8 Underrated Spices in Your Pantry and Why They Matter

To uncover the hidden gems in your spice rack, we asked eight professionals, including top chefs and CEOs, to share their most underrated spices. From the smoky flavor enhancer, smoked paprika, to the health and flavor-packed turmeric, discover the spices these experts believe deserve more recognition in your pantry.

  • Smoked Paprika: The Smoky Flavor Enhancer
  • Allspice: The Sodium-Free Flavor Booster
  • Cardamom: Aromatic Versatility in Dishes
  • Nutmeg: Subtle Flavor for Sweet and Savory
  • Mastika: The Unknown Mediterranean Flavor
  • Cumin: Robust Flavor with Health Benefits
  • Sumac: The Lemony Game-Changer
  • Turmeric: Health and Flavor in One Spice

Smoked Paprika: The Smoky Flavor Enhancer

One of the most underrated spices in our pantry is “smoked paprika.” It adds a unique depth of flavor and smokiness to dishes, which makes it a versatile and intriguing spice. Other spices like cumin or chili powder often overshadow it. Cumin or chili powder can add that spicy flavor but cannot add a unique smoky flavor to the dish. 

Moreover, beyond its flavor, smoked paprika contributes a rich, reddish-brown hue to dishes. This visual appeal is to be considered, as we eat with our eyes first. So, this is the most underrated spice, and its importance should be considered.

Rob Smith, Head Chef, Your Private Chef

Allspice: The Sodium-Free Flavor Booster

Allspice, hands down. It’s a great salt alternative for those with sodium/hypertension issues. It’s flavorful, works well with most meat dishes, and makes Mexican food taste authentic and amazing. 

This trick was taught to me over 15 years ago by a housekeeper from Mexico. She cooked in a field for workers. Most people think you must have an array of pepper-based seasonings for good Mexican food, but that’s not true. They use a ton of seasoned salt and black pepper on 85-90% of their dishes.

Tammy Sons, CEO, TN Nursery

Cardamom: Aromatic Versatility in Dishes

The most underrated spice in the pantry has to be cardamom. It’s incredibly versatile but often overlooked. Cardamom has a unique, aromatic flavor that elevates sweet and savory dishes. It’s used in morning coffee, baked goods, and curry dishes. It adds a layer of complexity and warmth that is unmatched. It has numerous health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties and digestive aid. It deserves a lot more recognition than it usually gets!

Farhan Advani, Director Marketing, PhotoshopBuzz

Nutmeg: Subtle Flavor for Sweet and Savory

Nutmeg is an underutilized spice that every household should always have on hand. It is a great spice that can bring a lot of flavor to any dish, whether sweet or savory. Freshly grated nutmeg is excellent for morning coffee, baked goods, and even a pinch to roasted veggies. The flavor is subtle but adds some oomph where it needs it!

James Blackwell, Founder and CEO, Quizgecko

Mastika: The Unknown Mediterranean Flavor

I’m a huge fan of Mastika, but it’s a spice that many people need to learn exists. It’s used widely in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. If I had to describe the flavor, it’s piney with a creamy texture. I use it with meat dishes and soups, and although it doesn’t add to the actual thickness of the dish, it makes it feel heavier. I have yet to make it myself but tried Mastika ice cream. Mastika ice cream is stretchy but super creamy.

Tori Bell, Digital PR Specialist, PR With Tori

Cumin: Robust Flavor with Health Benefits

Cumin is a spice that often gets overlooked when it comes to cooking, but its robust flavor and health benefits make it an essential addition to any pantry. Commonly used in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Latin American cuisine, cumin has been around for centuries, and its unique smoky-earthy flavor adds a complex warmth to dishes. 

Cumin is an excellent source of iron and fiber and contains powerful antioxidants that boost the immune system, aid digestion, reduce inflammation, and provide other health benefits. The magnesium in cumin also helps with muscle relaxation and blood sugar control.

Shaun Martin, Founder and CEO, We Buy Houses In Denver

Sumac: The Lemony Game-Changer

Sumac is the most underrated spice in my pantry. Many people haven’t heard of it, but it’s a game-changer. Originating from the Middle East, it adds a lemony, tangy flavor without the moisture of actual citrus, making it perfect for dry rubs. I use it on grilled meats, in salads, and even as a finishing touch on hummus or other dips. It brings a unique brightness that lifts other flavors without overpowering them. Truly, sumac is a hidden gem that deserves more recognition.

Ranee Zhang, VP of Growth, Airgram

Turmeric: Health and Flavor in One Spice

Turmeric often goes overlooked in the spice cabinet, but it offers several health benefits and a unique flavor. It has an earthy, sharp taste that can be added to savory and sweet dishes; its vibrant golden hue also adds a beautiful color to various recipes. 

Considered a superfood with antioxidant powers, turmeric is linked to suppressing inflammation in the body, aids digestion, improves skin health, and reduces joint pain. Aside from its medicinal properties, it’s great for adding warmth to curry powders and marinades—perfect for enhancing any meal!

Michael Alexis, CEO, teambuilding.com

Wow, what a fantastic line-up of spices! It’s like the Avengers of the culinary world, each with its unique superpower, ready to add a burst of flavor and excitement to your dishes. Let’s look at why these spices are underrated and why you should give them a front-row seat in your spice cabinet.

Top Takeaways:

  • Smoked Paprika shines in flavor and the visual appeal it brings to dishes.

  • Allspice is the ultimate sodium-free booster that makes Mexican food taste authentic.

  • Cardamom is like a Swiss Army knife in the spice world, useful for both sweet and savory.

  • Nutmeg subtly elevates a broad range of dishes, from morning coffee to roasted veggies.

  • Mastika is a hidden gem of Mediterranean cuisine that offers a unique, piney, and creamy flavor.

  • Cumin isn’t just a burst of flavor but also a health powerhouse.

  • Sumac brings that rare lemony, tangy flavor without the moisture, making it great for dry rubs.

  • Turmeric is a health and flavor double act, offering a range of benefits from aiding digestion to improving skin health.

Tips for Maximizing Flavor:

Smoked Paprika: Try using it on roasted vegetables or grilled meats as a finishing touch. The smoky flavor adds an extra layer of complexity.

Allspice: Blend it into your homemade taco seasoning. It’ll make a world of difference, trust me!

Cardamom: Add a pinch to your morning coffee or favorite chai tea for an aromatic twist.

Nutmeg: Freshly grated is the way to go. Store-bought ground nutmeg doesn’t compare.

Mastika: This spice can elevate your homemade soups and stews. Be adventurous and try incorporating it into your recipes.

Cumin: Consider toasting the seeds before grinding them. Toasting amplifies the natural flavors.

Sumac: Sprinkle it on salads or use it in marinades to add a tangy kick.

Turmeric: Don’t forget to pair it with black pepper. The black pepper piperine enhances curcumin’s absorption in turmeric, making it even more beneficial.

So the next time you search your spice rack, reach for one of these underrated heroes. Your taste buds—and maybe even your health—will thank you!

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