Using whole spices is definitely a little extra work. But if you’re looking to get the most out of your spice cabinet, whole spices are your best bet for capitalizing on fresh flavor. Consider this your wakeup call: our guide to using whole seeds and spices will upgrade the way you braise, bake, and shake up your favorite cocktails.
What’s The Real Difference Between Ground and Whole Spices?
Buying ground spices is the ultimate flavor convenience - just grab, shake and boom! Flavor. And a lot of spices are meant to come pre-ground to save you time, effort, and food waste. But you will often see full peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and the like. The main difference, of course, is you will need to find a way to grind those yourself (and many peppercorns come with a built-in grinder).
Some pre-ground spices may not be as potent as their whole spice counterparts. This is due to the fresh essential oils trapped inside the whole seeds. As the ground spices sit, those essential oils become less potent, and can impact the overall flavor of your dish, or require you to use more volume to get the same flavor output.
On that note, you should always keep an eye on your spice dates, and try to use them promptly to maximize their flavor. But if you’re looking to try your hand at adding whole spices to your rack, we’re here to help you use them.
How Do I Use My Whole Spices?
Treating your whole spices right can produce big flavor payoff in your favorite recipes! Often, the best way to get the most out of your whole spices like fennel seeds is to toast them and grind them in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. For recipes that call for ground cumin, fennel, coriander or other spice seeds, add the seeds to a small saucepan and toast over medium-low heat until fragrant. Toasting your spices brings out their natural essential oils, which means more flavor out of each seed
Once your spices are toasted, you can grind them in a few different ways. Many seasoned chefs keep an electric coffee grinder on hand that is dedicated to grounding spices (don’t try this with your regular coffee grinder, unless you want your dinner to taste like a latte). Our favorite method takes a little more elbow grease, but is well worth the work. A mortar and pestle is a versatile kitchen staple, from grinding spices to emulsifying pesto. Add your toasted spices to the mortar and grind away until your seeds have turned into a powder (added bonus, try grinding your spices after a long day to relieve some stress.).
To Grind Or Not To Grind? Powdered Vs Whole Spice Recipes
Now that you know how to grind your spices, you might be asking yourself- do I have to do this every time? The answer is- it’s’ up to you. You should grind your spices fresh when you are ready to use them to get the maximum flavor out of your dishes. Some recipes call for a more rustic approach to grinding, like Steak au Poivre, which asks you to simply crack your peppercorns with a mallet or the bottom of a saucepan. The beauty of whole spices lies in their versatility- you can choose how much texture you or your recipe desire.
Here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks to incorporate whole spices like fennel, cumin and coriander seeds into your favorite dishes:
Whole Coriander: Toss the whole seeds in with roasted veggies or create a spice bundle to infuse your soups and broths with flavor.
Whole Fennel Seeds: Just before baking, sprinkle whole fennel seeds over your bread dough for a crackly, seeded and flavorful crunch.
Whole spices can add a whole layer of opportunity to your kitchen, whether you’re grinding, toasting, frying or experimenting on your own. Shop Rumi whole spices like fennel seeds, coriander, and cumin to spice up your favorite recipes.