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What spices are best for broth?

Broth is a savory liquid made by simmering meat, vegetables, herbs, and spices in water. It forms the basis for many soups, stews, and sauces. The spices used in broth can significantly impact its flavor. Choosing the right spices is key to making a tasty and aromatic broth.

What are the most common spices used in broth?

Some of the most popular spices used in broth include:

  • Black peppercorns – Provides a touch of heat and woody spice.
  • Bay leaves – Imparts an earthy, slightly minty flavor.
  • Thyme – Offers grassy, floral notes.
  • Parsley – Brightens up the broth with fresh herbal flavor.
  • Oregano – Brings a pungent, aromatic taste.
  • Garlic – Gives broth a savory kick of flavor.
  • Onion – Provides sweetness and depth.
  • Rosemary – Adds a pine-like, woodsy flavor.
  • Celery seeds/leaves – Contribute an aromatic, vegetal quality.

These spices are commonly added in a cheesecloth bundle or tea infuser during simmering so they can be easily removed. This prevents the broth from becoming too strong or bitter.

Which spices pair well together in broth?

Here are some classic spice combinations that work synergistically in broth:

  • Bay leaf, thyme, parsley – This herbal trio balances nicely in broths.
  • Peppercorns, garlic, onion – The trio that forms the flavor base of many broths.
  • Rosemary, oregano, thyme – A robust blend of Mediterranean herbs.
  • Cardamom, cinnamon, clove – Warming spices that suit bone broth.
  • Ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime – Southeast Asian-inspired flavors.
  • Cumin, coriander, turmeric – Indian-style masala broth.

Blending spices can create more complex and layered flavors in broth. However, it’s best to stick to 3-5 spices at a time so no single flavor overwhelms the others.

Which herbs work well in vegetable broth?

Herbs with bright, fresh flavors are ideal for enhancing the light, clean taste of vegetable broths. Some excellent choices include:

  • Parsley – Adds grassy, vibrant notes.
  • Cilantro – Contributes a zesty, citrusy quality.
  • Basil – Provides sweetness and minty nuance.
  • Tarragon – Offers an anise-like, licorice flavor.
  • Chives – Imparts a subtle onion and garlic undertone.
  • Thyme – Brings an earthy element with floral hints.
  • Oregano – Gives a peppery, robust taste.
  • Rosemary – Adds woodsy pine notes.

For a well-rounded flavor, combine 2-3 of these herbs in a vegetable broth. Herbs like dill, chervil, sage and marjoram also work well.

What spices complement chicken broth?

Here are some excellent spices to use in homemade chicken broth:

  • Black peppercorns – Provides a mild heat and woody aroma.
  • Parsley – Brightens up the flavor with herbaceous notes.
  • Thyme – Offers an earthy, floral background taste.
  • Bay leaves – Adds a subtle menthol-like quality.
  • Paprika – Contributes a sweet, mildly spicy undertone.
  • Celery seeds – Provides an aromatic, vegetal flavor.
  • Fennel seeds – Gives a light anise-like licorice taste.
  • Garlic – Punches up the savory flavor.

For best results, add these spices conservatively in chicken broth. Amounts can be adjusted to preference, but too much spice can overwhelm the delicate chicken flavor.

What spices work well in beef broth?

The rich, meaty flavor of beef pairs nicely with these warming spices:

  • Black peppercorns – Adds a bit of heat and bite.
  • Cinnamon sticks – Provides subtle sweetness.
  • Cloves – Contributes a strong, slightly medicinal taste.
  • Star anise – Gives a licorice-like flavor.
  • Cardamom pods – Offers hints of eucalyptus and citrus.
  • Ginger – Brings spicy, gingery warmth.
  • Juniper berries – Provides an earthy, pine-like quality.
  • Paprika – Gives a sweet, smoky taste.

Use 1-2 of these spices for a flavor boost in beef broth. Juniper berries, cinnamon, star anise and cloves work especially well.

Which spices enhance the flavor of seafood broth?

