List of French Spices

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The culinary expertise of the French is undisputed. French chefs have introduced the world to such delicacies as escargot, chateaubriand and mousse. Contemporary French cuisine began its evolution in the 1600s under the reign of Louis XIV; whereas medieval French food was heavily seasoned, the preferred style in the 21st century is to emphasize the natural flavor of meats, fruits, vegetables and sweets by using spices and herbs very sparingly.

French food
French food (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Poultry Spices

Salt and pepper are the primary spices in the vast majority of French cooking. Chicken dishes are prepared most often with mustard, paprika, garlic, ginger, thyme, basil, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper. Mustard also rates high in turkey dishes, along with garlic and parsley. Cumin is an important seasoning for orange duck.

Salt and pepper
Salt and pepper (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Red-Meat Spices

Beef French-style invariably is seasoned with bouquet garni, which is a bundle of herbs including bay leaf, parsley and thyme; other popular spices are garlic, rosemary, ginger, saffron and mustard. Lamb is often prepared with cumin, cayenne, tarragon, mint, thyme, bay leaf, basil, tarragon, parsley, ginger, coriander and cloves. Roast pork recipes include laurel and nutmeg.

Herbs are good red-meat spices.
Herbs are good red-meat spices. (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Seafood Spices

Fish dishes are typically prepared with paprika, saffron and ginger. Scallops, a favorite seafood, are cooked with basil, thyme, white pepper and garlic. Herbs de provence are spice mixtures in two varieties often used in cooking seafood: either thyme, marjoram, rosemary and savory, or tarragon, chervil, fennel and lavender.

Ginger is a seafood spice.
Ginger is a seafood spice. (Image: Blue Jean Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Vegetable Spices

Zucchinis and other squash in French cooking are often seasoned with combinations of clove, thyme, basil, garlic, nutmeg, parsley and chives. Thyme and bay leaf are favored for potatoes, and many tomato-based dishes rely on garlic, parsley, brewer’s yeast, oregano, thyme and basil.

Thyme is a popular vegetable spice.
Thyme is a popular vegetable spice. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Spices for Fruit

Various fruits are used for sauces and deserts. Favored spices include mint and vanilla. Apples are often flavored with cinnamon, and bananas are cooked with ginger and rum extract.

Cinnamon is a good fruit spice.
Cinnamon is a good fruit spice. (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Dessert Spices

From chocolate cakes to fruit crumbles, French desserts are flavored with many spices. These include: vanilla, almond extract, lemon and orange zest, nutmeg, cardamom, salt--and, surprisingly, pepper.

Lemon juice is a good dessert seasoning.
Lemon juice is a good dessert seasoning. (Image: Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

French Canadian Spices

French Canadian cooking is rooted in French cuisine, but French Canadian cooks have included some additional spices to round out their recipes. Allspice has been added, as well as onion powder and sage.

Allspice is a French Canadian spice.
Allspice is a French Canadian spice. (Image: Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

French Colonial Spices

France's two periods of colonization infused many places with French culture. It is fair to say that the cuisine of France and its colonies blended to a certain degree, and the spices of these countries have also influenced contemporary French cuisine. These areas include the Caribbean, parts of India, many areas of Africa, the Louisiana Territory in America, Indochina and island nations worldwide.

French Colonial spices
French Colonial spices (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

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