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12 Must-Have Holiday Spices to Have in Your Pantry

Want to bump up your holiday baking? We talked to the experts at The Spice House about what spices and herbs are best to use this time of year.

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Cardamom

According to Alex Wilkens, Operations Manager at The Spice House, “the holiday season is definitely cardamom season.” This spice is aromatic. It starts crisp and finishes with a bit of heat—almost like ginger. You’ll find it in many Scandinavian-style bakes like this pistachio-cardamom cheesecake or used in homemade bread to give it a bit of wintry warmth.

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Saigon Cinnamon

There are several different cinnamon varieties out there, but Alex says his preferred choice for home baking is Saigon (sometimes called Vietnamese) cinnamon. “It’s bold enough to mingle with other spicy flavors like ginger, nutmeg and cloves,” he says. He also pointed out that this cinnamon is a great balance of sweet and heat, which is appealing to most folks.

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Crystalized Ginger

What would the holidays be without ginger? It’s the star of the show in the quintessential holiday bake: gingerbread. However, if you want to add an extra pop of ginger to your bakes, go beyond the ground ginger option and try crystallized ginger. This sugared variety adds texture, flavor and sweetness to our Test Kitchen’s favorite yule log cake.

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Korintje Cinnamon

If most cinnamon is a bit too spicy for you or you just don’t want it to overpower other flavors in your go-to recipes like these tempting cinnamon rolls, Alex recommends Korintje cinnamon. “For the more reserved among us we always recommend Korintje cinnamon which has a similar sweet meets heat profile, just dialed down,” he says.

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Nutmeg

The secret to a satisfying cup of eggnog? A dusting of nutmeg of course! Freshly grate a bit of nutmeg into your cup for best results. And don’t forget about these nutmeg-centric recipes that are perfect for the Christmas season.

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Cloves

Cloves are a love-it-or-hate-it kind of spice. According to Alex, that’s because many people go overboard with them. But he says don’t swear them off entirely. “They add extraordinary floral depth and character.” But the secret is to add very little. “As soon as you can taste them, you’ve gone too far.” So this holiday, keep using cloves, but be precise in your measurements and be careful not to overdo it.

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Rosemary

Rosemary is a great herb to use all year round, but its slight pine flavor makes it an apt ingredient for the winter months. Use this herb in dinner rolls for Christmas or even add a sprinkling to your shortbread.

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Urfa Biber Chiles

Alex says that Urfa Biber chiles, a cousin of Aleppo pepper, are his secret holiday ingredient. “If you have any deep, dark secret recipes that are loaded with chocolate, sprinkle in some Urfa Biber chiles and don’t say a word,” he says. “Mixed into a double chocolate brownie, these slightly oily, slightly salty, slightly fruity chiles deliver just enough heat to remind you that you belong at the grown-up’s table this year.” We recommend using a dash of these chiles in our favorite dark chocolate recipes.

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Pumpkin Spice

Some folks might think that pumpkin spice is overdone, but Alex says don’t sleep on this popular blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove. He says the trick is to use it in non-traditional applications. Try it mixed into your favorite caramel corn recipe.

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Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are popular in many Eastern European holiday bakes. Stock up on these if you’re making Polish poppy seed loaves, kolaches or even just a pan of dinner rolls.

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Garam Masala

When it comes to baking spice blends, we’re all familiar with pumpkin pie spice with its cinnamon, clove and ginger. This holiday season, put down the pumpkin spice and pick up an unexpected but very fitting blend: Garam Masala. This blend has all the warming spices you love this time of year: cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. “It makes perfect sense to try it in your cookies, brownies or pancakes,” says Alex.

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Mulling Spices

Mulling spices—a blend of cinnamon, allspice, cloves and other flavors—are the perfect way to amp up any wintry drink. Simmer cider or wine with this mix for a treat that pairs perfectly with cozy slippers and a Christmas movie marathon.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.

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