These Are The Best Spices To Add To Rice

Rice is a staple food in many households and for good reason. It's filling, easy to cook, and inexpensive. But it's not always exciting. Plain rice is like jeans and a white T-shirt with no accessories – functional but boring. How about a belt? Or a dangly earring? Luckily, adding a little oomph and flair to your rice is as simple as opening your spice cabinet. Spices not only add delicious nuance to your food, but they're good for you, too.

Using spices to add flavor, rather than relying on salt and sugar all the time, is better for your heart and your waistline (via Community Servings). Some spices, like clove and cinnamon, are also known to be powerful antioxidants that help guard your cells against free radicals. If you're unsure of where to begin, or if your spice rack is a little overwhelming, we're sharing some helpful tips from Spiceography on the best spices to add to rice.

Use these familiar spices to add new flavor to your rice

There are a few things in your spice cabinet you've probably used a hundred times but never thought to add to rice. Let's start with bay leaf. Spiceography says the woodsy, savory flavor of bay leaves makes them an excellent seasoning for rice, especially when you're pairing it with Indian cuisine. Or try garlic powder. Seasoning rice with garlic powder creates a savory, all-purpose dish that can be paired with a wide variety of foods. Garlic powder also delivers a delightful umami note, according to Bon Appetit.

If you want something a bit more unique, try cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, or a combination of the three. Together, earthy cumin, floral cardamom, and warm cinnamon can infuse your rice with traditional Indian character. To take things up a notch, Spiceography suggests frying the spices in oil first. This process releases fat-soluble flavor compounds in the spices, and the oil helps evenly distribute all that tastiness throughout your dish (via Raw Spice Bar). You're already well on your way to a better bowl of rice but there are two more spices that can help make it extra special.

Try adding saffron or five-spice to your rice for something special

Although saffron is expensive, there's a strong case for giving it a whirl. Saffron rice is recognizable by its signature bright yellow color which is step number one to achieving delicious satisfaction.  An article in Physiology & Behavior explains that visual stimuli, like color in food, are capable of altering our perception of taste, smell, and flavor. So basically, rice has a better chance of tasting great if you think it looks pretty, to begin with. Saffron gives a saturated, sunny yellow color to whatever it's added to and the flavor comes across as floral or honey-tasting (via The Kitchn). Just a few threads added to your pot of rice are enough to add seasoning and a pop of enticing color.

Last, we'll call on the aromatic magic of five-spice. Five-spice powder usually consists of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds. It's a real palate-pleaser because it hits on all five taste sensations – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (via The Spruce Eats). Add a pinch of this all-in-one spice blend to give your rice tasty complexity and an Asian edge. In all, accessorizing your rice and creating something exciting is just a spice shaker or two away.