The earlier that spices are added in the cooking process, the more flavor that will be derived from those spices.

  • The more flavor extracted from the dried spice or spice paste, the spicier and/or more flavorful the finished dish.

  • Heating spices up in a little oil at the beginning of the cooking process will allow the spice to toast and develop into a richer and fuller taste.

  • This is usually done right at the end of the first step of browning the onion and/or garlic to start.

  • If the spices are added at the end of the cooking process, they won’t have time to release their full flavor.

  • Take chili powder for instance, if allowed to begin blooming at the beginning of the chili making process, the resulting pot (after simmering) should be pretty fiery. If the exact same amount of chili powder is instead added after the simmering process then the result could be quite bland, or at least blander than the first instance.

  • Delicate fresh herbs are generally more flavorful when added at the end of the cooking process.

  • Many fresh herbs tend to dissipate with cooking and will become lost in the dish if added too early.

  • Most will lose their oils and vibrant color when added early.

  • Hearty herbs like Rosemary can withstand cooking and be added earlier.

  • Keep a bouquet of fresh herbs near the staging area of your kitchen. As the dishes are plated, add a splash of fresh herbs to enhance both the visual, tactile and taste sensations of the finished dish.
  • When to Add Spices

    Additional Information

    To find out how long a particular spice will last, check out our spice menu

    For more on the similarities and differences between fresh and dried herbs, see our fresh vs dried herb post.

    To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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