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Ten of most expensive spices in the world

Shawn Gavin febrero 15, 2023

Ten of the most valuable spices in the world explained

Highly sought after by chefs and gourmands alike, spices have always played a role in cooking, flavor, and even medicinal purposes. No matter their origin, once spices were discovered by travelers and explorers, applications and trade flourished. Spices have played an important role in human history—building empires, starting wars, and even being used in rituals and other religious practices.

Primarily grown in some of the world's most exotic locations, the top ten most expensive spices can now be found in home spice collections or professional kitchens around the world. While most people tend to use spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg to flavor food or beverages, many are also commonly used for their healing and medicinal properties.

Check out the list below and don't be surprised if you find a new use for your own favorite spice below.

The top ten world's most expensive spices:

1. Saffron

Saffron is derived from the stigmas of the crocus flower and is known for its intense, earthy flavor. It is also the most expensive spice in the world, with a pound of saffron costing thousands of dollars. Saffron is mainly grown in Iran, Afghanistan, Italy, and Spain. Want to learn more about saffron? Learn how to dye with saffron, how it is used in natural medicine, and find a long list of recipes here. 

2. Vanilla

This spice is derived from the seed pods of a tropical orchid and is known for its sweet, rich flavor. Vanilla is mainly grown in Madagascar, Uganda, Comoros, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, Indonesia and Mexico. Now vanilla can be found in many other regions of the world, but the countries highlighted above continue to be leaders in quality and consistency.  Check out our vanillas here.

3. Green Cardamom

This spice is derived from the seeds of a tropical plant related to the ginger family and is known for its unique and complex flavor that combines both sweet and savory notes. Cardamom is mainly grown in Guatemala, India and even Sri Lanka. Green cardamom is commonly referred to as the Queen of spices and we highly recommend using this culinary queen in a Cardamom Chocolate Mousse

4. Nutmeg

Nutmeg isn't a nut at all but the seed of a tropical tree and is known for its warm, nutty flavor. Nutmeg is mainly grown in the Banda Islands of Indonesia but is also found in Grenada, Sri Lanka, and other Caribbean islands. Nutmeg is a frequent addition to baked goods but is also a fantastic addition to savory cream sauces and spice rubs. 

5. Black Pepper

Peppercorns are derived from the dried berries of a tropical vine and is known for their sharp, pungent flavor. Black pepper is mainly grown in India, Brazil and Vietnam. Black pepper is referred to as the "king of spices" because at one time, it was exclusively used by the rich due to its high price point in the past.

6. Cloves

Cloves are sourced from the dried flower buds of a tropical tree and are known for the warm, sweet flavor they supply. Whole cloves are mainly grown in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Comoros. They are commonly found in beverages, baked goods, and natural medicine, but we love them in this savory chickpea and kale madras

7. Turmeric

This spice is derived from the root of a tropical plant and is known for its bright yellow color and unique, earthy flavor. Turmeric is mainly grown in India, China and Sri Lanka. Turmeric is often used to color vegan dishes, making them appear "cheesy". 

8. Star Anise

Star anise is the star-shaped fruit of an evergreen tree and is known for its licorice-like flavor. Star Anise is mainly grown in Vietnam and China. It is often found as an ingredient in braises and stews. 

9. White truffle

While not exactly a spice, these rare and expensive Tubers are known for their strong and earthy flavors. We've included it in this list because like spices, it is not typically a main ingredient in a dish, but rather a flavoring agent.

White truffles are mainly found in the forest of Piedmont, Italy, and Alba, Italy but also found in Serbia, Bulgaria, and even parts of Turkey. White truffles, by far and wide, are the world's most expensive ingredient—shaved over high-end meats, pastas, and risottos at some of the most renowned restaurants in the world.

Oddly enough, they were once seen as a food of the middle class but became a luxury ingredient after the Industrial Revolution and the first World War, when worldwide truffle production fell by 97-99% to 20-50 tonnes annually.  

10. Sumac

Sumac is derived from the dried berries of a Middle Eastern shrub and is known for its tangy, lemony flavor. Sumac can be used to impart acidity into a dish without adding any additional liquid. Unlike most acidic additions, it lacks any sort of bitter aftertaste. Sumac is mainly grown in the Mediterranean region.

Final thoughts on this list of ten most expensive spices in the world.

Crossing borders, bringing people together and helping build communities, spices have always been used in many different ways. Adding flavor to food, curing illnesses, or make some kick-ass perfumes, humanity has always loved to keep it spicy. Chefs used them to create delicious and unique dishes, while healers used them to treat a wide range of ailments. And while these spices were rare and valuable, they were also treasured for their ability to enhance the taste of life itself with their unique flavor that has help make all of our lives more tasteful.