I developed this Thai Spice Blend because we love to grill ribs and chicken wings and we like to vary the flavors. Thai is one of my favorite cuisines where it balances hot, sweet, tangy and salty flavors so well. This isn’t a curry spice, but a tasty change from everything else you may have tried! It’s a little bit involved, there’s some prep work to get to the final product, but I think you’ll find that it’s worth it. It makes quite a lot, so it should last you a while. Double the recipe if you use it often.
I began this journey because I had two big Thai basil plants in my garden. With fall getting really close, I always get sad about losing my herbs with the first frost. So I decided to build a Thai herb blend to use some of it up! I dried the basil and zest in the oven.
I toasted cumin and anise seeds in a dry frying pan until fragrant and then ground them in a coffee grinder. Of course, if you have some already ground, you can just use that, but I think the smokiness of toasting the seeds yourself gives some depth to the blend.
Concurrently, I had a pretty large Italian basil plant, so I ran an experiment with both types of basil to see which one worked better. Come to find out, the Thai basil seemed to lose it’s flavor after drying, whereas the Italian basil kept it strong flavor. So I recommend Italian Basil for this recipe. So much for using the Thai Basil!
The flavor profile I had to really had to work on was the tanginess. I tried drying lemon and lime zest for the tangy factor, but it just didn’t have the kick I was looking for. I also tried dried lemon grass, but that didn’t do it for me either. I wanted it to be an “up front” flavor, so after some pondering, I decided to try Citric Acid. I know, it’s more like a chemical than a spice, but I had it in my pantry from making vegan cheese, so I tried it, and it gave me the “pop” I was looking for! Yay!
I tried to keep the ingredients simple with easy to find grocery store spices. There was one that I couldn’t resist using, which is Korean Gochugaru chile flakes. I love these flakes, I use them in my homemade Kimchee and my Korean Spice Blend which has become a kitchen staple for myself and many of my friends. My grocery store doesn’t carry this so I had to order Gochugaru on line. If you have access to an Asian or Korean market, I’m sure they’d carry it. It’s spicy enough, but not too spicy for those who don’t like a lot of heat. You can always substitute dry chili flakes, but don’t use as much since they are a whole lot spicier than the Korean chili.
I dried my herbs in the oven, I’ve given instructions on how I do it here. I don’t have a dehydrator, but if you have one, that is surely the way to go. Some of the newer ovens on the market have a dehydrator feature, how cool is that?
The other ingredient I used, and this is totally optional, is coconut milk powder. I found it in the baking section of my grocery store with the regular powdered milk, but you can order it on line too. Since a lot of Thai curries have coconut milk in them, I thought this would be a nice touch. If you are using this spice mostly as a dry rub, I think the coconut milk powder makes it stick to the meat better. But if you just want to use this as a spice ingredient in soups or sauces, you could definitely leave it out as most of those recipes would probably have coconut milk added anyway. Either way, the dry rub without the milk powder is delicious.
I’ve given a lot of options for this mix, so it is definitely a Spice it YOUR Way recipe!
Thai Spice Blend
This may seem like a lot of strong spices here, but remember, this is Thai and the flavors are meant to be robust!
- 1/4 cup Dried Thai or Italian Basil
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
- 1 tbsp Dry Ginger
- 2 tbsp Lime and/or Lemon Zest, Dried Substitute 1 tsp or more to taste of Citric Acid powder
- 1 tsp Ground coriander Substitute dried Cilantro, up to 2 tbsp if you like.
- 1 tbsp Gochugaru Chili Flakes depends on how spicy you want it, or sub red chili flakes
- 1 tsp White pepper
- 2 tsp Kosher Salt I use coarse salt, sea salt will work too.
- 1 1/2 tsp Cumin seed or use ground cumin
- 1 tsp Anise Seed optional, but it gives an Asian flair to the mix
- 2 tbsp Coconut Milk Powder optional
Toast your spices
heat a dry skillet over medium low heat. Add spices, cook and stir until they just start to smoke and become fragrant. Don't leave them, if you burn them, throw them out and start over in a clean skillet. Pour onto a plate to cool, then grind in a coffee grinder.
Mix your blend
Add all ingredients to a small bowl. Mix well and store in a glass jar away from direct light. If using coconut milk, the mixture may settle and get clumpy. Just stir before use.
Use as a dry rub on chicken wings, ribs, or mix into ground meat with finely chopped green onion and sweet or hot peppers for a delicious new burger!
To dry herbs and citrus zest: Spread out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Put in low oven, 200F for 1-3 hours, stirring occasionally until dried out. Alternately, if you have a nice warm sunny day, you can put it outside in the sun covered with a layer of cheese cloth (to keep the bugs off) and let it dry naturally. I've also left it overnight in a warm oven. Just heat the oven to 300F and add the herbs or zest. Shut off oven and let sit overnight. This is kind of a waiting process, if it's not dry, turn on oven to 200F and keep an eye on it until dry, stirring occasionally. For more information, see How to Dry Herbs for Winter.