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Could your cooking use a wake-up call? Add fantastic flavor to your meals -- and health benefits, to boot -- with our round-up of versatile spices favored by chefs. You just might discover a new favorite!

Garam Masala

This warm and fragrant Indian spice blend, whose name literally means "hot mixture," gives a bit of heat and a touch of sweetness to your dishes. It's made using different combinations of coriander, black peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, caraway, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.
How it's healthy: Because it adds complex flavors, you should be able to cut back on the salt you use.
Try it tonight! It's great in Indian cuisine, but don't stop there. Try it when cooking fish, pork, chicken, lamb, vegetable stews, soups, and potatoes. It's also great with stewed or roasted cauliflower.

Smoked Paprika

This spice has a rich, smoky flavor and a pronounced heat. It's made with different types of bell and/or chili peppers that are roasted and ground.
How it's healthy: If you like it hot, you're in luck. Paprika contains capsaicin, which gives it the heat. It's also an antioxidant, so it helps protect your body cells against damage.
Try it tonight! Dietitian Laura Pensiero, author of Hudson Valley Mediterranean: The Gigi Good Food Cookbook, says its complex, smoky flavor lends a hearty, filling quality to soups, stews, rice dishes, tomato sauces, and salsas. It's also a great addition to rubs and marinades.


This powerful, sweet and fragrant spice from Central America tastes like a mix between cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
How it's healthy: Researchers are studying some of the parts of allspice to see whether it might help fight cancer.
Try it tonight! Allspice is essential in Caribbean jerk dishes. Try adding it to curries and chili, too. It's warming and delicious in desserts like cakes and puddings.

Celery Seed

It tastes like a slightly bitter, more concentrated form of celery itself.
How it's healthy: Celery seed is great for perking up the flavor of low-sodium food, so you may use less salt. It also has calcium and iron.
Try it tonight! Pensiero suggests sprinkling it on steaks before cooking, and adding it to soups, stews, meatloaf, burgers, rubs, and marinades.


This herb's seeds have a mild, toasty, slightly lemony flavor.
How it's healthy: Researchers are investigating whether coriander may help lower cholesterol.
Try it tonight! Use ground coriander in soups, stews, casseroles, cakes, and other baked goods. Crushed coriander seeds are delicious for flavoring burgers, marinades, and dressings, so Pensiero suggests keeping some whole seeds at the ready in a spice grinder.

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