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The Ultimate Guide to Chicken Spices, Herbs, and Seasonings

Calling all cooks! We've got chicken on the cutting board, and chicken is right for all skill levels, from beginner to "seasoned" professional. Adventurous home cooks can experiment with creating their own unique flavor combinations; less experienced cooks can venture into global flavor with seasoning blends.

Chicken is the ultimate gastronomic blank slate. It has a neutral, mild flavor, so it lends itself to a wide world of flavors and techniques. We have compiled an ultimate list of the herbs, spices, and our favorite seasoning blends designed with chicken in mind. Discover the world of flavor!


Spices

  • Allspice – pungent and spicy, this seed mimics the characteristics of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. It is indispensable in Caribbean cooking.

  • Cardamom, Ground – Cardamom has floral-fruit flavor with the sort of aroma that captivates the imagination and carries it to far-off lands. Bright, floral, peppery, and almost minty, cardamom is often found in Indian masalas and chicken curries.

  • Celery seeds – Vegetal and earthy, celery seeds add an aromatic, nostalgic note to chicken. If you want your chicken soup to taste just like Grandmom used to make, you probably need celery seeds.

  • Chile peppers, dried – We think chile peppers go with everything and have a wide range of varieties to prove it. Please take a look at our chile pepper page for guidance on chile characteristics, flavor, and heat. For chicken, we recommend milder chiles peppers with great flavor, like our Hatch New Mexico Red Chiles, or Aleppo Pepper Flakes.

  • Coriander – The coriander seed is sweet and citrusy, and gives chicken a bright flavor. It is found in a wide range of cuisines, from Asia to the Middle East to Latin America. Look for it in Thai cooking, from curries to Thai chicken and lettuce wraps, or in the ultimate Mexican favorite, mole poblano.

  • Cumin – Earthy cumin provides grounding notes that give savory chicken dishes a cozy warmth. We normally associate cumin with Mexican foods and can't picture a chicken enchilada without it, but cumin is found in dishes across the globe.

  • Fennel – Warm, sweet, and reminiscent of licorice, fennel's savory flavor profile infuses chicken with the essence of long days at the water's edge. It can be found in dishes that take you from Morocco to the Greek islands, and across Asia, from China to Indonesia. You can find fennel in chicken tagines, Greek lemon chicken, and the spicy Philippine chicken sausage, longganisa.

  • Garlic – Ubiquitous garlic can be found in every cuisine in the world. While it can be biting and strong when it's raw, cooking mellows garlic's sting and turns it sweet. Use it as an aromatic base for dishes like soups and stews, toss chicken in garlic and sauté, create a rich rub for a roast by mixing garlic in butter, or add to condiments like salsas and chutneys and put an ethnic twist on your plate. It's difficult to find a chicken dish that doesn't have garlic as a welcome, basic ingredient.

  • Ginger – This pungent rhizome brings a little sweet and a surprising heat to the kitchen. It's not just for baking, and is often the star ingredient in Asian and Indian cooking. No chicken stir-fry from China or Thailand would be complete without the snappy bite of ginger. You can also find it in Indian classics like butter chicken and creamy and spicy chicken tikka masala.

  • Lemon Peel, Dried – As far as flavor pairings go, chicken and lemon are bulletproof. Want to perk up your chicken sauté? Add some lemon peel. Would you like to brighten a yogurt dressing? Add some lemon peel. This can be found in a wide range of cuisines; it's as at-home in Italian cooking as it is in the Caribbean, and is embraced from Asia to the Middle East.

  • Paprika – Chicken with paprika is a classic Hungarian dish and about as world-renowned as you can get. But don't let paprika's reputation as a mild-mannered spice fool you; you can find it sweet or hot, regular or smoked. Paprika takes chicken dishes and gives them gentle, savory warmth, and is a common ingredient in Spanish cooking too.

