Keke Palmer is the definition of a multi-hyphenate. She’s an actress who’s appeared in acclaimed films like Akeelah and the Bee and Jordan Peele’s Nope, a singer who’s released multiple albums, a podcast host, and bonafide social media star. But she’s also extremely serious about making sure that her food is perfectly seasoned.
“Everybody needs to season their food,” Palmer says. “It’s the holiday season, I don’t want to go to anybody’s house where they don’t season their food.”
Palmer now has a real dog in this fight. Her latest projects are as spokesperson for brands like Doritos and McCormick — the latter the manufacturer of probably most of the spices in your cabinet, and for which she’s helping to launch the Ten, a giftable set of 10 essential spices that every home cook should have in their arsenal. So naturally, Eater sat down to talk with Palmer about her favorite spices and seasonings, her thoughts on why the way that people season their food is such a hot topic online, and the dishes she’s most looking forward to eating this holiday season.
Eater: What spices do you keep in your pantry at all times?
Keke Palmer: Definitely garlic, onion powder, chile flakes. I always have pepper, really just the basics. And sometimes I like to sprinkle a little lemon pepper on something to jazz it up.
If you watch a cooking video on TikTok or YouTube, you’ll see thousands of comments from people complaining about the way the food is seasoned. Why do you think people get so worked up over this?
People are kind of redundant, they’ll literally comment on the seasoning because that’s something that everybody’s started to do online. I also think it’s because we have so many different types of cooking videos online now, and we’re more critical or more interested in how people season their food, and how they make their flavors come together.
What do you think is too much when it comes to seasoning food? Do you think that some people take it over the top?
If it’s to the point where you can’t taste the actual food because of the seasoning, that’s too far. Now people do it because they don’t want to get called out on social media, but it’s like… I still want to taste the damn chicken. I don’t want to taste just salt or just pepper.
What advice would you give to new cooks? How do they learn how to season their food properly?
You don’t have to get crazy with it. That’s what I like about the McCormick’s Ten, because it’s an excellent way to start. It just has the essentials. It’s not doing too much, it’s not doing too little, and you can just kind of try everything out a little bit at a time.
What are your favorite things to cook at home?
I love to make pancakes and eggs, I love a good stew. Chili. I think those are my top things.
How did the way your family cooked when you were growing up influence your own cooking?
My family really does season their food well. Honey, my dad seasons, but he doesn’t do anything too crazy. He has his essentials — his seasoning salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon. He doesn’t go too crazy with it, he makes his essentials work for him. I think my taste buds are pretty similar. I’m definitely the kind of person that likes savory, I love salty, but I try not to go too far because obviously we don’t want high blood pressure, now. I like it to be a little salty, with a bit of spice. And then a little sweet, when it’s necessary, to break things up.
What are you most looking forward to eating on Thanksgiving?
Sweet potatoes. I love sweet potatoes, and I love dressing. Big fan.
Do you bring anything to your family’s Thanksgiving dinner, or do you just show up to eat?
Honestly, no. I don’t bring anything. I just show up and eat. It’s a big family day for us, everybody comes to my parents’ house. Literally everybody comes on over and it’s such a good time.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.