In the limited space in the galley, we can never have all the spices or seasonings we want. And while the number you can carry will depend on the size boat you have and other trade-offs you’re willing to make, here’s my list of essential spices — or actually, herbs, spices and other seasonings beyond salt and pepper.
I chose these for the variety they offer. Using these, I can create lots of different tastes. Depending on your style of cooking, you may have other favorites . . . or you may have room for more or fewer.
So here’s my top 13 list, plus 4 liquids. I tried to just make it a Top 10 list, but couldn’t figure out what to leave off. They’re in no particular order!
- Garlic. Garlic is my go-to spice, along with pepper. While I love fresh garlic, I usually keep garlic powder on hand for times when I can’t get garlic cloves.
- Cinnamon. Another great all-purpose spice for both cooking and baking. And it makes the boat smell SO good!
- Chili Powder. In an ideal world, I’d have chili powder, red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper, for a variety of “spicy” flavors. With limited space, I pick chili powder.
- Curry Powder. Purists make curry from a variety of other spices. But when space is tight, a container of curry powder is wonderful both for making curries and for spicing up many vegetables.
- Cumin. Cumin is a basic spice in Mexican cooking, and adds a lot of flavor without adding heat. It’s great with most meats, tomatoes and beans.
- Thyme. Thyme is a wonderful addition to most meats and goes with just about anything.
- Bay leaves. Bay leaves add their own unique flavor to soups, stews, pot roast and other dishes. The few times that I’ve been out of them, I’ve definitely noticed the difference in taste. Plus, you need them to put in all your dry goods to keep the weevils and other bugs out.
- Oregano or Italian Seasoning. It’s easy to make your own spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce with oregano and garlic aboard. Oregano is also wonderful in salad dressings and many soups.
- Cloves. Cloves add just a bit of zing in Cajun foods and are also used in many baked goods. And they repel ants!
- Ginger. Ginger helps prevent seasickness, and thus ginger snaps are a great snack to make for the first day of a passage.
- Old Bay Seasoning. Old Bay is a wonderful addition to almost any seafood dish . . . and it’s good with lots of meats, too!
- Poultry Seasoning or Sage. For chicken and turkey dishes, poultry seasoning is always a good choice.
- Caraway Seed. We love rye bread, but it’s almost impossible to find rye flour outside the US. By adding caraway seed to whole wheat dough, I can make “almost rye” that fools most people — including us!
And now for the “liquids:”
- Hot Sauce. Even if you don’t like really spicy foods, just a drop or two of hot sauce can give a big flavor boost to many dishes. Outside of Tabasco, good ones to consider are Cholula (from Mexico — readily available in the US, our Wal-mart just started carrying it ) and Marie Sharp’s (in the Caribbean, available from Amazon if not in a store near you, but it uses habanero peppers and is hot). My favorite — which is more “flavorful” than “hot” — is PickaPeppa (if you can’t find it in a store near you, it’s sold online at Amazon). Pickapeppa is great on crab cakes and fish!
- Worcestershire Sauce. Adds an indefinable flavor to so many dishes. I use it all the time!
- Soy Sauce. If you like Chinese or Japanese food, soy sauce is an essential. With it aboard, you can make your own teriyaki marinade, too!
- Balsamic Vinegar. Balsamic vinegar has a unique slightly sweet flavor that’s great for salad dressings and also many sauces (a teaspoon in pizza sauce is wonderful) and marinades.
And to keep all these tasting their best, be sure to read about storing spices.
There are lots of other spices that I love — and I did occasionally find ways to tuck a small bag of them on board — but these were my essentials.
Are they are starting point for you or do you think I missed something critical?? Add your thoughts in the comments.