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Making a homemade blend of spices for certain dishes is one of the easiest things you can do to improve the flavour of your cooking, plus save a bit of money. As many store-bought blends add wheat flour to bulk up the contents, this restricts us from the convenience of purchasing a ready-made ingredient.

If you are like me, then you will love to DIY your spice collection from growing, harvesting and preparing to store your fresh herbs to blending many dried spices into one of the TEN spice blend recipes I have listed in the recipe card below. Click on the Jump to Recipe button up top if you are only interested in making the spice blends and would rather skip past drying fresh herbs.

 

Sage growing in the garden before harvesting

As the summer weather is slowing down, I have been busy harvesting fresh sage, basil, rosemary, mint, parsley, oregano and thyme from my rooftop garden. Sage and basil have been an enormous hit this year with extra big leaves.

 

Basil plant in the garden

My preference is to use fresh herbs in my cooking, but with nearly one kilo of harvested herbs, I had to dry or freeze most of them before they turn brown and tasteless. For those who have the same dilemma, here are several methods to preserve them.

 

Different fresh herbs in a basket after harvesting them
NATURAL DRYING METHODS
Hanging method

This is the easiest method requiring several trays and some string.

Wash the herbs in cool water.

Dry them thoroughly with a tea towel.

Drying fresh rosemary stalks after washing them

Lie them flat on a tea towel or kitchen paper-lined tray for 24 hours.

Air drying the rosemary stalks

Gather 10 to 12 stalks of the same herb and bunch them together with a tight tie of string near the base.

Find a dry, well-ventilated and dark area to hang them upside-down either against the wall or hanging from shelves, (high humidity will cause mould).

Dry hanging the herbs in bundles

Leave to dry for 5 to 10 days.

Once they feel brittle to the touch, simply blend the leaves in a coffee grinder or crush them with your fingers.

Store the dried herbs in sterilised glass jars. Most keep their colour and flavour for at least 3 months but keep them away from direct sunlight and heat.

The most suitable herbs to dry naturally are rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme and bay leaves.

By hanging them upside-down, the essential oils naturally ooze out from the stems into the leaves, giving a more powerful flavour than when fresh. This explains why dried herbs should be used sparingly in cooking compared to using fresh. To substitute dried herbs in a recipe when fresh is required, only use ¼ of the amount of dried herbs.

Tray Method

If you have lots of space, plucking the leaves off the stems and lying them on lined trays or a tablecloth for 5 days will do the job. Every day, gently mix the leaves to make sure all sides of the leaves are drying evenly. Once they feel brittle to the touch, simply blend the leaves in a coffee grinder or crush them with your fingers.

Visual comparison of fresh and dried sage

FREEZER METHOD

For delicate herbs such as basil, parsley, coriander, mint, chives and tarragon, freezing the leaves whole or chopped in water & olive oil is the best way to preserve them. As the leaves have a high moisture content, they can mould easier if not dried properly before drying them, which is why freezing is a safer method for this category.

Placing chopped basil in ice trays to freeze

I like to freeze chopped herbs in small individual portions like in an ice cube tray. Once frozen I pop them out of the trays into a labelled snap lock bag and return them to the freezer.  They are easy to use and add when needed. The herbs do not look pretty as they thaw and will appear mushy, but the flavour is still there and will work wonders in many dishes like soups, casseroles, marinades, pasta & pizza sauce, etc.

Washing and spin drying fresh basil leaves

As an example, after washing and spin-drying fresh basil leaves, I chopped the basil finely with a few garlic cloves and then add them to the ice cube tray. To finish off, I poured water and a few drops of olive oil into each portion. I covered and froze them until solid, then removed them to package them in a snap lock bag. This method can be done for all the other herbs with or without garlic added.

frozen ice blocks of fresh chopped basil in a zip lock bag ready for the freezer

OTHER DRYING METHODS

You can dry herbs with a dehydrator, microwave or in the oven.

The dehydrator is convenient, as the temperature and air circulation can be easily controlled. At a temperature setting of no more than 45°C/115°F, the herbs should end up perfectly dry and brittle in 4 hours.

The microwave method is good for small quantities sandwiched between two sheets of kitchen paper and zapped for several minutes. Please check your microwave instructions for directions to dry herbs as settings vary with different models.

