How to Mix Herbs and Spices for Cooking Like a Pro: The Secret to Flavorful Home Cooking Revealed

how to mix herbs and spices for cooking

According to Chef Mario, “Properly mixing herbs and spices is an art.” 

When combining flavors for cooking, carefully consider how different profiles blend together according to the flavor wheel. 

Select a few complementary ingredients you’re familiar with to start, such as basil and oregano. 

Analyze each component individually before mixing in measured amounts. How you store your seasonings afterwards also impacts their longevity. 

Most importantly, taste as you go – with experience, you’ll perfect the balance that makes dishes sing. Keep reading to learn handling and storage tips ensuring your herbs and spices maintain their magic for longer.

Key Takeaways

  • Analyze the flavors and aromas of each ingredient individually. Select 3-5 herbs and spices that complement each other based on their regions on the flavor wheel. For example, oregano, basil and garlic all come from the same region.
  • Start by combining approximately 1 part of a strong herb or spice with 2 parts of a milder one. For instance, mix 1 teaspoon dried oregano with 2 teaspoons each of dried basil and garlic powder.
  • Gradually adjust the ratios to your taste by adding ingredients incrementally and testing small samples. Record the measurements that create a balanced blend you enjoy for recipes like pasta sauce, roasted vegetables or grilled meats.

Understanding the Fundamentals of Herbs and Spices

The Differences Between Herbs and Spices

Come from leafy green parts of plantsCome from other parts like roots, berries, and bark
Tend to be more delicate and perishableHave a longer shelf life

When I first started cooking as a kid, I would get mixed up about what was an herb and what was a spice. 

After helping my mom in the kitchen for many years, I learned this handy chart. Herbs generally come from the leaves of plants and don’t last as long before going bad. 

Spices are hardier parts like roots, berries, and bark that keep fresh a bit longer.

Storing Herbs and Spices Properly

Fresh herbs:

  • Refrigerate fresh herbs wrapped in a damp paper towel for up to 1 week

Dried herbs and spices:

  • Store in airtight containers away from heat and light
  • Replace ground spices every 6 months; whole spices last up to 1 year

As I used different herbs and spices over the years, I found what really keeps them at their best. The fridge is cool and humid – perfect for greens like basil. 

Meanwhile a dark cupboard preserves dried seasonings sealed in jars for months. Proper storage helps you get the most flavor from ingredients into recipes.

Mastering Complementary Flavor Profiles

Analyzing Popular Flavor Combinations

CategoryComplementary Flavors
HerbsGarlic and basil, oregano and thyme, rosemary and sage
SpicesCumin and coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg, ginger and cloves
AromaticsOnion and garlic, shallots and leeks

After years of trying out different flavor combinations in my cooking, I’ve found the “Flavor Clock” method to be very helpful for understanding how flavors complement each other. 

The basic idea is that flavors located closer together on the flavor wheel (see Table 1) will usually taste better together compared to flavors further apart. Give it a try!

Understanding Strengths of Individual Herbs and Spices

CinnamonStrongOnly a small amount needed
ClovesVery strongEven less than cinnamon, 1-2 whole cloves max
GingerModerate-strongFresh ginger has a stronger kick than ground
Black pepperStrongGreat with savory dishes, meat, and vegetables
CuminModeratePairs well with coriander in tacos, chili, curries
OreganoMild-moderatePerfect for Italian and Greek inspired dishes

As you can see from Table 2, stronger flavors like cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper should be used sparingly – start with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon and add more to taste if needed. 

Milder flavors like oregano and cumin allow for more flexibility because you can add larger amounts without overwhelming other ingredients (1). 

Through trial and error in my cooking over the years, I’ve learned which flavors can stand up to heartier dishes versus more delicate preparations. 

I hope these tables help you better understand how to utilize different flavors’ strengths in your cooking too!
Credit : Vil and Zoe’s Galley

Creating Customized Blends

how to mix herbs and spices for cooking

Developing Your Personalized Flavor Library

After trying many recipes over the years, I like to keep notes on the different herb and spice combinations I enjoy. 

Below Table is an example of flavors I’ve found to pair well together based on cuisines I particularly love.

CuisineComplementary Flavors
ItalianBasil, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes
IndianCoriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder
MexicanCumin, oregano, chili powder, garlic

Experimenting with 3 to 5 complementary ingredients from my flavor notes has allowed me to discover new blend ideas (2). 

I find it fun to get creative in the kitchen and develop personalized seasoning mixes.

Following a Methodical Mixing Process

When first creating a blend, I gather the selected herbs and spices into small bowls measured by 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon increments. 

Then I gradually add smaller amounts of ingredients to larger amounts while blending thoroughly between each addition. 

This helps ensure the flavors marry nicely together before testing small samples. Tasting as I go allows me to modify the ratios to achieve the ideal balanced blend.

Optimizing Recipes with Adaptive Seasoning

During cooking, I don’t hesitate to adjust the amount of my customized blend based on how the current batch is tasting. 

Reflecting on lessons learned from each time a recipe is made helps me optimize it. Over multiple tries, I’ve modified blends to better suit certain dishes. 

Having personalized seasoning mixes on hand makes cooking easier and tastier.


After years of experimenting in the kitchen, I’ve learned that playing with different herb and spice combinations is half the fun of cooking! 

Don’t be afraid to get creative and add your own special touches to recipes based on what flavors you enjoy. 

While it’s helpful to learn basic principles, I believe the best way to understand how to mix flavors is by jumping in and trying things out yourself. 

You’ll likely make some dishes that aren’t perfect, but looking back on what you learned from each trial is worthwhile.

I hope the tips shared here inspire you to explore new seasoning blends and customizing recipes to your unique taste. 

Cooking is an art, so have fun getting adventurous with herbs and spices! I’d love to hear about any mixes you invent – feel free to share your flavorful discoveries and cooking adventures in the comments.



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