DIY seasonings: Add a pinch to make dinner a cinch

Adam Liaw's beef nachos with DIY seasoning and coriander salsa.
Adam Liaw's beef nachos with DIY seasoning and coriander salsa. Photo: William Meppem

Chinese five-spice is easy to come by, as is Japanese seven-spice shichimi togarashi, and ain't nobody got time to make baharat, vadouvan or Moroccan ras el hanout and its more than 12 ingredients. But sometimes it's worth making simple seasonings from scratch.

Homemade spice blends are going to be better value than an impulse-bought jar from a gourmet grocer any day. Stored in the pantry, these DIY mixes (and recipe ideas) are an easy way to spice up dinnertime.

Adam Liaw's Mexican seasoning mix

Put down the yellow Old El Paso sachet and try this on nachos (pictured above) and taco fillings.

Karen Martini's garam masala.
Karen Martini's garam masala. Photo: Marina Oliphant
  • 1 tsp celery salt, or ordinary salt
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Adam Liaw's shichimi togarashi

​Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese spice mix. There are lots of variations, but here's how I make it.

  • 1 orange
  • ½ sheet nori
  • 1 tbsp green Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp red chilli powder (preferably Korean)
  1. Heat your oven to 100C. Peel the orange with a vegetable peeler, trying to get only the rind and not the white pith. Place the orange rind and nori on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and dry in the oven for 30 minutes, until the orange rind and nori are both dry and brittle. Crumble the dried nori into a small food processor and process to a coarse powder.
  2. Place the Sichuan peppercorns, white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds in a small saucepan and swirl constantly over medium heat for about 2 minutes until toasted and fragrant. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the peppercorns, seeds and orange peel to a coarse powder (you should still see some whole sesame seeds). Combine with the nori, ginger and chilli powder. Stored in an airtight container, this will keep for about two months. 

Karen Martini's garam masala

Bonus: it perfumes your house when you toast a batch. Use it in a hero rub for roast lamb shoulder or in countless Indian curries and dahls.

Adam Liaw's roast lamb shoulder shawarma.

Lamb shoulder shawarma to be stuffed inside pita pockets. Photo: William Meppem

Adam Liaw's shawarma mix

This mix makes double so save it for a second Sunday roast (pictured above).

DIY dukkah

Sprinkle on avocado toast, smoked fish omelette, pumpkin soup, salad, shortbread, chickpea and pumpkin casserole, tagines, this chicken one-pan wonder...

Kylie Kwong's Sichuan pepper and salt

Use to season Kwong's Chinese coleslaw, deep-fried duck and crab dumplings or Neil Perry's sticky pork spare ribs.

Pastrami spice rub

Massage into salmon fillets overnight for a peppery crust.