Drying the herbs in a very cool oven overnight between layers of kitchen paper will also give good results. I would only leave the oven light on of an electric oven to give off enough heat for this method.

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Homemade Gluten-Free Blends

Over time, I have posted several recipes that include homemade spice blends, many requiring dried herbs. Here are 10 useful blends that take minutes to whisk up and use in my gluten-free recipes.

AUSTRIAN RIB SPICE RUB

An assembled tomato bruschetta crostini next to a bowl of tomatoes

Caraway seeds and paprika give these baby-back ribs that typical Austrian seasoning. The spice is rubbed over the ribs which are cooked low and slow in the oven, finished off with a quick grill to crisp up.

BAHARAT SPICE

A close up of an assembled honey fig and goats cheese crostini

Baharat is a warm spice blend known as the Middle Eastern equivalent of India’s garam masala. It is used extensively as a dry rub in all meats and fish, as a vegetable topping or in curries and tajines.

DUKKAH SPICE 

A close up of an assemble roasted pepper and chilli halloumi crostini next to a bowl of roasted peppers

Dukkah is a dry roasted spice blend mainly made with almonds, sesame seeds and dried whole spices. This combination is crushed into a grainy mixture that is delicious and aromatic as a crumbed coating for chicken or fish; on crackers & bread or as a garnish.

EMPANADA SEASONING

A close up of an assemble tuna tapenade and lemon butterbean crostini

This authentic Argentine empanada seasoning is guaranteed to add a kick to your meat empanada filling.

FAJITA SEASONING

A close up of an assemble tuna tapenade and lemon butterbean crostini

Fajita seasoning is a handy and economical ingredient to have on standby to add to your favourite meat and makes an easy weekday meal.

Combined with some olive oil, followed by a short marinating time and a quick sear on a hot grill, dinner will be ready in no time.

FIVE-SPICE SEASONING

A close up of an assemble tuna tapenade and lemon butterbean crostini

Five-Spice is an important seasoning combination of star anise, black pepper, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cloves. Used extensively in Asian cooking, the spices give dishes that authentic aroma and taste as in Peking Duck or Chinese BBQ Ribs.

GOULASH SEASONING

A close up of an assemble tuna tapenade and lemon butterbean crostini

This goulash seasoning will make an authentic and hearty Viennese beef goulash using a combination of Austria’s favourite spice; caraway, plenty of garlic and marjoram.

KOFTA SPICE

A close up of an assemble tuna tapenade and lemon butterbean crostini

The recipe uses plenty of typical Middle Eastern dried spices, Aleppo chilli flakes and seasonings. Typically added to mince meat to make meatballs or bbq skewers.

PUMPKIN PIE SPICE

A close up of an assemble tuna tapenade and lemon butterbean crostini

This magical combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves and cardamom spices up a pumpkin pie for that traditional festive dessert.

RAS-EL-HANOUT SPICE

A close up of an assemble tuna tapenade and lemon butterbean crostini

Ras el Hanout is used extensively in tangines, rubs for grilled fish and meat, vegetables, couscous, meatballs (koftas) and soups, but if you fall in love with this blend, you’ll be adding it to scrambled eggs, omelettes, savoury fillings, rice, pizza, potatoes, etc, in no time!

Homemade Gluten-Free Spice Blends

by Sandra, Fun Without Gluten
Each of these ten spice blends has been extensively tested with many recipes posted on my Fun Without Gluten website.
Making your homemade blend will ensure it is gluten-free and packed with good quality flavour to season your chosen dish.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Basics, Condiment, Seasonings
Cuisine General
Servings 150 ml for each blend recipe

Equipment

  • Kitchen string
  • Trays for drying herbs flat
  • Ice cube container to freeze herbs in small portions
  • Salad spinner to dry fresh herb leaves (optional)

Ingredients
  

AUSTRIAN RIB SPICE RUB

  • 4 tbsp caraway seeds whole or ground
  • 4 tbsp sweet unsmoked paprika powder
  • 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp white pepper

BAHARAT SPICE

  • 2 tbsp black pepper, whole
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds, whole
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, whole
  • 2 tbsp unsmoked sweet paprika powder
  • 4 tsp cinnamon powder or whole cinnamon stick
  • 4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tsp whole cloves or ground cloves
  • 2 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt

