Common Seasoning And Flavoring Ingredients

Any food product can be used as a flavoring ingredient, even meat (as when crumbled bacon is added to sauteed potatoes or diced ham is included in a mirepoix). Sauces, which are complex preparations containing many flavoring ingredients, are themselves used as flavorings for meat, fish, vegetables, and desserts.

We obviously cannot treat all possible flavoring ingredients here, but we discuss some of the most important as follows. A survey of herbs and spices is provided in Table 4.1 on pages 80-82. Ingredients used primarily in the bakeshop are discussed in Chapter 29.

Table 4.1

Herbs and Spices


Market Forms


Examples of Use


Whole, ground

Small brown berry; flavor resembles blend of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg

Sausages and braised meats, poached fish, stewed fruits, pies, puddings

Anise seed

Whole, ground

Small seed; licorice flavor

Cookies, pastries, breads


Crushed leaves

Aromatic leaf; member of mint family

Tomatoes and tomato dishes, pesto (Italian basil sauce), egg dishes, lamb chops, eggplant, peas, squash

Bay leaf


Stiff, dark green, oblong leaves; pungent aroma

One of the most important herbs for stocks, sauces, stews, braised meats

Caraway seed


Dark brown, curved seeds; familiar rye bread seasoning

Rye bread, cabbage, sauerkraut, pork, cheese spreads, Eastern European dishes


Whole pod, ground seed

Tiny brown seeds inside white or green pod; sweet and aromatic; expensive

Pickling, Danish pastries, curries

Cayenne (red pepper)


Ground form of hot red pepper; looks like paprika but is extremely hot

In small amounts in many sauces, soups, meat, fish, egg, and cheese dishes (see p. 82)

Celery seed

Whole, ground, ground mixed with salt (celery salt)

Tiny brown seeds with strong celery flavor

Salads, coleslaw, salad dressings, tomato products


Crushed leaves

Herb with mild flavor of parsley and tarragon

Soups, salads, sauces, egg and cheese dishes

Chili powder

Ground blend

Blend of spices including cumin, chili peppers, oregano, garlic

Chili and other Mexican dishes, egg dishes, appetizers, ground meat


Fresh, dried, frozen

Grasslike herb with onion flavor

Salads, egg and cheese dishes, fish, soups


(fresh coriander, Chinese parsley)

Fresh leaves

The plant that produces coriander seeds; delicate texture; assertive, herbaceous aroma and flavor; leaves resemble flat parsley

Widely used in Asian and Southwestern cooking and in dishes with various ethnic influences


Sticks, ground

Aromatic bark of cinnamon or cassia tree

Pastries, breads, desserts, cooked fruits, ham, sweet potatoes, hot beverages


Whole, ground

Dried flower buds of a tropical tree; pungent, sweet flavor

Whole: marinades, stocks, sauces, braised meats, ham, pickling Ground: cakes, pastries, fruits


Whole, ground

Round, light brown,hollow seed, slightly sweet, musty flavor

Pickling, sausage, pork, curried dishes, gingerbread

Cumin seed

Whole, ground

Small seed resembling caraway, but lighter in color

Ingredient of curry and chili powders, sausages and meats, egg and cheese dishes

Curry powder

Ground blend

A mixture of 16 to 20 spices,including red pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper; brands vary greatly in flavor and hotness

Curried dishes, eggs, vegetables, fish, soups, rice


Crushed leaves (called dill weed), whole seed

Herb and seed with familiar dill pickle flavor; seed is more pungent than the herb

Seed: pickling, sauerkraut, soups Herb: salads, cheese dishes, fish and shellfish, some vegetables


Market Forms


Examples oi use


Fresh and dried leaves

A pungent herb with coarse-textured leaves

Used in Mexican cooking; often cooked with beans


Whole seed

Greenish-brown seeds similar in flavor to anise, but larger in size

Italian sausage,tomato sauce,fish


Fresh:whole bulbs; dried: granulated, powder, and mixed with salt

Strong, aromatic member of onion family; fresh bulbs composed of many small cloves

