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Prediction: 5 Spices You’ll See Everywhere Soon
Just like everything else, some spices seem to go through popularity waves. From cooking shows and food bloggers to restaurants, here are five spices blowing up in popularity in the USA (and their momentum is only building). How many of these have you cooked with?
#1: Aleppo Chili Pepper Flakes
Aleppo pepper, also known as Halaby or pul biber, is a popular chili pepper in the Middle East, particularly Syria and Turkey. It’s a pretty mild chili when compared to others, with about half the heat of the red chili flakes we’re used to in the USA (the kind you toss on pizza).
What it Tastes Like: Bright flavor with earthy undertones, fruity, and slightly salty with notes of sun dried tomato and fresh red bell pepper. Heat level = slow building mild heat (might be considered medium spicy heat for more sensitive palates). Heat seekers, don’t brush it aside because it’s mild, because what it lacks in heat, it makes up for 10 fold in flavor.
How to Use It: It’s commonly used to season legumes and beans, barbecue (especially kebabs), and grilled meat. It’s also often tossed on salads, soups and dips, and can be used like any other dried chili flake.
We like to add it to pasta sauces and chili, sprinkle on pizza, sprinkle on roasted chicken and potatoes, mix with olive oil for a bread dip, and put in aioli, BBQ sauce and other homemade condiments.
In many parts of the Middle East, you’ll find it on the table like we use salt and pepper – to use as a finishing touch on dishes. It’s also a good salt alternative because it helps bring out the other flavors in your dish.
Get Your Hands On It: Our aleppo is rare in the fact that it comes from Syria (it’s named after one of the country’s biggest cities, after all) and doesn’t have any additives like salt or oil. Buy Aleppo pepper flakes here.
#2: Chinese Five Spice
While Chinese Five Spice isn’t often used daily or weekly in most kitchens in the USA, it is a mainstay in Asia where it can be found not just in spice cabinets, but on the table like salt and pepper. As the name suggests, this seasoning contains 5 spices: Cassia cinnamon, clove, star anise, fennel and Sichuan pepper.
What it Tastes Like: The elements of 5 spice are a traditional Chinese representation of flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, savory and salty. While each of these flavors are represented in the blend, none of them overpower the others. One interesting element to the blend comes from the Sichuan pepper, which adds a tingling, almost numbing sensation to the mix.
How to Use It: The most traditional use of 5 spice is for roast duck, where its flavors work wonders cutting into the fatty dish providing you with an exquisite traditional Chinese delight. This is also true for other rich fatty foods like pork belly and short ribs.
It can be used as a dry rub or mixed into marinades and sauces. It is particularly good when used as a base flavor in braising liquid, where we see the 5 flavor elements melt together into the dish you are cooking.
While synonymous with Chinese cooking, you will also see 5 spice used in traditional Vietnamese cooking and it also has a place on the table in Hawaiian cuisine. Additionally, Chinese five spice can be mixed with salt and used as a condiment or finishing salt. Imagine a new twist on popcorn, french fries, chicken wings and grilled vegetables.
This is a very potent spice mix so you will want to use a less is more philosophy when using it in your cooking.
Get Your Hands On It: Like all of our authentic blends, our organic Chinese 5 Spice stands out from the rest as we only use the highest quality certified organic spices. Unlike others, we don’t substitute cheaper or easier-to-find ingredients like black pepper for Sichuan or anise seeds for star anise. Buy Chinese five spice here.
#3: Bird’s Eye Chili Powder
Bird’s eye chili pepper (aka African bird chili or piri piri/peri peri pepper) has been super popular with home chefs and professional cooks in the United States over the past six months or so. Based on the number of bags flying out the door of our organic spice company, its popularity is not slowing down any time soon.
What it Tastes Like: It’s peppery and fruity and super spicy. Its heat has a delayed effect…it slowly builds and then it lingers for a long time after you’re done eating. That’s something really exciting for people who love spicy food, but also something daunting for people not used to a slow, long burn, so choose who you share this with wisely.
How to Use It: This is great to use when you want to add heat to your meal but not distract from other flavors. It doesn’t compete with other spices or food, rather it adds heat and a nice “pepperness”.
