It just isn’t the holiday season without our favorite traditional dishes—and our favorite traditional dishes would be nothing without a few integral spices!
The right seasonings give those gingerbread cookies a dash of personality or add warmth to your holiday ham. From sweet cinnamon to spicy ginger, our favorite holiday seasonings are essential in the kitchen this time of year, so it’s important to know which ones to have on hand! I’ve whipped up a quick list of the five most needed (and most versatile) spices to have on hand, so make sure you have them on your shopping list if they aren’t already in your pantry.
This may be one of the most famous holiday spices in the country, especially because its reach lasts from early fall (think classic pumpkin spice) all the way to Christmas itself (think traditional eggnog). Keeping nutmeg on hand is a great way to add some nutty, earthy flavor to a dish. Powdered nutmeg from the supermarket is great, but if you can get your hands on fresh nutmeg for grating onto your holiday fare, you may never go back!
It would be hard to talk about holiday foods without mentioning this classic spice. Ginger is technically an herb—and like nutmeg, it’s best freshly grated when you can get it. The warm and woody flavor makes it a great addition to our favorite gingerbread cookies, but its myriad health benefits have also made it standard fare in warming teas and other hot beverages. Try pairing a relaxing cup of ginger tea with your holiday desserts for an easy way to calm your system.
Much like ginger, cardamom adds a bit of heat to any dish. This aromatic spice brings wintery warmth to seasonal masala chai teas and celebratory baklava. WIth its bold and vaguely citrusy scent, it can bring drama to virtually any dish. You can find cardamom in a few varieties—green, black, and white—so experiment to find the flavor profile you prefer.
A perennial household favorite, cinnamon is a crowd-pleaser in holiday favorites like pies and cakes. Technically an aromatic bark, cinnamon acts as an amplifier when paired with some of our favorite fruits, like apples and pears. It’s a must-have whether you’re making sweet potato casserole or pumpkin pie, and the warming smell is a great way to brighten up the home.
Cloves imbue dishes with a slightly bitter but warming taste that makes it a perfect way to heat up your favorite dishes. It’s great for savory fare when you’d like to spice up a cold weather stew or a rich sauce, but it’s also a classic way to enhance the taste of desserts like pies and gingerbread. One added bonus? Cloves offer a wealth of antioxidants, so you can boost your digestion and reduce inflammation with that slice of spice cake!
These spices work whether you’re baking them into traditional desserts or adding a new twist to an old family recipe. With these five spices on hand, you’ll have no trouble incorporating sweet flavors and aromatic notes to your favorite holiday fare. Make sure to grab them before you start cooking for the season. And for more helpful tips to make the most of this holiday season and beyond, don’t forget to follow my blog!