pantry clean out – 10 ideas to use up dried herbs & spices

If you’re a lover of trying out new recipes, then you probably have a well-stocked spice rack. Instead of a spice rack, I’ve amassed three drawers full of an array of dried herbs and spices. I treasure these little jars because they make cooking exciting and easy.

The problem is of course that they don’t stay fresh and flavorful forever. An article from the Food Network advises that ground spices should be used within six months for flavorful results. Six months! I’m embarrassed to say that a lot of my little jars are WELL past the sell-by date and need to be used asap.

Never one to be wasteful I’ve come up with as many creative ideas as possible to use what I can. The first step is to take stock and start tasting. There’s honestly no point in using any ingredient that tastes like sawdust, even if it is saffron that cost you a small fortune. If it’s bland, thank it for its service and throw it away.

Once you’ve assessed what’s salvageable, you can take stock and think about batch cooking and freezing to use up what you have.

When you’re busy there is nothing more reassuring than knowing you have ingredients at hand to make a quick and yummy meal. Sauces, spices mixes, soups, dressings, and marinades are lifesavers when you need to whip something up in a pinch. The name of the game is to come up with recipes that are simple to make, freeze well, and can be used for a variety of purposes.

Turmeric & Mango smoothies to use up turmeric

If you’re a smoothie lover who has not yet tried frozen mango, close this post and run (don’t walk) to pick some up! It’s beyond delicious in a smoothie, and paired with earthy peppery vibes of turmeric. Just perfection. Turmeric is also is one of the most popular spices used for its health properties in reducing inflammation. For this reason, it also makes a great addition to a green smoothie.

I made a large batch and portioned it for the freezer. Perfect with breakfast or for a snack on the go.

Recipe from the Queen, Martha Stewart, HERE

Hummus to use up cumin, paprika, and cayenne

Hummus is one of my favorite things to grab for a quick snack or to jazz up a meal. It’s delicious, satisfying, and freezes well. Also, a go-to for a cheese and bread board when entertaining.

Here is a RECIPE from a beautiful blog, Love and Lemons

Italian herb mix to use up parsley, basil, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, and sage 

We make a lot of pizza pasta in this house and keeping it interesting is not always easy. This super easy herb mix is great to have on hand. It can be added to pasta, used as a dried rub for meat, added to tomato sauce, soup, bread recipes, or tossed with oil and vinegar for salad dressing. I love to sprinkle some on a slice of crusty bread with fresh feta and olive oil for a delicious lunch.
Basic RECIPE from, that you can adjust as needed. This recipe calls for a food processor. I used a mortar and pestle and it worked well.

Pickles & Ferments to use up caraway seeds, dried chili, cumin, coriander & anything else that inspires you

Don’t be intimidated, pickling and fermenting can be incredibly easy. There is so much you can do in this realm, but if the goal is to use up herbs & spices then keep it simple. You can pickle any hearty vegetable. My favorites are; left over cabbage bits (because let’s be honest, there’s always left over cabbage bits!), carrot, and cucumber.

I recommend this beginner RECIPE from Jamie Oliver. It calls for fresh dill, but your dried substitutes will be wonderful as well.

Stir-Fry Sauce to use up dried basil, cilantro, coriander, chilies, cloves, cumin, star anise and turmeric

Kids love umami flavors, and this stir-fry sauce delivers. If you’re into meal prepping this sauce could also be added to portion meat or fish as a marinade and then frozen. Simply defrost and toss in the pan when you’re ready to cook!

Recipe from The Woks of Life HERE. I added dried coriander.

Taco Mix to use up chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano

Tacos are a weekly dinner ritual and they make everyone happy. I use this spice mix on the taco main, which is usually cubed and roasted sweet potato, or pan-fried shrimp. It also works well on baked chicken breast, which you can shred for tacos or to top on taco salad.

Recipe from HERE

Spiced Granola to use up ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne pepper

Who doesn’t love granola? This one is aromatic and scrumptious using ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a bit of cayenne pepper for a balance of heat. Make extra, give some to everyone you know. You’re welcome.

I started with this basic RECIPE from the Food Network and added the spices above as well as slivered almonds. Yum!

Curry Paste to use up garam masala, chili powder, paprika, ground turmeric

Freezing curry paste in an ice cube tray is a great way to store it. When you’re pressed for time all you need is the curry paste, canned coconut milk, rice, a frozen vegetable, and dinner comes together in a blink.

This is an excellent easy peasy RECIPE from the lovely Minimalist Baker. Lemon grass is very hard to find where I live so I leave it out and it’s still wonderful.

Scrap Soup to use up dried cilantro, granulated garlic, granulated onion, dried chili flakes

It cannot be understated how delicious and easy this soup is to make. Triple bonus, the main ingredients are leftover peelings that you would throw away anyway! It’s my husband’s absolute favorite. Thank you, Nadiya Hussain, you are a genius!

Recipe on Nadiya’s Instagram HERE

Cauliflower Soup to use up garam masala and cumin

This recipe has evolved. It’s one of those recipes that you make a little differently each time, not paying attention to quantities or cooking time, but it turns out great every time. It can also be made with roasted pumpkin or sweet potato, but cauliflower is the absolute best.

Recipe from the BBC HERE. I leave out the fresh herbs (unless I have extra on hand) and add 1 tsp of garam masala.

Thanks for cleaning out your pantry with me, and for taking great care of your precious dried herbs & spices!

Talk soon, Sarah

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