It’s perfect if you’re making spicy chili pastes, hot sauces and salsas. It’s also great to add to hearty dishes where you’re building flavor and want some heat like American-style chili, pasta casseroles and stews. We sometimes use a few sprinkles on the meat we’re grilling. It’s also great in many curries and stir fry dishes.
Remember, a little bit goes a long way. We recommend using sparingly at first until you understand your tolerance level with this special pepper. Keep in mind, if it gets on your skin it can burn, and don’t let it plume in the air when you’re shaking it because it can agitate your eyes and lungs. Don’t be scared of it, because it really is a delightful treat for heat-seekers, just respect the punch it can deliver.
Get Your Hands On It: Our certified organic bird’s eye chili is super powerful and fresh, unlike others from big companies that sit in warehouses for many months and sometimes even years before they hit grocery store shelves. Ours sits at about 150,000 Scoville units, which is pretty darn hot considering a jalapeño is rated around 2,500-5,000 units. We offer organic bird’s eye powder here and whole chilies here.
Let’s get the first question out of the way…Isn’t sumac poisonous? Short answer, no, not this sumac. While there is a North American plant known as poison sumac, the plant we’re interested in is not poisonous, rather it’s a delicious spice that’s common in Middle Eastern cooking.
Sumac grows all over the world, including North America. You have probably seen the beautiful trees that are adorned with crimson red cones, often growing on the side of the highway. The red cones you see are actually the tasty spice of sumac.
What it Tastes Like: The key flavors are sour, citrus, slight briney saltiness and a touch of sweetness. It’s like lemon without the actual acidity, although it has a strong tangy flavor.
How to Use It: Sumac makes an excellent garnish and can be used the same way you would use a squeeze of lemon, a splash of vinegar or zest of citrus to finish a dish before serving. You can use it in place of lemon or vinegar or in addition to these ingredients.
It’s a key ingredient in Za’atar seasoning where it is mixed with herbs and sesame seeds to produce an herbaceous, salty and sour mixture that is prevalent in Middle Eastern cuisine.
It is fantastic sprinkled on salads or as an ingredient in salad dressings and marinades. In marinades it’s lack of acidity is a benefit as you can use it without the risk of cooking delicate foods in the marinade.
In the summer, sumac can be sprinkled on top of grilled foods and is particularly great with grilled chicken and vegetables. Marinated kabobs grilled over a fiery grill and finished with sumac are a real treat and while it may sound exotic to your picky guests, it is generally loved by one and all.
Finally, we must not forget about hummus. Sumac is the traditional garnish for hummus and a light sprinkling not only looks amazing with its contrast of crimson color, it enhances the creaminess of the hummus with a delightful tangy finish.
Get Your Hands On It: We source our sumac from a single origin in Syria, which is produced alongside Aleppo Chili mentioned above. It is some of the freshest available, and has a super bright flavor and rich color. Buy our all-natural sumac here.
#5: Guajillo Powder
Lesser known than chipotle or ancho, guajillo chilies are a hidden gem. These mild chilies (around 2,500-5,000 Scoville Heat Units) are bursting with sweetness and ripe fruit flavor. Guajillo chilies are dried mirasol peppers, which are commonly grown in Mexico and Central America. We source our guajillo from farms right here in the United States.
What it Tastes Like: Guajillo like most chilies has strong flavors of fruit and a nice sweetness, with a touch of heat but leaning more towards mild heat. Due to the drying process they also have a rich sun roasted flavor with notes of raisins.
How to Use It: Guajillos are common in salsas, dry rubs, marinades, and chili oils. It mingles well with the other chilies like ancho, chipotle and paprika. We use it in our Ceylon Cacao Chili Powder. It’s also a common ingredient in Mexican moles, where its sweetness combines well with other spices like cinnamon, allspice, oregano and spicier chilies.
All of your favorite Mexican and Southwestern dishes can be made with guajillo for those that like things a little less spicy, or just to add a new flavor to the dish.
Another great use for this mild chili is in hot chocolate or even ice cream. Next time you make Mexican hot chocolate choose guajillo over the more common cayenne, you will be greeted with a warm, creamy treat.
Get Your Hands On It: Our guajillo is certified organic and sourced in California. It is very high quality and at peak freshness. Buy organic guajillo powder here.
Those are our new year culinary spice predictions! What do you think? Are you familiar with these spices? Do you see other spices trending that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!