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6 Warm Spices for Elevating Winter Dishes

2 November 2022

Autumn gives way to cold temperatures and the arrival of the holiday season. The harsh winter weather drives us inside to celebrate festive gatherings—or outside with jackets, gloves, and cups of mulled wine.

Winter is the time of year when we indulge in warm comfort foods and classic treats, eggnog and spiced wine, big feasts, and delightful snacks. The familiar flavours of this season are steeped in memories from years previous. 

And these beloved flavours are owed to a handful of incredible spices.

The following six spices play essential parts in traditional dishes and new products. They offer a delicious warmth, as well as distinct flavours and health benefits. So, when the weather outside is frightful, turn to these warming winter spices.

1. Cardamom

The first warm spice deserving of a place in your winter recipes is cardamom. It has a strong, sweet, and pungent flavour that lends itself to both sweet and savoury dishes. 

Although commonly used in Indian dishes, cardamom also appears in some soups, pies, and even tomato sauces!

There are two varieties of cardamom: black cardamom and green cardamom. Although similar in flavour and aroma, they are distinct from one another. For example, black cardamom is three times larger than its green cousin. It also has notes of cooling menthol and smoke.

Consequently, black cardamom is commonly used in savoury dishes (except for southern India, where you find it in sweet recipes). Green cardamom often appears in sweet dishes, especially in winter.

Cardamom is touted as an antibacterial that can help lower blood pressure. Fun fact, too: cardamom belongs to the ginger family!

2. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a staple ingredient in winter dishes. Once the cooler months begin, it’s hard to avoid this incredibly popular spice. It appears in everything from pumpkin spice, cozy breakfast oatmeal, festive holiday treats, delicious pies, and even a barrage of savoury dishes. 

Imagine winter squash soups, Moroccan taglines, and roasted vegetables.

When we think of warming spices, cinnamon is usually at the top of that list, although it has other beneficial properties, too. For example, cinnamon is a rich source of polyphenols, which boosts your immune system. 

This delicious spice also reduces blood pressure, relieves aching muscles, and is used in traditional medicine as a remedy for digestive problems.

This versatile spice originates in Sri Lanka, India, and Myanmar. However, it now firmly sits as a global favourite! 

3. Cloves

If you want to make pumpkin spice, chai tea, or mulled wine this winter, you need cloves! This subtly sweet spice is also used in ciders and pies, as well as savoury dishes such as stews, meats, and Mexican mole.

Cloves are the unopened flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum tree, native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. 

They are available in whole, powder, and oil forms. Clear clove oil is a great way to infuse dishes with a sweet clove flavour without using whole cloves, which can discolour the dish.

Whole cloves are often used as festive decorations on holiday dishes. 

Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines have long histories of cloves to heal various remedies. For example, Chinese medicine uses cloves to treat fungal infections, indigestion, hernia, and diarrhea. Indian Ayurvedic medicine, on the other hand, treated respiratory and digestive problems with cloves.

Cloves do, in fact, contain antiseptic and analgesic properties. Consequently, cloves can still be used to treat toothaches.

4. Ginger

There are few spices considered as warming as ginger. It adds a delicious and delightful heat to a range of dishes, both sweet and savoury. 

Although a traditional component of Asian cuisine, ginger appears throughout holiday recipes. Just think of gingerbread!

You can also find ginger in pumpkin spice blends, chai tea, baked goods, meat marinades, curries, stir-fries, and stews.

Ginger is known for its anti-nausea properties. Consequently, it is an effective and widely used natural remedy for upset stomachs. It’s also used for other forms of gastrointestinal discomfort, like irritated throats. 

Additionally, ginger may help to stabilize cholesterol levels and relieve osteoarthritis pain.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric is another traditional warming spice used for centuries due to its distinctive flavour, aroma, colour, and potential health benefits. It is a prominent ingredient in Indian and another South Asian cuisine. The most obvious example of a turmeric-forward dish is curry.

Golden milk is another popular (and trendy) turmeric-based recipe.

In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is considered a powerful antibiotic that also treats digestive and liver problems. Furthermore, turmeric is now widely considered to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties since it contains high amounts of the chemical curcumin.

Although turmeric is heralded as something of a “cure-all” for a host of health issues, science isn’t wholly convinced! Learn more here.

6. Nutmeg

Finally, we come to nutmeg. This is another classic holiday spice that plays a key role in many of our favourite festive dishes and beverages. For example, there is no eggnog or mulled wine without nutmeg! 

Furthermore, nutmeg is used to add some holiday cheer to baked goods like cakes, cookies, pies, muffins, and pastries.

On the savoury side, nutmeg enhances the flavour of roast vegetables, meats, pasta, quiches, and squash soups.

This delicately sweet spice has been used to treat intestinal problems in Chinese herbal medicine. 

Nutmeg and mace (the spice, not the spray) actually come from the same Southeast Asian tree. Mace is made from the red casing of the fruit, whereas nutmeg is the interior seed.

Infuse Your Winter Products With These Warming Spices

Whether you’re looking to reinvent a traditional holiday dish or develop a new food product for the winter, these six spices will play a key role.

The warming qualities of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, turmeric, and nutmeg make them the ideal choice for cool-weather recipes. Furthermore, these flavours are already associated with winter due to their presence in festive dishes.

Hela Spice is here to help you develop your next best-selling product. Our team of food researchers, processing experts, and taste technologists understand how to craft a winning flavour profile every time.

To learn more about food product development at Hela Spice, visit us at www.helaspice.com or contact us here.

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