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Hostel Kitchen Tips – Tip #9 – Travel Spice Kit

Featured image background credit: Kafkaesque

Tip #9

Travel Spice Kit

Once you’ve gotten all the basics under control, you might want to start carrying around a few of your favorite key spices to add flavor to your dishes.

Yes! this can be done, even while traveling light, without having your whole backpack smell like curry!!

tic tac, fail, spice rack, what not to do
Don’t do this please, unless you want orange underwear

This doesn’t look like such a bad idea, and it’s really cute and compact!!


Not only are Tic Tac boxes not air tight or water proof, which is not good for your spices, but they easily open and crack, which is not good for your clothing.

You’ll notice even on the picture above the cayenne pepper has started to come up between the casing and the cap. Even worst, the turmeric. You will NEVER get turmeric yellow out of your clothing. Never.

No this is cute and all, but if you want a compact travel spice rack use pill containers for your favorite spices.

Your Real Options

Pill containers are meant to keep your pills safe from the elements (and organized) so they’re safer.

You could pick up a really cheap one from any drug store, but you’d be left with the same issue, something that’s a little too easily opened, unless placed inside another container.

pill box for spices

But with a little search on amazon you should be able to find all kinds of pill boxes that will do the trick. Here are a few:

pill box spice rack
round screwables might do the trick

These circular screwables might do the trick.

They’ll definitely stay shut, and they’re pretty compact.

However,  if you need to use more than one at a time, of if your hands are wet, they might turn out to be a bit of a pain in the butt.

 For a super essential kit, if you can narrow down your spices to just four, you can try this leather zip.

Your spices definitely won’t spill you with this but…

travel spice kit pill box

… if you need a bit more diversity, try it’s 7-vial variation.

This pill box allows you 24 spices and takes up the space of a picture frame, for the culinary nazis who must have their whole array. Might be a little too serious for me.

pill box spice rack

Anyway, do your own research and see what fits with your packing style, just please don’t waste your money on this super expensive swiss contraption

high tech spice rack

The essentials

To me it’s important to carry at least sea salt around. Mined salt is easy to find everywhere, but not very good for you.

After that, if I had to narrow it down to three more, I’d bring:

  • a cinnamon/nutmeg/vanilla mix
  • a “herbes de provence” mix (rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc..)
  • fennel seeds and/or cumin seeds

The cinnamon mix is not only good for sweets, but is great to add a splash of home to other dishes. A bit mixed into a squash dish… mmm.. or in your fried plantains. YUM.
The “herbes de provence” is essential for anything italian based… your pasta sauces etc…
Cumin is great to pep up your meats or eggs, and fennel seeds make garlic “plump” and mouth watering.

Beyond that I’d use locally sourced fresh herbs, such as parsley or coriander, garlic, mint, etc… whatever’s around. Ground black pepper is never hard to find.

Just like traveling with and empty suitcase, I’d bring a couple empty vials to fill with local spices I’ve just discovered and fallen in love with.

Of course, these are travel size, so you’ll need to refill.

Free Refill!

When you get to a hostel with spices, see if it’s alright to claim a bit, if even for a couple coins.

Otherwise, you’ll have to buy more than you can carry, which is fine, if you’re well organized. When you see you’re running low, start asking your fellow kitchen mates. See if you can split the costs of full bottles between you, each take half, or a third.

If you’re really in a pinch, you’ll have to buy a full bottle yourself and just donate what’s leftover to the hostel. Karma is still on your side my friend.

Is that drugs?

Yeah, you need to check with your airlines before you fly, and if you’re ever searched at another border, it might be difficult to explain to the border guards.

Maybe come prepared with something explaining in the appropriate language what you’re carrying.
If border crossings make you nervous, you might want to dump your spices beforehand, altogether avoiding the problem, and worry about getting more on the other side.
Just leave them at the last hostel before the border.

Do you have travel spice kit horror stories? Or tips I’ve forgotten?

If you missed any, check them out right here:

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