Spicy seasonings have been loved all over the world since ancient times. Nowhere is the world’s love of fiery flavors easier to see than in the almost global adoption of chili peppers after the Columbian Exchange. You can find spicy blends that feature chili peppers and other hot spices in every region. Below we break down some of the most common spicy seasonings you’ll find from around the world. Plus, discover many PepperScale recipes for these fiery blends.
Ras el hanout
A North African spice blend, best known for its role in Moroccan cooking, ras el hanout can contain dozens of ingredients. The name translates to “head of the shop”. It indicates that the spices in the blend are the best a spice merchant has to offer. Ingredients include ginger, black pepper, and powdered chili peppers.
Often likened to Chinese five spice powder, shichimi togarashi contains seven spices. The list of shichimi togarashi spices includes chili pepper, sansho pepper, and seaweed. Shichimi togarashi’s use is usually as a table condiment rather than as a cooking ingredient.
Wrongly believed to be an Indian spice blend, curry powder was invented by the British as a way to make Indian spices palatable their tastes. Curry powder does use spices that show up in Indian food like chili pepper, turmeric, and fenugreek.
As curry powder’s French cousin, vandouvan offers many of the same ingredients but uses them in a more restrained manner. In addition, it has a stronger focus on onions and garlic. Vadouvan’s subtlety means that you can use it in a greater number of foods.
A tandoor is a clay oven, and tandoori masala is a spice blend traditionally used on Punjabi dishes like tandoori chicken. Along with chile peppers, tandoori masala spices include ginger and cinnamon.
Vindaloo comes from the Goa region in India, one of Portugal’s former colonies. It is a pork curry and its name comes from the Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos, which translates to meat marinated in wine and garlic. Vindaloo has a reputation for heat; vindaloo masala contains large amounts of chili pepper along with ginger, black peppercorns, and other spices.
While chili powder does make use of Mexican spices, but it is an American spice. It was invented to make it easier for American cooks to find and use Mexican spices. Chili powder typically includes ground chili peppers (usually ancho pepper) along with cumin and garlic. While chili powder is a versatile spice blend, cooks use it most often to make chili con carne.
Old Bay Seasoning is as closely identified with seafood as it is with the state of Maryland. No crab or shrimp boil would be the same without it; Old Bay provides a distinctive salty and spiced warmth to shellfish. Along with paprika, Old Bay’s long list of ingredients includes mace and celery salt.
A Louisiana staple, Cajun seasoning boils down the flavors of Cajun cuisine into a simple seasoning blend. The ingredients of the spice mix will vary from recipe to recipe. Most contain some form of chili pepper powder, from paprika (mild) to cayenne pepper (medium-hot).
The West Indies
Adobo is a popular Latin American spice blend that typically includes garlic and oregano among its ingredients. Its name comes from the Spanish practice of immersing food in vinegar and spices to preserve it.