  • Saffron – This gorgeously delicate, honeyed floral herb is prized around the world for its inimitable flavor and plush orange-red color. The stigma of a particular crocus, saffron threads must be hand-picked the day the crocus blooms or else they wither. The relatively neutral flavor of chicken makes room for saffron to be the star of dinner, not the supporting player. The Spanish recipe for Saffron Chicken does this with spectacular color and flavor.

  • Turmeric – A relative of ginger, turmeric is a standard in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. This golden rhizome imparts a profoundly earthy, grounding flavor to the dishes it's in, with a bit of peppery warmth. It pairs well with ginger's sparkling essence for chicken curries and stews, and is delicious as a wet rub for chicken. Mix it with honey, slather it on chicken, and bake for a sublime dish that gives roundness to turmeric's earthiness while balancing the sweetness of honey. However you choose to use turmeric, though, be careful; the bright yellow color will stain everything, from clothes to countertops!

Herbs

  • Basil – Delicate basil brings the promise of warm, sunny days to your chicken. This Mediterranean herb can be mixed into pesto, added to a sauté, or used to finish your dishes. It is equally at home in Italian and Greek dishes as it is in Thai cooking. Healthy up your Greek keftedes and use chicken instead of ground beef for this classic meatball dish, or sprinkle it across noodles, from spaghetti to Pad Thai.

  • Cilantro – Dried cilantro is herbaceous without the spiky quality that can turn people away from that herb. Cilantro is great with Latin American dishes of all sorts; season the chicken with it, add some in salsa, and then top the whole thing with some more. You can also find cilantro in Thai, Indian, and Indonesian cooking.

  • Lemongrass – An herb that tastes exactly as it sounds, lemongrass is both lemony and grassy. Indigenous to southeast Asia, its complex herbal profile is an integral ingredient in Vietnamese and Thai soups and noodle bowls.

  • Oregano – The lively flavors and enticing aroma of Mediterranean oregano gave this herb its name; ancient Greeks named it for the joy it brought them, as its name literally translates as "brightness of the mountain." Oregano can be found paired with chicken all across European tables, from France to Spain to Italy and, of course, to Greece. Celebrate Greek oregano with lemony avoglemono soup. Use oregano as the herbal base in a classic, buttery roast chicken, or in the traditional French stew, Provençal chicken.

  • Rosemary – The woodsy, lemon-pine characteristic of rosemary has been infusing mild proteins like chicken and fish with its distinct flavor since about 500 BCE, and is naturally complemented by Dried Lemon Peel. This herb is traditionally associated with the warm waters of the Mediterranean, but has been adopted by Latin American chefs and is now a staple of Mexican cooking. This herb can be strong, so it's best to use it judiciously in all your cooking.

  • Sage – Velvety and peppery, sage is the grande dame of bread stuffings and a backbone of a warming winter chicken stew. Sage loves rich sauces with creams and butters and can stand up to the salty sass of olives—both black and green—so get bold with sage!

  • Tarragon – Chicken keeps a special place reserved for the subtle herbal, minty licorice flavor of tarragon, and chicken with a tarragon and mustard cream sauce is a time-honored recipe that brings these ingredients into savory harmony. The flavor of this herb will diminish with heat, so refrain from adding it until the cook time is almost complete.

  • Thyme – Hardy thyme is the workhorse of the herb world. It works well as an herb rub, in sauces, and as a seasoning in roasts or stews. With a lemony top note, thyme can pair with any of the citrusy herbs and spices to give chicken a bright boost, and its herbaceousness provides a green balance to salty punches like olives or capers. This native of southern Europe has made its way across Europe, to wintery Scandinavia, and across the ocean to the cuisine of steamy Latin America.


Seasoning Blends

  • 18 Spice Chicken Rub – This seasoning blend is a symphony of balanced flavors that bring elements of heat and depth to your chicken. But don't worry; despite the number of ingredients, it won't overwhelm your meal. This blend has a bit of sweetness to it from the demerara sugar and cinnamon. Even though chile peppers are present, the kick they provide is mild, and rounded out by savory fennel and allspice. It's hand-blended from ancho, pasilla, cinnamon, ginger, onion, garlic, cumin, sea salt, demerara sugar, mustard, black pepper, coriander, California paprika, cloves, allspice, fennel, cayenne and de arbol.

