Nourishing Literacy | The Rainbow Pantry: Spice Blends!

By Shayna M. RSS Wed, August 11, 2021

The Nourishing Literacy team and friends have created color-coded spice blends for our Rainbow Pantry. What colorful spices do you enjoy using?

Black Spice Blend

Toni created a black spice blend that she recommends using to create flavorful crackers from scratch. This spice blend would also work well added to a crust for fish or chicken. Toni toasted the mustard seed, black pepper, and onion seed over a low temperature until fragrant. She used a blender to combine the toasted spices with the black garlic. After blending, Toni incorporated the black salt last, by hand. A mortar and pestle could also be used to blend the ingredients together.


  • 1 Tablespoon black or brown mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black onion seed
  • 2 cloves of black garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Hawaiian black salt

Brown Pumpkin Pie Spice
Caity is the Supervisor of the Culinary Literacy Center, and she created a brown pumpkin pie spice. Caity loves this flavor and suggests trying it in recipes during other seasons beyond fall! She recommends using it in your oatmeal, pancakes, and smoothies! 


  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

Green Deconstructed Pesto
Becky is the Head of the Parkway Central Library Children’s Department and Field Teen Center. Becky likes to make a green deconstructed pesto for a fresh green herb blend. To make her meal extra green, Becky likes to eat her pesto with green spinach pasta, and sometimes she puts even more greens on top! This is a flexible recipe, you decide what amounts to use based on what you have available, and your preferences. No blender is needed! Chopped ingredients can be stirred together in a mixing bowl instead of a blender. For suggestions on amounts for this recipe, or other recipe questions, please reach out t us at kitchen @!


  • Fresh basil 
    Or any other type of herb or green you like! Some of Becky’s favorite options include kale, spinach, or carrot greens.
  • Pine nuts
    Or any other nut or seed you like! Becky recommends mixing and matching and really enjoys using shelled hemp seeds or raw cashews.
  • Olive oil
    Becky likes to use pumpkin seed oil sometimes for even more green!
  • 3 to 5 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
  • Salt to taste

Orange Spice Blend
Chrissy’s orange spice blend is made using a mortar and pestle. First, she grinds the saffron strands down, and then she integrates all remaining spices.


  • 3 to 4 strands of saffron
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

This is Chrissy’s recipe for Spiced Couscous, using her orange spice!

  • 1 cup dry couscous
  • 1½ cup boiling hot water or broth
  • Handful of golden raisins
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoon(s) orange spice blend
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves, ground
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  1. In a heatproof bowl add dry couscous, raisins, orange spice blend, and other spices. Mix well. 
  2. Pour hot water or broth over the mixture and combine. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Once couscous is rehydrated, fluff with a fork. Spread couscous out evenly on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. 
  5. Remove and place the baking sheet on a heat-proof surface and drizzle olive oil on the steaming couscous. Mix and fluff with a fork.
    Note: If you would like to mix it the traditional way, let it cool for a few minutes before mixing with your hands by rubbing the grains of couscous between your palms to coat each grain with oil. This process changes the texture and improves the flavor of the finished dish.
  6. Put your finished couscous in a serving dish and enjoy with stewed meat or veggies.

Red Spice Blend
Shayna’s red spice has spicy, savory, and sour flavors. She sprinkled hers over roasted tomatoes for an extra red snack. Try adding it to vegetables, meat, or pasta, either during the cooking process or after for sprinkling.


  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

White Spice Blend
Erik likes to shake his white spice blend in a tightly sealed container to mix everything well.


  • 2 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1¾ teaspoons onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

Erik uses this spice blend to make aioli from scratch. This batch serves two people, with about 2 Tablespoons per serving. You can add more or less of the spice mix if you like. Condiments such as tahini, mustard, or vegan mayonnaise can be substituted for the mayonnaise.

Aioli Ingredients

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 teaspoon white spice mix
  • ½ teaspoon water
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, white spice mix, and water until combined. 
  2. Transfer into a clean container and keep covered. 
  3. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

Yellow Spice Mix
Kait uses her yellow spice mix to season a chicken or chickpea salad. To do this she mixes her spice blend with some mayo, salt, and pepper to add in with the salad. Kait stirs her spice blend in a bowl to mix the dry spices together, using the back of the spoon to break up any clumps.


  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder (Kait likes to use Jamaican curry powder for this recipe)
  • 1 Tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • ½ teaspoon dried celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

What would you want to prepare with one or some of these spice blends? Please let us know in the comments below if you have a favorite spice recipe that you would like to share!

Nourishing Literacy offers food, literacy, wellness, and life skills activities and events to community members, with our core audience being children, youth, teachers, and caregivers. Nourishing Literacy is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Edna G. Kynett Memorial Foundation.

To learn more about the Culinary Literacy Center, please visit our website or connect with us through Instagram and Facebook.

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