A Good Spice Kit Is the Key to Great Meals Away from Home
When you're cooking on the go — whether you're roughing it in nature or testing the limits of your Airbnb kitchen — it's smart to think simple. Do go for these three-ingredient roasted potatoes; maybe save the two-day pasta sauce for when you're in your kitchen at home.
But simple doesn't have to mean boring — especially if you have a spice kit on hand. The right spices can take a meal from tasting so-so to great. Of course, the right spices for you might not be the right spices for me. It all depends on what flavors you love and what you tend to cook at home.
How to Build Your Spice Kit
Start by thinking about what spices you use regularly in your kitchen at home. Are you a cayenne pepper fiend? You'll want that in your kit. Love cumin in everything? Make room.
In the interest of space, it's also a good idea to consider spices that are versatile for sweet and savory dishes. A bowl of breakfast oatmeal can be exponentially improved with a little cinnamon, for example, but that cinnamon can also be used in a dinner of couscous.
Finally, you'll want to think about dry vs. liquid, keeping in mind that if you're traveling by plane, they'll need to be no more than 3.4 ounces and they'll need to go in a plastic bag.
How to Store Your Spices
Any small, lightweight yet durable, sealable containers will work for a spice kit. Nalgene makes a good selection in a variety of sizes. I like their wide-mouthed containers for spices that I am going to sprinkle on top of dishes, like salt. GSI Outdoors and MSR both make spice containers that allow for easily shaking spices.
Once you have all your spices in individual containers, be sure to label them. For easy packing, choose a stuff sack or small bag that all of the containers can fit into and you can easily transport.
Here's What's in My Spice Kit
Personally, I carry a combination of dry and liquid ingredients in my spice kit, most of which can play on team sweet or team savory. You can adapt this selection of spices to work for you.
- Flaky sea salt: Good quality sea salt is nice to sprinkle on everything from pasta to tartines.
- Ground black pepper:Black pepper is not only for savory dishes; try adding it to a mug of hot chocolate.
- Cinnamon:For oatmeal or pancakes, of course! Come dinner time, use it to spice grains.
- Ginger:Ginger is just like cinnamon, good for the spectrum of dishes. It works great in sautés, particularly when paired with soy sauce.
- Chili powder: A dash of chili powder can bring a little spice to any dish.
- Cumin powder: Cumin can be cooked with oil and ground ginger to make a great base for a dish like red lentils.
- Soy sauce:Soy sauce can be used as a condiment or as an ingredient in recipes like peanut sauce.
- Honey:Honey is great for topping oatmeal, but you can also use it to bring a little sweetness to a dish like couscous.
- Hot sauce: Everything tastes better with hot sauce.
- Olive oil: Okay, so maybe it's not a spice, but it's a staple in all my meals and I keep it in my spice kit.
More on building your travel spice kit: 3 Steps for Building Your Own Travel Spice Kit
Find more outdoor cooking tips and recipes in Anna's new book, Best Served Wild: Real Food for Real Adventures.