What are the most expensive spices in the world?
Imagine how boring dinnertime would be without spices to, well, spice things up!
However, while your spice cabinet may have a solid assortment of many spices, some can cost a lot of money and only the wealthiest can afford to buy them.
These definitely aren’t spices to throw around willy-nilly, but they are some of the most luxurious.
The Most Expensive Spices in the World
The spices on this list may be delicious, but they’re also insanely expensive. While you can buy them for yourself, they are definitely going to cost a pretty penny for the privilege of being able to taste them.
Here’s our list of the 10 most expensive spices in the world:
10. Cloves – $133/Pound
Kicking off our list of the most expensive spices, we have a bold seasoning that people who love pumpkin spice are very familiar with.
Cloves have an incredibly unique flavor and they have been used in cuisine for centuries to flavor meat, fruits, and beverages.
This spice has medicinal purposes and has been used to help alleviate tooth pain, due to the numbing effect it can have as a natural anesthetic.
However, while cloves are often found blended with other spices, such as the popular pumpkin pie spice, on their own they can be extremely expensive.
The reason for this is that clove trees only produce 4 to 6 lbs each year, limiting the number of spices that can be harvested.
If that wasn’t tricky enough, cloves are also extremely sensitive to weather changes and have to be picked by hand.
All of these factors result in an expensive spice that can cost up to $133 for one pound.
The highest quality cloves are certainly different than what you’d find in your average pumpkin spice latte, and we’d definitely reserve them to mix with the most expensive coffees in the world.
9. Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves – $233/Pound
As one of the most expensive spices in the world native to South East Asia, this spice can be found in soups, stir-fries, curries, rice dishes, and other savory dishes where it provides an intense citrus fragrance.
Although this expensive spice can be found in specialty stores for purchase, it isn’t going to come cheap, often costing upwards of $233 per pound.
This is because the leaves need to be hand-picked, which is more labor-intensive than many other spices.
It also isn’t as widely cultivated in the US, only being grown in small quantities in Florida and California.
While you won’t need to have Rachel Ray’s net worth in order to afford this spice, it definitely isn’t something to run out and buy on a whim.
8. Black Cumin Seed – $250/Pound
Unlike the cumin you’re probably familiar with that has a brown appearance, black cumin has a smoky, more earthen taste that makes it popular in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Iran.
Sometimes called black caraway, despite being very different, black cumin gains its extreme price due to the limited quantity that can be harvested.
A single plant can only yield 11 to 17 lbs at a time, leading to this expensive spice often costing as much as $2 per 10 grams.
As one of the most expensive spices in the world, you definitely don’t want to purchase these seeds without knowing exactly how to use them, especially since this spice is even more costly than some of the most expensive foods in the world.
If you are determined to buy this spice for yourself, take care to ensure that you get Elwendia Persica, and now Nigella Sativa, which is often called black cumin despite being different.
7. Grains of Paradise – $250/Pound
Closely related to cardamom and sometimes called alligator pepper, grains of paradise have a black pepper flavor with a hint of citrus that makes them useful for adding extra depth to certain dishes.
Native to West Africa, which is sometimes called the Pepper Coast or Grain Coast because of this spice, these seeds have been used for many centuries on the continent for cuisine and folk medicine.
As a stimulant, similar to caffeine, grains of paradise can also provide an energy boost, which has made it popular as a workout supplement.
Oddly enough, there is even a 150-year-old statue in Florida that prohibits the growing or selling of alcohol with grains of paradise in it.
This outdated law was passed at a time when this spice was thought to be poisonous and capable of making people commit suicide.
Fortunately, we’ve learned a lot since then, and today, this expensive spice is often used as a replacement for peppercorns, but can also be found in some gins, craft beers, and the Norwegian spirit, Akavit.
However, if you want to get your hands on this spice for yourself, you’re going to need Guy Fieri’s net worth, because it definitely doesn’t come cheap.
6. Cardamom – $266/Pound
Originating in Sri Lanka and India, cardamom is commonly used in curries and garam masala, but in many countries, it has become popular to use in coffee.
In the past, cardamom enjoyed a lot of use as a flavoring, and there is even evidence of it among the archives in the House of Sphinxes in Mycenae, Greece, probably arriving there as part of a spice trade.
Today, the largest exporters of cardamom are India and Guatemala, though, like many other expensive spices on this list, only small quantities can be produced at a time.
Adding to that, the process has to be done entirely by hand in a very time-consuming and complicated process to ensure quality.
Needless to say, this labor-intensive harvest contributes to the steep price of this spice, as do the small quantities when compared to the demand.
You’re certainly much more likely to find this spice at one of the most expensive penthouses in the world, as opposed to your average Joe’s spice cabinet.
5. Long Pepper – $416/Pound
Often called Pippali, long pepper comes from a flowering plant and has a very distinct conical appearance that makes it look similar to a small, slim pinecone.
Popular in African, Indonesian, and Indian cuisine, this spice has a similar taste to black pepper but is hotter.
The oldest known record of this spice comes from ancient India, where it was used for cooking and medicinal purposes.
