What is a Spice Kitchen

FTC and Amazon Associates Disclaimer: We earn commissions (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Last updated: May 23, 2023

You finally have plans for a fabulous chef’s kitchen with plenty of space and the right appliances and utensils. Excited to share your ideas with your kitchen designer, you discover that the main kitchen layout lacks one crucial element.

A second kitchen, often referred to as a wok kitchen, is an additional space that is becoming increasingly popular in the real estate world and among culinary artists. It’s typically tucked away behind the primary cooking area for easy access. This second kitchen is also commonly known as a ‘spice kitchen’. But what is a spice kitchen? Essentially, it is a dedicated space used primarily for the preparation and cooking of aromatic and often pungent dishes that can keep your main kitchen in better condition and preserve its value longer.

Table of Contents

What is a spice kitchen

A secondary kitchen that is small and has a separate ventilation system or is well-ventilated is a common sight in cultures that cook with a variety of strong-smelling spices. India loves their curry power in gravy-based dishes to deliver a hot, spicy flavor. Many Caribbean cuisines favor turmeric with its earthy taste and strong natural smell. 

African nations use peanut butter and a variety of spices to create a popular dish called Chicken Suya. All of us have enjoyed cultural cooking at one time or another, made with various natural spices.

Much smaller in square footage, a spice kitchen usually has the same appliances as the central kitchen. A double sink, electric range, microwave, dishwasher, and sufficient counter space that fits in a room the size of a butler’s pantry. A refrigerator is unnecessary, but a high-volume exhaust hood is a priority for whisking away strong aromas. Your choice of stove may differ according to taste, even including a residential teppanyaki grill.

A separate kitchen away from your primary kitchen is easier for controlling the strong odors that certain spices release. I once had a residential cleaning service where cooking odors could be noticeable, even with all the furniture and curtains removed. Indian cuisine was the most lingering. Preparing a home to show to home buyers is critical in the real estate market. 

It takes time and several cleanings with vinegar and odor counter-actants to remove many odors. Steam cleaning hard surfaces and carpeting is another way to eliminate hard-to-remove smells. The value of your home could suffer from lingering cooking odors that can penetrate the whole house. An open concept kitchen with a stronger ventilation system is not enough to wipe out the spicy scents of cooking smells like Chinese 5-spice or blackened fish.

History of miniature kitchens

The turn of the century brought Italian families into Canada. The women felt an additional kitchen below the main home gave them a sense of freedom for the creativity of delicious foods. A separate room with a small window helped keep odors away from the rest of the house.

Appliances fundamentals were often crucial in a basement space. Refrigerators and ovens are vital in preparing food for more than one meal.

Summer kitchens can still be found in older rural American homes. Most were housed in separate buildings close to the kitchen where preparing fresh ingredients, canning vegetables, or other work activities took place.

The idea of a summer kitchen was to keep as much heat away from the main house during the summer months as possible. Openings to the outdoors eliminated the need for a hood fan. 

Beautiful terrace of a penthouse with outdoor kitchen

Are spice kitchens trendy

With more people cooking at home and ethnic dishes being tried, a separate space with a particular ventilation system is becoming a growing trend. Home builders like Sterling Homes are taking a pantry storage area and are redesigning the space for the layout of a spice kitchen option. 

This new design will protect the rest of your home from unwanted smells and save your regular kitchen from having enough counter space for the extra prep work required. Dirty, oily dishes can be kept out of sight, and the client’s culinary needs will be met. 

Outdoor kitchen with a stove an countertop next to garden

Ideas for today’s spice kitchen

You may already have the beginnings of a spice kitchen in your existing home. A butler’s pantry or a walk-in food pantry can provide a suitable space for your needs. An essential part of the smaller size room is an easy-to-operate door. A swinging or pocket door keeps your spice kitchen incubator separate from regular cooking projects. 

The size of the double sink and cooking range need not be full-size, and an apartment size or RV style can provide the benefits of a spice kitchen. Remember, this room is only a work room for keeping messy and smelly items at bay from your regular cooking practices. If you need a refrigerator, limit it to a portable unit. 

Above the counter, cabinets can offer additional storage space for spices and supplies. Lining an entire wall with upper and lower cabinet storage is unnecessary. However, you will need enough countertop space for prepping your sauces. 

The NKBA recommends a 42″ minimum work aisle for one person in a spice kitchen. There needs to be enough room to open doors and pull out spice drawers in addition to moving around.

How you or your designer arranges the layout is a matter of preference. Keeping this room in close access to your kitchen delivers excellent benefits. Easy serving of food courses will not be as complicated, with unique dishes separated from other cuisines. 

Outfitting your spice kitchen

You will find that the organization of your spice kitchen will provide less space needed in your main kitchen. For example, installing spice holders inside your spice kitchen cabinets removes the need for placement in the regular kitchen.

standard kitchen drawer size - spices and pasta organized in modern kitchen drawer

Other great things that your spice kitchen can provide are wall space for a magnetic knife holder, built-in shelves for easy spotting of ingredients, and hanging hooks for small bowls, saute pans, and measuring utensils. Lazy Susans and pull-out drawers are other ways to organize your second kitchen.

One outstanding question many homeowners neglect to ask themselves when creating designs for a new or remodeled kitchen is – Do I need a closed-off pantry for canned goods and dry goods or a room that gives me a creative outlet for providing excellent meals for my family? 

Shelf in a shop with colorful natural spices

There are many lovely pantry cabinets that can be placed in a kitchen, dining area, living room, or garage that can hold items that once took up an entire room. Check out these different styles and get started on your spice kitchen in the place of your pantry.

My favorite cuisine consists of fresh ocean fish like Escovitch fish and gammy, a traditional dish of Jamaica. Every once in a while, my family will talk me into preparing this Carribean favorite. Before adding my spice kitchen, I would cringe at the clean-up involved. However, now this special treat is a welcome regular at our home. 

Ronin Consulting Inc., operating as EvolutDesign.com Media, makes no representation or warranty, express or implied. Your use of the site is solely at your own risk. This site may contain links to third party content, which we do not warrant, endorse, or assume liability for.