Russian Language Blog

Examining a Russian spice rack. Part I Posted by on Aug 18, 2020 in Culture, language, Russian for beginners, Russian life, Vocabulary

There are a number of припра́в, пря́ностей, и спе́ций (spices) that are considered standard in any Russian household, whether you are многоде́тная семья́ (a family with lots of kids) or зако́нченный холостя́к (a long-time bachelor). This blog will focus on spices commonly used for savory dishes, while Part II will cover spices used for baking.


Image by Дарья Яковлева from Pixabay

First and foremost, let’s differentiate among the three words often used interchangeably in the context of edible things that add flavor to dishes:

Пря́ности (spices or herbs) usually mean fresh or dried plants that can be added целико́м (whole) or нашинко́ванными (chopped).
Спе́ции (spices) refer to the most basic flavor additives such as salt, baking soda, sugar, vinegar.
Припра́вы (seasoning or dressing or spice) is the general term for flavorings usually in reference to making марина́ды (marinades) and запра́вки (dressings).

Packaged spices are usually measured in гра́ммах (grams). Depending on the spice or herb, the following ways of measurement are utilized:

ча́йная ло́жка (teaspoon) and столо́вая ло́жка (tablespoon or soup spoon)
щепо́тка соли (a pinch of salt)

Though ча́йная ло́жка (teaspoon) and столо́вая ло́жка (tablespoon or soup spoon) roughly mean the America teaspoon and tablespoon, I recommend using a conversion chart online for any precise measurements.

When wanting to add just a wee bit of salt or another spice to a dish, use the phrase доба́вить щепо́тку чего́-либо (to add a pinch of something).


Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

Here is the list of spices and herbs commonly found on any Russian spice rack along with phrases used to alongside:

Крахма́л (potato starch)

У́ксус (vinegar)

Пе́рец чи́ли (chili pepper)

Лавровый лист (bay leaf)

Па́прика (paprika)

Горчи́ца (суха́я) и хрен (dry mustard and horseradish)

Лук и чесно́к (onion and garlic)

Базили́к (basil)

Укро́п (fennel or dill weed) и петру́шка (parsley)

пучо́к укро́па и́ли петру́шки (a bunch of fennel or parsley)

нашинкова́ть (to chop)

нашинко́ванная зе́лень (chopped greens)

Смесь «Пять пе́рцев» (a spice mix “Five Peppers”) deserves special praise for it’s a classic among the Russian spice rack veterans. According to the package I have in the spice rack at my house, this spice mix includes: пе́рец чёрный горо́шек (ground pepper corns), пе́рец бе́лый горо́шек (white peppercorns), пе́рец зелёный горо́шек (green peppercorns), пе́рец ро́зовый горо́шек (pink peppercorns), and пе́рец души́стый горо́шек (allspice).

Припра́ва «Хме́ли-Суне́ли» is a type of seasoning that combines herbs and spices that go well with soups, dressings, and vegetable dishes. The most basic mix includes herbs mentioned in this blog: зе́лень укро́па и петру́шки, базили́к, па́прика, кориа́ндр, лавро́вый лист, курку́ма, соль йоди́рованная.

spice mix

Image by monicore from Pixabay

The final four are relatively recent additions to the Russian kitchens mostly influenced by recipes from other cuisines.

Курку́ма (turmeric)

Ку́мин или зира (cumin)

Имби́рь (ginger)

Кориа́ндр (coriander) comes from кинза (cilantro)

To spice things up a bit, (sorry, just couldn’t resist the temptation), here are a few fun riddles about some of the aforementioned spices about from «Большая Кни́га Зага́док» (A Big Book of Riddles) by Uzorova and Nefedorova. According to the family photo archives, I enjoyed that book as a kid.


Image by author

~ В воде́ роди́тся, а воды бои́тся ~

Answer: соль (salt)


~Бе́лый, то́щий корнепло́д

Под землёй в са́ду растёт.

Все, от взро́слых до ребя́т,

С холодцо́м его́ едя́т. ~

Answer: хрен (horseradish)


~Ни́тки несучёные,

То́нкие, зелёные.

Щи́плют понемно́жку

И кладу́т в окро́шку~

Answer: укро́п (fennel or dill weed)

Tags: , , , , , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Walda Gagnon:

    I just wandered into your blog, there appears to be lots of useful information. Unfortunately I am not a student of Russian & was looking for some words out of curiosity. I know nothing of the Cyrillic alphabet so I have zero possibility of bring able to pronounce the examples of Russian words that you allude to on the blog. So I will go elsewhere in my hunt, just a gentle suggestion that you might consider phonetic pronunciations of the Russian words so more people could use your site. However I realize it is your site and you can do as you prefer. Have a nice day !