DUKKAH SPICE

  • 40 g whole almonds, skins removed
  • 25 g sesame seeds
  • ½ tbsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch of fennel seeds
  • ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes

EMPANADA SEASONING

  • 3 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tbsp garlic powder
  • ½ tbsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • ½ tbsp black pepper

FAJITA SEASONING

  • 3 tbsp cornflour Known as cornflour in the UK and corn or maize starch in the USA
  • 2 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • ½ tbsp black pepper
  • tsp onion powder
  • tsp garlic powder
  • tsp cayenne pepper
  • tsp cumin powder

FIVE-SPICE SEASONING

  • 3 tbsp anise powder
  • tbsp black peppercorns
  • tbsp fennel seeds
  • tbsp cinnamon powder
  • tbsp whole cloves
  • tbsp sea salt or Himalayan salt

GOULASH SEASONING

  • 5 tbsp hot paprika powder (unsmoked)
  • 5 tbsp sweet paprika powder (unsmoked)
  • 4 tsp ground or whole caraway seeds
  • 4 tsp dried marjoram

KOFTA SPICE

PUMPKIN PIE SPICE

  • 8 tbsp cinnamon
  • tsp nutmeg powder
  • tsp allspice
  • tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom

RAS-EL-HANOUT SPICE

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 6 green cardamom pods, crushed slightly
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp tbsp turmeric, or
  • 6 strands saffron
  • 10 dried rose petals
  • 4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbsp mace powder
  • 1 tbsp nutmeg powder
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tsp galangal (optional)
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper powder

Instructions
 

AUSTRIAN RIB SPICE RUB

  • Mix all the rub ingredients together in a medium bowl. If using whole caraway seeds, grind them to a fine powder and add them to the rest of the spice rub ingredients. Keep them whole if you prefer and don’t mind the texture. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar.
    gluten-free austrian ribs with the seasoning rubbed on and ready to be cooked

BAHARAT SPICE

  • Fry the black peppercorns, cumin & coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves in a dry pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes or until the aroma is released and the seeds start to pop. Stir constantly.
  • Allow the spices to cool.
  • Grind the spices in a food processor or crush them slowly in a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar.

DUKKAH SPICE

  • Roast the almonds in a dry pan on medium heat until the almonds turn golden. Keep stirring them and don’t leave them unattended.
  • Remove the almonds to cool down on a plate.
  • Measure all the sesame seeds and spices in a small bowl and add them to the dry pan.
  • Dry roast the mixture, stirring continuously until they appear nicely roasted. Remove to the same plate as the almonds to cool down completely.
  • Once cooled, add the almonds, sesame seeds and spice mixture to a food processor. Pulse or gently process the mixture until it appears crumbly. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar.

EMPANADA SEASONING

  • In a medium bowl, mix all the dried herbs, spices and salt together using a whisk. Transfer the empanada seasoning to a sterilised glass jar.

FAJITA SEASONING

  • Mix all the ingredients listed together in a dry, medium bowl. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar.

FIVE-SPICE SEASONING

  • Grind all the listed ingredients in a food processor or coffee grinder until smooth and powdery. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar.

GOULASH SEASONING

  • Mix the goulash seasoning in a small bowl. If you like a smoother finish, use a food processor to grind it down more. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar.

KOFTA SPICE

  • Mix the kofta spice seasoning in a small bowl. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar.

PUMPKIN PIE SPICE

  • Combine all the spices in a small bowl. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar.

RAS-EL-HANOUT SPICE

  • Dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, cloves and cardamom pods in a wide pan stirring often until their aroma is released.
  • If using saffron strands, add them to the warm roasted spices. This will release the saffron gently into the spices.
  • Allow the spices to cool.
  • Remove and keep the seeds from the cardamom pods after roasting and discard the pods before grinding.
  • Transfer to a food processor or mortar and pestle. Add the remaining ingredients and blend or grind to a fine powder. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar.

Notes

  • Keeps for 3 months in a tightly sealed sterilised glass jar away from direct sunlight and heat
  • Unsuitable to freeze
Keyword gluten-free seasonings, gluten-free spice blends, homemade spice blends
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