DIY Spice Mix!

spice in spoons

Did you know there are 5 main categories of flavors? These are Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Sour, and Umami. Some scientists also argue that there are more: fat, spicy, and astringent, for instance. For each of these flavors, a different set of taste buds on your tongue sends messages to your brain that say what kind of flavors are present in the food. Food gets really fun when you have multiple kinds of flavors that play with your taste buds! 

That’s why making your own spice mix makes for such a grand experiment…Can you fool your tongue??

Some spice mixtures are mainly one category, while others work together to combine flavors. Think of those popcorn tins you get at Christmas time – Usually one is mostly salty, one is both sweet and salty, and another is cheesy umami. When deciding what spices to use, it is best to use your sense of smell. Also, remember that often a spice that is delicious on your favorite food does not taste very good by itself.

We’re going to test out each of these one at a time and decide if it would be a sweet, spicy, or savory kind of flavor. Use your senses to determine what flavors work best together and create a balance of flavors for your buds!


Project Time:
45 Minutes

Get Skills!

What you need...

Safety Thoughts

Be careful taking anything out of the oven; use oven mitts! Don’t taste a mixture unless it is completely cool. 

DIY Spice Mixes

What’s your favorite crunchy snack? Did you know you could customize that snack with your favorite flavors? When you know how to cook, you are in the driver’s seat: It’s your call! When you make your own spice mix, you can experiment with it on popcorn, nuts, pumpkin seeds, roasted veggies

…and maybe even chicken or tofu one day! But for now, let’s stick to something crunchy.


The easiest application for this activity is popcorn. Plain microwave popcorn with low butter/oil will be the least time consuming and most accessible. You can also turn the making of the popcorn into an activity if you need time and have access to a whirly pop or some other type of popcorn maker.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

This recipe is pretty straightforward:

WITH ADULT SUPERVISION: Use small pie pumpkins and cut them in half with a study, sharp knife

Each student can work on scooping on the seeds of a half pumpkin. Take all scooped seeds to the sink to rinse. 

Toss seeds in a mixing bowl with oil, spread onto baking sheet and roast. While the seeds are roasting, begin the spice activity.

Roasted Carrots

Use baby carrots for time, or  cut carrots into sticks.

Toss carrots in oil and salt, spread on baking sheet

Roast at 400º for 30-40 minutes. Start spice activity while carrots are roasting. 

They should be slightly charred, so they have a nice crunch.

Ideas for what to put in your Mix:

  • Salt
  • sugar 
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Chili powder
  • Curry powder
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Other flavoring options like dehydrated lime or lemon, nutritional yeast, beef bullion


    1. Pass the spice containers around the group allowing each student to smell. 
    2. Decide together what category it would be in. 
    3. Discuss intensity – everyone has a different tolerance for each spice. Talk about how something with something with intense flavor like Curry, a little goes a long way. Paprika is a more mild flavor though and may require more to come across. 
    4. After all the spices have been tested, let students choose 3 to mix together in their cups. Start with one teaspoon of each spice. Encourage innovation, and remind them of the intensity – they may want 2 teaspoons of one but just 1/2 a teaspoon of another. 
    5. When students are satisfied with their mixture, be sure they’ve recorded their recipe.
    6. Give each student a cup of popcorn in a mixing bowl and let them mix their spices in.
    7. Encourage tasting and sharing and adjustments as needed!


Clean up tasks to delegate:

  • lids back on spices
  • Trash in trash can
  • Compostable items in bin
  • Surfaces wiped
  • Mixing bowls and teaspoons rinsed, washed, dried
  • Any cloths/aprons, etc put in appropriate place for laundry
  • Recipe cards distributed and shared

Grownup Guides

Making spice mixes is a versatile way to encourage customization, experimentation, and agency.


Enhance the experience by…

Asking these discussion questions while snacking! 🙂


    • Did anyone make any changes to their original recipe? What did you do?
    • Would your spice mix taste good on anything else?
    • What was something new you tried today?
    • Do you want to get anyone else recipe to try next time?


Allow time to document and share recipes. As thoughts are shared, write them down for all to see or  to share in a follow up message.

Also, consider doing this activity as a way to make gifts for others. Spiced nuts and popcorn could be an awesome treat to share during the holidays!

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