Herbs and spices are fun to cook with, adding flavor and depth to a variety of dishes and enabling you to tap into your creativity in the kitchen. But they’re also packed with nutrients, antioxidants and other phytochemicals that add to the nutritional benefits of your food.
However, just like there isn’t one miracle food that will provide our bodies with everything they need, there isn’t one herb or spice that holds all the power. Instead, each one has its own unique nutritional makeup, offering different benefits – so the more variety of herbs and spices you use in your cooking, the better!
This holiday season stock up your spice cabinet with the most popular spices for cooking and baking and, in addition to creating delicious meals and baked goods for loved ones, you’ll reap added nutritional benefits to boot. Check out the essential spices and spice blends you need for your holiday cooking below.
Essential Spices for the Holiday Season
Below are 6 of the most popular spices for cooking during the holiday season, broken out by region of origin. We’ve also included our top seasonal spice blends that will add wonderful flavor to your holiday cuisine.
Seasonal Spices by Region:
Sri Lanka, Southern India, and China
- Cinnamon – Cinnamon is a common spice consisting of dried, cured tree bark. Originating from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and India, cinnamon has a smooth and slightly citrus flavor and is primarily used for baking.
- Ginger – Ginger is an Oriental spice that is believed to have originated between northern India and eastern Asia. Tangy and a bit spicy in flavor, ground ginger is frequently used to flavor baked goods.
- Star Anise – Originating in Southern China, star anise is the dried, star-shaped fruit of a small Asian Evergreen tree. It has a strong licorice flavor and is used in many baking recipes and is also a key ingredient in Chinese savory cooking (it’s one of the 5 ingredients in the renowned “Chinese 5-Spice Blend”. Fun Fact: Star Anise is the very center of the compass rose in The Spice & Tea Exchange’s registered logo!
- Cardamom – Referred to as “the spice of paradise” in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, cardamom is a strong-flavored spice that comes from the seeds of a plant grown in Southeast Asia. It is also one of the most expensive spices in the world, along with saffron and vanilla.
- Cloves – Cloves are the dried, unopened flower buds of a tropical tree native to Indonesia. While utilized in many dishes, cloves should be used sparingly to avoid overpowering other flavors. Ground cloves are favored for baking pies and making curries and other savory dishes.
- Nutmeg – The fruit of the nutmeg tree produces two edible spices – the nutmeg “nut” and the outer covering, “mace.” A whole nutmeg can be stored for years and ensures the strongest flavor when grated fresh, although pre-ground is more convenient. Nutmeg is traditionally used in baking, but is also used to add flavor to cheese sauces, pasta fillings and fish.
Seasonal Spice Blends:
- Autumn Harvest Spice Blend – Add a touch of holiday seasoning to sweet potatoes and casserole dishes with this unique spice blend.
- Pork & Poultry Spice Blend – This spice blend is great for turkey and roasts, as well as soups and stews.
- English Roast Rub – This rub will become a staple for elevating the flavor of your roasts and meat dishes.
- Spiced Ham Seasoning – Adding a deep rich flavor, this seasoning will take your baked hams from ho-hum to extraordinary.
- Baker’s Spice Blend – This all-purpose blend is convenient to have on hand, as it replaces the usual list of spices many baked goods require. The Baker’s Spice Blend is great on winter squashes such as acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash.