The Best Whole Spices to Grind Yourself

Freshly Ground Spices vs. Pre-Ground Spices

Whole spices (and freshly ground spices) have a much more robust flavor than pre-ground spices. Grinding your own spices fresh is one of the best ways to improve the taste of your meals.

If you’ve never tried freshly ground spices, you can read all about why grinding your own spices tastes better than using the pre-ground spices found in your cupboard.

Grinding your own spices can dramatically improve the flavor of your food, but for most people, grinding all of your spices fresh is impractical. No matter which spice grinding tool you’re using, grinding your own spices means more time spent in the kitchen.

If you want to save time while still boosting the flavor of your meals, you should only grind the most important spices fresh. Some freshly ground spices taste similar to their pre-ground counterparts, but others are like night and day.

If you want to maximize flavor and avoid a bland taste, always grind the following whole spices fresh.

Best Spices to Grind Yourself


If you’ve only used pre-ground cumin, you haven’t experienced the true flavor of cumin. Before I discovered whole cumin seeds, I was convinced I didn’t like cumin as a spice. Now, I can’t get enough of it.

Cumin has a deep earthy flavor and is used in a wide variety of cuisines, but it is most often found in Mexican, Latin American, or Indian dishes. Using freshly ground cumin will completely improve the flavor of whatever you’re cooking. You can buy whole cumin seeds at most grocery stores, but I buy this one from Amazon because I use it so often.


Cardamon (all spelled Cardamom) is another popular spice that is used in many different cuisines. It is used in both cooking and baking, and it is most often used in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. It is one of the components of the popular Indian spice Garam Masala. So if you plan on making a curry with this spice, try to use freshly ground cardamon along with other spices on this list!

Black Pepper

Arguably the most popular spice on this list, black pepper should always be freshly ground for maximum flavor. Not only are black peppercorns very inexpensive, but you can get a filled black peppercorn grinder at most grocery stores for very cheap (like this one from Amazon that is under $2!).

If you use pre-ground black pepper, you might find yourself putting a lot more pepper on your food to try and make the flavor come through. But with just a few cranks of fresh black pepper, you’ll add a touch of woody heat to your whole plate.


Coriander seeds are the dried fruits of a cilantro plant, but they do not taste like cilantro. Their warm, nutty, and lightly citrusy flavors are found in many cuisines including Indian, African, Middle Eastern, Spanish, and Mexican dishes.

You can usually find both pre-ground coriander seeds and whole coriander seeds at the grocery store, but you should definitely go with the whole seeds and grind them fresh for the most robust flavor.


Last, but definitely not least, is nutmeg. This unique spice can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Like cardamon, it is also one of the spices in Garam Masala which can be used to make a savory curry. But it is also one of the components of pumpkin pie spice!

Even though pre-ground nutmeg is fragrant and tasty, grinding your own nutmeg will pack a bigger punch and enhance the flavor of both your sweet and savory meals. Nutmeg should be ground with a Microplane instead of the other spice grinding tools (spice grinders and mortar and pestles).

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