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Top 10 Essential Holiday Spices & Herbs

Posted by on 12/2/2019

When you think of the holiday season, you probably conjure up warm memories infused with aromatic experiences from family meals. There’s a good reason for that! Our sense of smell is strongly linked with memory — and the holidays are chock-full of memorable scents. To prepare for the upcoming season, we’ve selected the top ten holiday spices you probably already know and love and listed a few of our favorite recipes that feature these flavors. 

Read on to start preparing for your upcoming holiday feasts, and maybe even gain a new favorite recipe while you’re at it. 


Though it’s just one spice and not a blend, you can detect notes of clover, nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon in allspice. It’s this unique blend of familiar aromas which makes it such a popular ingredient during the holidays. Because of its versatility, it can be used in dishes both sweet and savory. Allspice can be purchased as whole berries or powdered. 

Holiday recipes with allspice:
Closely related to ginger, cardamom is a well-loved spice known for its intense, citrusy, earthy aroma. It can be expensive due to the labor-intensive harvesting process — but if you’re willing to spend on high-quality cardamom, you’ll appreciate the intense flavor it packs in dishes and beverages. There are a few ways to buy cardamom: in pods, powdered, or shelled. 


Cinnamon may just be the most commonly used spice for holiday recipes. It can be found in potpourris, strung on Christmas trees or wreaths as decorations, and featured in just about every recipe, even if it’s a savory one! The flavor of cinnamon is well known — a little sweet and spicy. It can be purchased in powder, chips and sticks depending on your recipe. 

Holiday recipes with cinnamon: 
With a flavor that’s tangy and warm, ginger is a mainstay of holiday spices. It’s what gives gingerbread its unique flavor and is used in several popular holiday drink recipes as well. Buy ginger in its powdered form or in root pieces. Then, get to work on your gingerbread cookies or whip up a festive cocktail. 

Holiday recipes with ginger:
Maybe orange isn’t the most obvious holiday spice, but you’d be surprised by how often it’s used in holiday recipes. Its citrus flavor pairs wonderfully with so many other spices on this list, so it was a no-brainer for us to include in our offering of holiday spices. This holiday season, use orange zest, ribbons or smaller cuts to make your meals festively fragrant. 


Another iconic holiday spice, cloves offer an aroma that’s warm and sweet. It’s often paired with similarly warm cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Cloves pack a sharp flavor in any dish, and it’s important to note that a little goes a long way. Too much will have a numbing effect on the mouth, so use cloves sparingly. You can either cook with whole cloves or powdered cloves.  


Sweet, warm and a little spicy, nutmeg is another top holiday spice that pairs well with cinnamon and is featured in sweeter dishes. Nutmeg is commonly sprinkled or infused in eggnog, a classic holiday drink and is usually featured in any pumpkin recipe. Nutmeg can be purchased whole or in powdered form. 


What would a good Thanksgiving meal be without sage? This savory holiday spice is heavily featured in Thanksgiving meals as its bitter flavor perfectly complements any poultry dish. Purchase sage leaves whole or ground as a powder for your savory holiday recipes. 

Star Anise

A unique licorice-like flavor is what star anise brings to the lineup of classic holiday spices. Even its star-shaped pod adds to its festive cheer and can be used for decorative purposes. It pairs especially well with fruity dishes.

Holiday recipes with star anise:


Rosemary is the perfect holiday spice for all your savory dishes. Like sage, rosemary is also used for its bitter flavor which pairs well with any meats (particularly lamb) or stuffings. It’s also used as a garnish, especially since it resembles a mini pine tree. Rosemary can be purchased powdered or in chopped leaves. 

Create meals to remember

The first step to crafting a memorable holiday meal or drink is selecting high-quality ingredients to cook with. Buy the finest ingredients in bulk to help you cook your largest feasts this holiday season with help from SF Herb. Shop our holiday selection today and feel ready to make your best meals yet.