In the fifth or sixth century BCE, long pepper made its way to the ancient Greek world where Hippocrates spoke about it as a substance for medical treatments, touting its health benefits.
It wasn’t until the discovery of the chili pepper in the Americas that the use of the long pepper began to die out, and today it is extremely rare to find it in cuisines outside of Africa, India, and Indonesia.
That being said, this spice is delicious, even if you do need Gordon Ramsay’s net worth in order to buy a pound of it.
If you are looking to get your hands on this spice, an Indian grocery store or specialty market will be your best bet.
You’re certainly not going to find it at your local Wal-Mart!
4. Organic Fennel Pollen – $416/Pound
Although almost all of the most expensive spices are cultivated in small quantities, organic fennel pollen has an extremely low yield of only about one gram per plant and it needs to be collected by hand.
Technically, if you’re willing to grow your own fennel plants, you can harvest the pollen yourself by shaking the yellow flowers into a bag, though you’re not going to get a lot and you’ll need a lot of patience.
Commercially, most fennel pollen is cultivated in Tuscany, and it has a very unique taste that is somewhere between licorice, black pepper, saffron, and anise.
Aside from the pollen, fennel itself has long been used as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, where it was also made into insect repellants and medicine.
In the Middle East, it was, and still is, commonly used in cooking and baking.
If you want to add fennel pollen to your spice cabinet, your best bet is going to be growing the flowers yourself and taking the time to harvest them, provided you live in the appropriate climate.
Otherwise, you’re going to be looking at quite a steep price for one of the most expensive spices in the world.
3. Vanilla Bean – $566/Pound
Vanilla beans may seem common, but buying them by the pound definitely isn’t for those cooking on a budget.
The reason that this expensive spice has such a high price tag is due to the fact that a majority of the pods come from Madagascar.
While this usually wouldn’t be too much of a problem, the country is sometimes impacted by cyclones which affect crop production and make the beans harder to come by.
Vanilla vines can also take up to four years to mature and only bloom one day each year. If they are not pollinated on this day, they will not produce vanilla beans.
If that wasn’t enough, this spice also suffers from a lot of theft, which leads to farmers needing to pick the crop before it is ripe, lowering the quality.
Adding to the scarcity is the fact that a lot of consumers in the 1980s switched to using synthetic vanilla flavorings, which drove a lot of vanilla farmers to stop producing it due to a lessening in demand.
Real vanilla pods are packed with tiny seeds that add loads of rich flavor to desserts, but they aren’t nearly as affordable as many of us would like.
While artificial vanilla works in a pinch, once you’ve tasted the real deal, you’ll be driven to start saving up for your own stash.
2. Mahlab – $716/Pound
Taking our number two spot as one of the most expensive spices is Mahlab, an unusual spice made from the seeds of the St. Lucie cherry, which are typically ground before being used.
The flavor of this second most expensive spice is a mix between cherry and bitter almonds, similar to marzipan.
Often used to add a bit of sharpness to sweet confections and cakes, this spice has been used for many centuries in the Middle East and surrounding areas, especially in baking desserts.
As one of the most expensive spices, mahlab is harvested in a lengthy process that involves cracking open tough cherry pits to get at the soft seeds inside.
These seeds are then ground up for use in cooking.
However, if you buy the seeds and grind them yourself, they retain a lot more flavor and this is recommended if you want the best overall taste.
Although you’re likely to only encounter this second most expensive spice at some of the most expensive restaurants in the world, if you want to cook with it yourself, you’re going to need to fork over some serious dough.
1. Saffron – $2,336/Pound
Topping our list as the most expensive spice in the world by weight is saffron.
Derived from the saffron crocus flower, this vivid seasoning is the most expensive spice you can ever hope to cook with, and if you want to buy even an ounce, you’re going to be paying a good amount of money.
Saffron has a sweet aroma and it has been used for everything from medicine and cooking to perfume making and dyes.
The reason that saffron costs so much is due to the way that it is harvested.
Around 40 hours of labor are needed to pick 150,000 saffron crocus flowers, which equates to one kg or 70,000 flowers per pound.
A single flower will only yield 30mg of fresh saffron, which shrinks to 7mg when dried.
As you can see, a lot of labor-intensive work needs to go into even a couple of grams, let alone a single pound.
Making things more complicated is the fact that not all saffron is the same quality and the different types can vary between the countries they are grown in, which can make picking out the perfect spice all the more complicated if you’re unfamiliar with the varieties!
Basically, unless you’re one of the richest celebrity chefs in the world, you probably won’t be cooking with this most expensive spice any time soon.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the most expensive spices in the world!
Although we love cooking flavorful foods, we definitely wouldn’t want to take the risk of paying for these expensive spices only to end up ruining them with our lackluster skill.
We think we’ll leave these spices up to the experts.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 most expensive spices in the world:
- Saffron – $2,336/Pound
- Mahlab – $716/Pound
- Vanilla Bean – $566/Pound
- Organic Fennel Pollen – $416/Pound
- Long Pepper – $416/Pound
- Cardamom – $266/Pound
- Grains of Paradise – $250/Pound
- Black Cumin Seed – $250/Pound
- Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves – $233/Pound
- Cloves – $133/Pound