Spice Usage Ideas and Tips

Foodservice kitchens in particular often need to scale-up small-sized recipes to large quantity feeding proportions. Most ingredients can be increased in direct relation to the total recipe increase. However, spices need some special attention. The flavors of certain spices intensify as the build-up increases. While there is really no substitute for testing the quantity batch, here are some rules of thumb that can serve as a starting point.

The Tropical Spices

The tropical spices, such as black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves (but not nutmeg and mace), can usually be increased proportionally (i.e. double the recipe, double the spice). But this must be done very accurately, measuring by weight, not volume (to convert from volume to weight, see the Spice Equivalent Chart). This also applies to such blends as curry and chili powders, apple and pumpkin pie spices, but not Italian seasoning. For nutmeg, mace and Italian seasoning, use the following herb formula.

The Herbs

The herbs are best handled by the following formula: For the first 100% increase in portions, the herbs can also be doubled. After that, for each multiple of the original recipe, add only half of the original amount of herbs.

Example: Consider a recipe for 10 people, calling for 1 tablespoon of basil, scaled up to 100 portions. Doubled to 20 portions = 2 tablespoons. The remaining 80 portions = 8 x ½ = 4 more tablespoons of basil. So, the total basil required would be 2 + 4 = 6 tablespoons.

Hot Red Peppers

Hot red pepper (typically 1,000 to 2,000 ASTA Heat Units in foodservice packs) builds up even more quickly than the herbs. For the first doubling, the red pepper can still be doubled. But, after that, use only ¼ of the original amount for each multiple or the original recipe.

Example: For a recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon of red pepper for 10 servings, you would need only 4 teaspoons for a batch that makes 100 servings.