There's no better time of year to cook than fall. Crisp weather and falling leaves are the perfect backdrops for a cozy dinner with friends. But what do you cook with when it comes time to put together your seasonal pantry? Fall spices!
I've got some ideas that will add flair to any meal—and keep your kitchen stocked for months ahead. Ready to stock your fall pantry? Grab your spice grinder and let's do this!
Allspice is popular in Jamaica and tastes like a blend of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. It's also known as Jamaica pepper, used in baking, cooking, or pickling. Its taste is similar to a blend of all three spices individually.
Allspice can be used in Jamaican jerk seasoning or Caribbean dishes such as curries and stews.
If you're familiar with the taste of anise seed, it's probably because you've eaten a slice of black licorice. But did you know that anise seeds are also used in herbal medicine? This flowering plant has been used for centuries to treat stomach disorders, respiratory problems, and arthritis.
Anise seed is also a good source of calcium and can be used as an effective antifungal agent. No wonder this flavoring is so popular—anise seed has a unique flavor and aroma!
Black pepper might be a surprising fall spice to this list, but is an easy compliment to many of the seasonal dishes, giving it an extra boost of flavor!
While the uses for cayenne pepper may seem limited, they go far beyond the spicy foods we know and love. The spice is used in traditional medicine to reduce fevers, treat muscle pain and inflammation, prevent or relieve cold symptoms, improve circulation, and aid digestion.
Cayenne also makes an excellent beauty product when mixed with honey or olive oil to make a natural lip gloss—or if you're feeling particularly adventurous, try mixing it with coconut oil and applying it directly to the face as a deep pore cleanser!
We normally see them as the curly cinnamon sticks come from the inner bark of not one but a few trees from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is delicate in savory as well as sweet dishes. In addition, it's a popular ingredient in many desserts, including apple pie, cookies, and cinnamon rolls.
Whole cloves are the dried flower buds and are part of the myrtle family. They're used in baking, cooking, and for medicinal purposes. Cloves are also used in Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cuisine. In addition, they're an integral ingredient in mulled wine and were once used as a form of currency.
Despite their dryness, whole cloves have a pleasingly sweet aroma when ground or crushed—and they pair well with savory and sweet dishes (think apple pie!).
Nutmeg is the seed of the nutmeg tree. It's used to flavor cakes, cookies, pies, other baked goods, and a hot drink. Nutmeg butter is made by grinding roasted nutmegs into a paste and can be used in cooking or added to coffee or tea. You can also use ground or whole nutmeg in dishes like chicken stew or rice pudding.
Star anise is a spice that adds a pleasant licorice flavor to many Asian dishes. It's also used in Italian cooking and Indian cooking. Star Anise comes from the magnolia family; its pods look like a star when dried.
Ginger is a spice that's used in many different cuisines. It's an ingredient in gingerbread and ginger beer, but it also makes its way into Indian curries and Thai soups.
Ginger can be fresh, dried, or powdered; the fresh root is most potent (and therefore best for medicinal purposes). The dried version will last longer than the new variety—but you'll have to use more of it when using dried gingersnap cookies over those made with fresh ginger.
Rosemary is a wonderful perennial herb with needle-like leaves and blue, pink, purple, or white flowers. It requires little attention if not pruned too hard when grown for its flowers.
Vanilla beans are the seeds of the vanilla orchid plant, often grown on plantations in Madagascar and Mexico. They're a bit pricey but they can be used to make otherwise dull desserts taste fantastic. Vanilla beans are also used in savory dishes like homemade chicken stock and white wine sauces, so you'll find plenty of opportunities to use them throughout the year.
Vanilla beans are incredibly versatile: they've been used by chefs worldwide for centuries as an ingredient in ice cream, cakes, brownies—you name it!
If you want to make cookies even more delicious than usual (and who wouldn't?), grind up some whole vanilla beans into your cookie dough until it becomes fragrant with this aromatic spice.
You can also add sliced berries or citrus peel for fresh flavor combinations. Once baked into your treats, these little pods will release all their sweetness into whatever dish they're added to—it's pretty magical!