Wide variety of foods


Whole, ground (also fresh and candied or crystallized)

Light brown, knobby root of ginger plant

Baked goods and desserts,fruits, curried dishes, braised meats; fresh in Chinese and other Asian dishes

Juniper berry


Slightly soft, purple berries with piney flavor; principal flavoring of gin

Marinades, game dishes, sauerkraut

Lemon grass

Fresh stalks

A tropical grass with a slightly bulbous base and an aroma of lemon

Used in Southeast Asian dishes and in dishes influenced by Asian cuisine


Whole (blade), ground

Orange outer covering of nutmeg; similar flavor, but milder

Baked goods, desserts, fruits, sausages, pork, fish, spinach, squash, other vegetables


Crushed leaves

Gray-green herb with pleasant aroma and slightly minty flavor, similar to oregano,but much milder

Pâtés and ground meats, braised meats, sauces, roast lamb, poultry and poultry stuffings



Aromatic herb with familiar cool flavor; two varieties: spearmint and peppermint

Lamb, fruits, tea and fruit beverages, peas, carrots, potatoes

Mustard seed

Whole, ground (also prepared mustard; see p. 83)

Very pungent seed in two varieties: white or yellow and brown—brown is stronger

Cheese and egg dishes, pickling, meats, sauces and gravies


Whole, ground

Sweet, aromatic kernel of nutmeg fruit

Soups, cream sauces, chicken, veal, many vegetables (spinach,mushrooms, squash, potatoes), desserts, custards, breads, pastries


Leaves, ground

Pungent herb known as the "pizza herb"

Italian and Mexican dishes, tomato products



Ground form of a dried, sweet red pepper. Spanish variety is brighter in color, mild in flavor; Hungarian is darker and more pungent

Spanish: used (or overused) primarily as garnish on light-colored foods; Hungarian: goulash, braised meats and poultry, sauces


Fresh: whole sprigs, in bunches; dried: in flakes

Most widely used herb; dark green curly or flat leaves with delicate, sweet flavor

Almost all foods

Pepper, black and white

Whole (pepper-corns);ground fine, medium, or coarse

Small black or creamy white hard berry; pungent flavor and aroma

Most widely used spice (see p. 82)

Pepper, red

(see Cayenne)

Peppercorn, pink


Bright pink, dried seed or berry; pungent, floral taste; unrelated to black pepper

Limited uses in meat, poultry, and fish dishes; sauce garnish; used in peppercorn mixtures


Market Forms


Examples or use

Poppy seed


Tiny blue-black seeds with faint but distinctive flavor

Garnish for breads and rolls, buttered noodles;ground: in pastry fillings



Light-green leaves resembling pine needles

Lamb, braised meats and poultry, soups, tomato and meat sauces


Whole (thread)

Red stigma of saffron crocus; gives bright-yellow color to foods; mild, distinctive flavor; very expensive

Should be steeped in hot liquid before use.Rice dishes, poultry, seafood, bouillabaisse, baked goods


Whole,rubbed (finer consistency than whole leaves), ground

Pungent gray-green herb with fuzzy leaves

Pork, poultry, stuffings, sausage, beans, tomatoes


Crushed leaves

Fragrant herb of mint family; summer savory is preferred to winter

Many meat, poultry, fish, egg, and vegetable dishes

Sesame seed

Whole (hulled or unhulled)

Small yellowish seed with nutlike taste; familiar hamburger bun garnish; high oil content

Bread and roll garnish

Sichuan peppercorn


Brown seed pod, usually partially opened; spicy, peppery flavor, but unrelated to black peppercorns

Spicy meat and poultry dishes

Star anise

Whole or broken

Dried, star-shaped seed pod, with an aniselike flavor (but unrelated to anise) but more aromatic