Here are some spices that complement and bring out the briny taste of seafood broth:

  • Black peppercorns – Adds heat and balances fishy flavors.
  • Coriander seeds – Provides a citrusy, floral taste.
  • Fennel seeds – Contributes an anise-like licorice quality.
  • Celery seeds – Offers an aromatic, vegetal background.
  • Parsley – Brightens up the broth with herbaceous notes.
  • Bay leaves – Imparts an earthy, subtly minty flavor.
  • Saffron – Gives a floral, honey-like tone.
  • Old Bay Seasoning – Provides a savory blend of spices like celery seed, mustard, cloves, allspice, red pepper, bay leaf, nutmeg, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon and paprika.

Go easy on strong spices like cloves, nutmeg, mace and saffron as they can overpower the seafood quickly. Fennel, coriander, celery seed and bay leaf are safer options.

What herbs and spices suit vegetarian broth?

Here are some herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of vegetarian broth:

  • Parsley – Provides fresh, grassy notes.
  • Thyme – Offers an earthy, floral quality.
  • Oregano – Contributes a slightly peppery taste.
  • Bay leaves – Adds subtle woodsy undertones.
  • Rosemary – Gives a pine-like fragrance.
  • Basil – Brings sweetness and minty nuance.
  • Ginger – Imparts spicy warmth and gingery heat.
  • Turmeric – Provides an earthy aroma and golden hue.
  • Cumin seeds – Gives a nutty, peppery flavor.
  • Cardamom pods – Contributes hints of citrus and eucalyptus.

Herbs like parsley, bay, thyme and oregano work well with most vegetables. Spices like cumin, turmeric, paprika and coriander suit heartier roots and legumes in the broth.

Which broth spices should be used sparingly?

Some spices have very concentrated flavors and are best used conservatively in broth:

  • Cloves – Very pungent and strong. Use just 1-2 in broth.
  • Mace – Quite intense nutmeg-like taste. Use sparingly.
  • Nutmeg – Potent bittersweet flavor. Use just a pinch grated.
  • Cinnamon sticks – Imparts a pronounced sweetness. Use just 1 stick per broth.
  • Cardamom pods – Intense eucalyptus-like taste. 2-3 pods is plenty.
  • Star anise – Licorice flavor can easily dominate. Use just 1-2 pods.
  • Peppercorns – Adds quite a kick. Use modest amounts.
  • Chili flakes – Can make the broth very spicy. Use sparingly.

It’s easier to add more later than remove spice, so start with small amounts of potent spices. Their flavor will concentrate during broth simmering.

Which spices are best avoided in clear broths?

Spices that can cloud broth or add grit should typically be avoided in clear broths. These include:

  • Cumin seeds
  • Coriander seeds
  • Fennel seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Turmeric powder
  • Paprika
  • Curry powder
  • Dried chili flakes
  • Garam masala
  • Ras el hanout

Whole spices like peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods and star anise infuse flavor without muddying the broth. Herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, chervil and chives also work well.

Which broth spices can cause gastrointestinal issues?

Some people may experience indigestion, gas or stomach discomfort from certain spices added to broth, especially in large amounts. Problematic spices can include:

  • Black pepper – May irritate stomach lining.
  • Chili flakes / cayenne – Can aggravate gastritis.
  • Cinnamon – Contains volatile compounds like coumarin.
  • Cloves – Include eugenol which may cause discomfort.
  • Cumin – Contains cuminaldehyde which can cause gas.
  • Cardamom – May loosen stools as a diuretic.
  • Turmeric – Can act as a gastrointestinal stimulant.
  • Ginger – In large amounts may cause heartburn.

Those with sensitive stomachs may want to limit pungent spices like chili, pepper, clove and ginger and use them conservatively.


Broth can gain incredible complexity and vibrancy from the spices added to it. Classic aromatics like black pepper, bay leaves, parsley and garlic provide an excellent foundation. Herbs like thyme, oregano and rosemary offer herbal nuance. Indian, Southeast Asian and Mediterranean spice blends also work beautifully. However, potent spices like cloves, cinnamon and chili should be used judiciously. Tailoring the spices to the broth type and carefully balancing flavors is key to producing a tasty, well-rounded broth.