  • Adobo Lime Rub – Take your chicken tacos in a new direction with our Adobo Lime Rub. Our earthy mix with cumin and thyme has created an aromatic spice blend that stands up to all method of cooking, from sautéing to grilling, to searing in cast iron. Hand blended from cumin, garlic, fennel, lime, black pepper, salt, coriander, oregano, rosemary and thyme.

  • Flippin' the Bird – Thanks to round after round of taste-testing, we got this blend just right. It's rich and peppery with citrus and herbs, and brings out the best in chicken. This blend is entirely salt-free and can be used for baked and fried chicken dishes, but we also love it as a mild rub for chicken wings. Hand blended from California paprika, onion, chili powder, lemon, granulated honey, sage, marjoram, black pepper and celery seed.

  • Garlic Herb Seasoning – This seasoning is not just for breadsticks anymore. Blended from toasted sesame seeds, roasted garlic flakes, black pepper, lemon peel, and chives, this salt-free blend brings a nutty crunch to chicken salad. It's also great as a rub for roasted chicken, and can be sprinkled on as a topper for some chicken pasta primavera.

  • Honey Chipotle Rub – Our Honey Chipotle Rub is a classic combination of sweet + heat. If you're using it as a dry rub for chicken, coat the chicken with it and then let it all sit for at least two hours, to let the flavors develop on the meat. We love the sweet taste provided by the honey combined with the smoky flavor of the ground chipotle powder. This blend is made from granulated honey, sea salt, onion, paprika, chipotle powder and Italian seasoning.

  • Jamaican Jerk Seasoning – With a taste of the Caribbean, this blend is savory, packs some heat, and tempers it with sweetness. Our Jamaican Jerk seasoning is versatile and can take your chicken through a wide array of cooking techniques, from a quick grill to a long smoke. This Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is hand-blended from onion, coriander, garlic, ginger, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, thyme, turbinado sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg, scotch bonnet, clove and chives. Take note: This is a salt-free blend.

  • Nashville Hot Seasoning – Nashville Hot Seasoning was originally devised as a punishment for a philandering husband...but the fried chicken was so good it became a culinary phenomenon instead. Cayenne is the first ingredient so we know there's no messing around in this dish, and its up-front heat is complemented by sea salt, demerara sugar, yellow mustard, garlic, black pepper and paprika.
    Traditionally, this seasoning has been used for fried chicken, but it's also incredible as a grilled chicken rub.

  • Shawarma – A Middle Eastern shawarma is a flatbread sandwich, traditionally made with lamb or goat that's been slow-cooked on a vertical spit. We were inspired by the idea of deep, earthy flavors, hot breezes and long, dusky nights, and created the Shawarma Seasoning, which is perfect for grilling chicken. It's a salt-free blend of cumin, coriander, garlic, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, cayenne and cinnamon. We do love to grill with it but you can also use it as a rub for your roast chicken or as an aromatic base in a chicken tagine.

  • Texas Chicken Rub – Don't mess with Texas chicken. Our Texas Chicken Rub is formulated for chicken, so it's big and bold as a Texas sky but won't overwhelm the basic flavor of the meat. Our Texas Chicken Rub is a hand-blended mixture of paprika, smoked Mesquite salt, pepper, garlic, mustard and bay leaves. The only limit here is your imagination, because this rub isn't just for grilling. It can also be used in a BBQ smoker, with a rotisserie, or for baking in the oven.

 

Looking for more info? Read on!

Chicken Recipes from Our Test Kitchen

Why You Should Dry-Brine Your Chicken

Is It Done Yet? - How to Test for Doneness

How the Chicken Conquered the World 

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