Braised Chinese dishes


Crushed leaves

Delicate green herb with flavor that is both minty and licoricelike

Béarnaise sauce, tarragon vinegar, chicken, fish, salads and dressings, eggs


Crushed leaves, ground

Tiny brownish-green leaves; very aromatic

One of the most important and versatile of herbs; stocks, soups, sauces, meats, poultry, tomatoes



Intense yellow root of ginger family; mild but distinctive peppery flavor

A basic ingredient of curry powder; pickles, relishes, salads, eggs, rice

Salt is the most important seasoning ingredient. Don't use too much.You can always add more, but you can't take it out.

Pepper comes in three forms: white,black,and green. All three are actually the same berry, but processed differently. (Black pepper is picked unripe; white is ripened and the hull is removed; green peppercorns are picked unripe and preserved before their color darkens.)

• Whole and crushed black pepper is used primarily in seasoning and flavoring stocks and sauces and, sometimes,red meats. Ground black pepper is used in the dining room by the customer.

• Ground white pepper is more important as a seasoning in the food service kitchen. Its flavor is slightly different from that of black pepper, and it blends well (in small quantities) with many foods. Its white color makes it visually undetectable in light-colored foods.

• Green peppercorns are fairly expensive and are used in special recipes, primarily in luxury restaurants.The types packed in water, brine, or vinegar (those in water and in brine have better flavor) are soft.Wet-pack peppercorns are perishable.Water-packed peppercorns will keep only a few days in the refrigerator after they are opened, while the others will keep longer. Dried green peppercorns are also available.

Red pepper or cayenne is completely unrelated to black and white pepper. It belongs to the same family as paprika and fresh sweet bell peppers. Used in tiny




amounts, it gives a spicy hotness to sauces and soups without actually altering the flavor. In larger amounts, it gives both heat and flavor to many spicy foods, such as those of Mexico and India.

4. Lemon juice is an important seasoning, particularly for enlivening the flavor of sauces and soups.

5. Fresh herbs are almost always superior to dried herbs.They should be used whenever cost and availability permit. Not long ago, the only fresh herbs generally available in many areas of North America were parsley, chives, and sometimes mint and dill. Now, however, most herbs are available fresh.The accompanying photos illustrate the most commonly used fresh herbs as well as some unusual fresh flavoring ingredients.

6. Onion, garlic, shallots, and other members of the onion family, as well as carrots and celery, are used as flavorings in virtually all stations of the kitchen and even in the bakeshop.Try to avoid the use of dried onion and garlic products, except as a component of spice blends.They have less flavor, and the fresh product is always available.

7. Wine, brandy, and other alcoholic beverages are used to flavor sauces, soups, and many entrées. Brandy should be boiled or flamed to eliminate the high percentage of alcohol, which would be unpleasant in the finished dish.Table wines usually need some cooking or reduction (either separately or with other ingredients) to produce the desired flavors. Fortified wines like sherry and Madeira, on the other hand,may be added as flavorings at the end of cooking.

8. Prepared mustard is a blend of ground mustard seed,vinegar, and other spices. It is used to flavor meats, sauces, and salad dressings and as a table condiment. For most cooking purposes, European styles such as Dijon (French) or Dusseldorf (German) work best, while the bright yellow American ballpark style is more appropriate as a table condiment than as a cooking ingredient.A coarse,grainy style is sometimes called for in specialty recipes.

9. Grated lemon and orange rind is used in sauces, meats, and poultry (as in duckling à l'orange) as well as in the bakeshop. Only the colored outer portion, called the zest, which contains the flavorful oils, is used.The white pith is bitter.

10. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer widely used in Asian cooking. MSG doesn't actually change the flavor of foods but acts on the taste buds. It has a bad reputation for causing chest pains and headaches in some individuals.

Parsley, flat ^

Regular ginger and green ginger

Lemon grass

Lemon grass


Parsley, flat ^

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