Sara's Top 10 Spices That Vegans Need in Their Arsenal

Sara's Top 10 Spices That Vegans Need in Their Arsenal

Sara Tercero, better known as @betterfoodguru on Instagram, has been in the food industry for over 25 years as a chef and a teacher, encouraging others to make small changes to their diets to achieve a healthier lifestyle. She currently runs a blog and Instagram, where she posts colorful and easy vegan recipes inspired by flavors around the world. 

After seeing her informative feed and her passion for healthy eating, we decided to contact her to prepare an article. She says, "Most people think food needs to be salty, sweet, or full of fat to be delicious, but I disagree. 

There are so many tasty and distinct spices that really kick up the natural flavors of healthy foods like vegetables and whole grains without adding tons of salt. Here, I'll be sharing my favorite spices that really elevate whole foods to a new level and will help you gain a new appreciation for meatless dishes."

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Sara Tercero
Vegan Food Influencer, Blogger, Chef
  • Trader Joe's
    Crushed Red Chili Pepper


    Sara Tercero

    Crushed red pepper flakes are a cook's best friend. If you like heat, but the rest of your family doesn't, then sprinkling some chili pepper is an easy and quick way to bring up the spice level in your dish. That way, you can make mild-flavored dishes for everyone else, but heat up your own plate of food. 


    It makes a great topping on pizza, pasta, curries, noodles, and even salads! In hot foods, the pepper flavor intensifies with cooking and, when added to oil for sauteeing, they can smoke up a kitchen pretty fast - so you'll want to be careful when cooking with them as those noxious fumes will get everyone coughing! 

  • McCormick Gourmet
    Organic Chili Powder


    Sara Tercero

    Chili powder is a perfect and mild Southwestern spice blend that makes creating flavorful chilis a breeze! It's also great for using to flavor vegan taco fillings like tofu, jackfruit, mushrooms, or walnuts. It is the perfect seasoning to use when you want your food to be "spiced" but not spicy


    The blend of roasted and ground mild chilies lends a nice depth of flavor to any dish. Less commonly, people use chili powder as a topper for fruits like melons and mangoes, which may sound strange but is delicious.

  • Mother-In-Law's Kimchi
    Chili Pepper Flakes


    Sara Tercero

    Gochugaru are Korean red chili flakes. They are much milder than crushed red pepper and they have a slightly smoky and fruity flavor. The best way to use this spice is to dust half an avocado with it or top a noodle dish or salad with it. 


    The color is super pretty, and the flavor is delightfully different from other chilis. I also like to add them to tofu as I am frying or baking the protein because they lend a smoky depth which I am partial to.

  • Eden
    Organic Seaweed Gomasio


    Sara Tercero

    Seaweed Gomasio is a blend of black and white sesame seeds, sea salt, and sea vegetables like dulse, nori, and kombu. It gives a great, mild seafood flavor to recipes like chickpea mock tuna, vegan sushi, stir-fried noodles, or steamed rice and it's also a wonderful seasoning for vegan caesar dressing. 


    The spice flavor really elevates a dish without adding in too much sodium and it gives dishes a distinct seafood flavor, without tasting fishy. It's also a great source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and iodine.

  • Navitas Organics
    Turmeric Powder


    Sara Tercero

    For centuries, turmeric has been regarded as an important ingredient in many parts of the world for its medicinal properties. The list of health benefits from turmeric consumption is great and includes cancer prevention and anti-inflammation. It also increases brain levels and improves memory, plus is an antioxidant. 


    Turmeric lends a beautiful golden color and a mild, almost citrusy flavor to tofu scrambles, soups, and curries. Just a touch of turmeric can transform rice into a yellow-hued masterpiece, and some people also add it to their oatmeals or breakfasts to start the day. Personally, I use turmeric every day in my cooking.

  • McCormick Gourmet
    Organic Ground Cumin


    Sara Tercero

    Cumin is a spice used in many kinds of cuisines - namely, in Indian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern foods. It's also used heavily in American vegan cooking, as it is a healthy spice, and the flavor it provides to dishes is widely loved.


    I use cumin in hummus, chili soups, curries, and recipes involving rice and beans. The spice has an earthy, musky, sweet, and bitter taste that is a great compliment to other flavors. It is also used medicinally for indigestion, is good for diabetics, and is a good source of iron.

  • Frontier
    Seasoning Blends Indian Curry


    Sara Tercero

    Curry can be made from scratch using a bunch of spices, but for a novice cook, curry powder works best. Curry powder is an all-encompassing blend of spices that makes cooking curry dishes a breeze. The color, flavor, and odor of curry powder are especially intoxicating. 


    Curry is a vegan's best friend, as the addition of a creamy curry gravy to cradle your legumes and vegetables in makes any vegetable dish taste sinfully good. Warm, slightly spicy, and ultimately comforting, a big bowl of curry and rice is a tasty, easy way to eat flavorful and healthy foods.

  • McCormick Gourmet
    Organic Za'atar


    Sara Tercero

    Za'atar spice is an amazingly flavorful Middle Eastern seasoning blend that is delicious on crispy potatoes, as a topping for dips like hummus and baba ganoush, or to make any roasted vegetable sing. The flavors are so different and so unique, once you have tasted za'atar it will become one of your go-to spices for cooking. 


    In the blend is usually thyme, marjoram, and oregano which are earthy, herbal spices. It also has sumac in it, which adds a bit of tang, and roasted sesame seeds to add some nuttiness. Sprinkle za'atar over salads or even on garlic bread for a distinctly different treat.

  • McCormick Gourmet
    Smoked Paprika


    Sara Tercero

    Smoked Paprika is the king of spices in any kitchen - you'll be guaranteed to become addicted to the slightly sweet and smoky depth it lends to soups and sauces. You can also combine it with a little pure maple syrup and soy sauce and use the mix to transform tofu or tempeh into a delicious and healthy mock bacon. 


    I use smoked paprika every day in my cooking. It gives curries, chilis, veggie scrambles, and even salad dressings a real flavor boost; but, my favorite application of the spice is using it to make smoky, crispy baked chickpeas. Smoked paprika is so versatile and much better than regular paprika.

  • McCormick Gourmet
    Italian Seasoning


    Sara Tercero

    Italian Seasoning is such a great and flavorful blend of herbs. The ingredients vary but normally include basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, and marjoram. You can use Italian seasoning in tomato sauces, herbed plant yogurts, salad dressings, soups, and anywhere else you need a herbal punch. 


    Using herbs is great because it brings up the flavor of a dish without adding extra sodium. And, although fresh herbs are usually best, this dry blend of Italian seasoning is convenient and good to use when you run low on stock. 

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