How to match spice to vegetables: 6 perfect pairs

Which veggies make the best spice partners?

Spices and vegetables are a natural fit. But like most of the world’s best culinary pairings – tomato and mozzarella, salt and vinegar, avo and toast – there are some better suited than others. Here we’ve taken a look at a few of our favourites:

Turmeric

Bursting with bright colour, turmeric brings an exciting edge to mild, pale veggies like cauliflower – see what we mean with this pumpkin and cauliflower gobi, or pep up a crunchy relish like piccalilli.

Chilli

The heat from chilli powder (a combination of ground chillies, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and other seasonings) or chilli flakes work wonders with earthy asparagus. This pair needs no frills or fuss, just some crushed garlic, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs.

Top tip: bend the asparagus stalk till it snaps – this will leave you with the most tender part.

Paprika

Paprika has a spicy-sweet heat which is at its most wonderful with butternut squash. But different dishes call for different paprikas – dreaming of a sausage, tomato and herb casserole? Add smoked paprika. In the mood for a curry that’s all fire? Hot paprika will do the trick. The treat is its flavour works with pumpkin and sweet potatoes, too.

Cumin

Nutty spices are made for root vegetables. Take carrots, for instance. Roasting them draws out their natural sweetness, which means that by adding cumin you’ve achieved the perfect balancing act (yes, we’re looking at you, roasted carrots with cumin).

Cinnamon

Known for its ability to bridge both sweet and savoury dishes, it’s fitting that woody cinnamon matches with a veggie that meets the same criteria: aubergine. Think of aubergine as a sponge – it will soak up any flavour you give it and cinnamon is just about the best option around: meet chocolate and aubergine loaf with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

Star anise

With elements that remind some of liquorice, when star anise is added to slowly caramelising onions an umami flavour is born. Be careful though, it packs a punch and too much – half a star anise to one onion is enough – can completely overpower your dish. Place the onions atop hot dogs and burgers, or use them for sauces and braises to give the dish depth.

And if all this vegetable talk has got you in the mood for some experimenting, try out these 10 new ways to cook with veg.