The World’s 4 Most Luxurious Spices

Attention to anyone who loves guilty pleasures, the best of class, a lifestyle punctuated with the occasional top shelf luxuries and lusciousness of knowing you have the best.

Here are 4 spices that are the Lamborghini’s, Dom Perignon, Prada, and 5 karat diamonds of the spice shelf; in other words, the world’s 4 most luxurious spices.

The best news? Even those of us with beer budgets can afford them…in small enough quantities.

This list was created purely out of assessing the most expensive spices available. Expense is directly linked to either scarcity or complexity to harvest. Don’t let the expensive taste of these spices scare you. A little goes a very long way…especially if you purchase it in whole form to maintain the flavor longer.

1. Saffron. Made from the dried, deeply colored, reddish-orange filaments from the saffron crocus flower (Crocus sativus). It takes up to 75,000 of these hand-picked filaments to produce one pound of saffron. Moreover, the filaments must be harvested must be between dawn and 10am, since the stigmas lose colour and aroma if left too long in the plant.

Price tag: Saffron can cost up to $2,000/lb. Fortunately, you can purchase it 1/2 or 1 gram increments from $7-$14.

2. Vanilla. Ah yes, the very fickle vanilla that inspires a passionate following. Why does it cost so much? The flowers are finicky. They have to be hand fertilized. They have to be picked at very specific times. And all that doesn’t matter a bit if you have the wrong terroir for your vanilla plantation. Vanilla extract is equally complex. If you want to avoid the vanilla villains and know exactly what’s in your extract, make your own…it’s easy.

Price tag: 4 oz. of single pure vanilla extract costs about $8.50 and $1.89 per bean.

3. Cardamom. Following the same trend as vanilla and saffron, cardamom is difficult to grow and must be hand picked. Each pod contains 10-15 small, dark, sticky seeds. You can purchase cardamom in the whole pod form (my preferred way), as whole seeds or powdered. If you’ve never used cardamom and need it for one specific recipe don’t be tempted to skip it. Buy your cardamom and go here for 20 other uses for cardamom.

Price tag: Cardamom prices vary depending on the form. For example, 4 oz. of whole green pods costs $12.99.  Ground up, 4 0z. costs $23.99. If you want the just the seeds in whole form expect to pay about $11-$12 for the same 4 oz. These quotes all came from The Spice House.

4. Cinnamon.  Let’s be clear. There is cinnamon and there is true cinnamon. Most of what we purchase off the grocery shelf is Chinese cinnamon, also known as cassia. It’s good. It has the warm spice we all love. True cinnamon is a different breed all together. It’s called Ceylon cinnamon and is lighter, sweeter and the bark is more papery.

Price tag: In quill form 4 oz. of Ceylon cinnamon runs about $5.75-$6.00. The same amount of cassia costs about $3.

These spices, in small quantities, make an excellent gift kit for a luxury lover. Nothing screams good taste louder than presenting one of the world’s most luxurious spices. Am I right? I’m sure a food lover or a holiday party hostess would be equally pleased to receive one of these goodies.

If there are any other spices you feel should be on this list please let me know.

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1 Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet } November 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm

All wonderful spices that make you feel like a million bucks! Great highlights! Happy Sunday!

2 Ilke November 28, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Never knew that I had been buying Chinese cinnamon!! Thanks for all the useful info!
It might not be considered spice, but Salep is an expensive flour that we make milk drinks in Turkey. Obtained by grinding some specific Orchid’s roots I believe. I have never been able to find real one. There are always artificially flavored drinks lately.

3 Spice Sherpa November 29, 2010 at 6:51 am

Lisa – I agree, nothing like a little dash of the best to make you feel indulged.
Ilke – That’s interesting about the root, I’m not surprised there is an artificial version especially if it’s cost-related. That’s why there is imitation vanilla. As for cinnamon, you may be able to get Ceylon at your store, just check the ingredient label.

After posting this I realized that there are 2 more items that may make this list: Grains of Paradise and ambergris (although whether that’s a spice is up for debate.) :-)

4 denise @ quickies on the dinner table November 29, 2010 at 9:22 am

I had no idea cinnamon was one of the most expensive spices in the world! I feel like a total spice lush now, the way I’ve been throwing it into and at everything LOL By your description, I’m pretty sure it’s true cinnamon I’ve been using, because I have actually seen “cassia” listed on some of the spice products I’ve bought here, and these are cheaper by comparison, though surprisingly, not by very much….

5 Spice Sherpa November 29, 2010 at 9:28 am

Denise—spice lushes unite! :-) True cinnamon is more expensive here in the States. Grains of Paradise actually cost a little more but it was the difference between Ceylon and cassia that put Ceylon on the list.

6 Jason Phelps November 29, 2010 at 9:24 pm

I love all of these and tend to have some of each around at any time. My ultimate cooking moment is to apply these expensive ingrediants to something that I enjoy eating so much more than the spices alone. I love this time of year!


7 Jillyann December 1, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I love this article. You are always such a wealth of information about spices. I just bought some fresh locally raised vanilla beans at the farmer’s market last saturday and am going to make my own vanilla extract.

8 Spice Sherpa December 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Jason, It’s great to have these on hand!
Jillyann, I love that you found locally grown vanilla beans. I go local whenever I possible. Even though spices are often imported they are dry weight and an efficient import. Plus, I believe that allowing yourself to use spices encourages more people to go local with food—expands the variety with the in-season foods so those who normally would not eat local might do so…more!

9 Sheikh Gulzaar February 3, 2013 at 9:32 am

It is said that in ancient and mediaeval times saffron was worth its weight of gold. Even in today’s time saffron remains much expensive and easily earns the tag of world’s most expensive spice. A gram of fine quality organic saffron may cost up to US$10 in international market.

Saffron is essentially the stigma of the Crocus flower, native to central Asia. The flowers are hand-picked and the stigma are separated carefully. Today, saffron is grown mainly in Spain, Italy, Greece, Pakistan and Iran. The best quality saffron comes from the Kashmir valley of India. Saffron is used as a flavoring and coloring agent in sweet and meat dishes. The high price of saffron has given rise to adulteration from time to time with substances such as inferior quality saffron, fibers of pomegranate, beet and silk and even the odorless stamens of the same saffron flower.

Sheikh Gulzaar
The Jammu and Kashmir medicinal Plants Introduction Centre
“Ginkgo House”, Nambalbal, New Coloney Azizabad, Via Wuyan-Meej Road, Pampore PPR J&K 192121
Ph: 01933-223705

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