The Ultimate Guide to Winter Spices That Will Warm You Up
At this stage of winter, there’s nothing better than cozying up to a meal that will warm you from the inside out. When we think of dishes that are comforting, what comes to mind are spices or condiments that add heat and a little zip to our dishes. Here are my favorite winter warming spices and how you can make the most of them to create delicious and wholesome dishes. The good news? Many already live in your pantry.
Ginger and Garlic
Ground or fresh, ginger adds a burst of citrusy, peppery brightness to any dish. It can also help reduce muscle pain and soothe the stomach. Grate fresh ginger into a skillet with thin slices of garlic and olive oil and you’ll have an aromatic, piquant flavor base for stir-fries, vegetable dishes or hearty stews.
One of the most common spices used worldwide, black pepper is a must-have warming spice, not just something you garnish a salad with or grind on top of a dish once it’s plated. Use whole peppercorns to create a crust for salmon, add some zing to poaching liquid for chicken, or create a spicy Chinese black pepper sauce.
Cloves and Cinnamon
Curious about some of the spices you see on the supermarket shelves? Here are two must-haves for your pantry. Trust me, cloves and cinnamon are not just for rounding out your holiday cookies or studding a honey pineapple ham. Both are packed with a complex, warm, sweet and slightly biting flavor and are often underestimated. Use them to create a robust base for a stew, meat dishes or rich sauces such as the traditional Mexican mole or add to homemade barbecue sauce for depth. Tip: Place whole cloves in a coffee grinder until you have a fine powder or use a microplane to grate a cinnamon stick on meat and veggie dishes, or add to winter soups. The scent of cinnamon can have a calming effect in the home and it can lower blood sugar and reduce heart-disease risk. Not only do cloves have the ability to round out a dish, but they have been seen to have antibacterial effects and can improve circulation, digestive problems, and headaches. Healthy and delicious? It’s a win-win.
Tip: Place whole cloves in a coffee grinder until you have a fine powder or use a microplane to grate a cinnamon stick directly on meat and veggie dishes, or add to winter soups.
I love turmeric for so many reasons—the deep yellow color, slightly spicy and earthy flavor and its soothing, medicinal and natural anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is indigenous to southern Asia and is common in this cuisine, often giving dishes a beautiful hue and pungent flavor, similar to ginger. Use it in its powder form, or grate the fresh root directly into dishes. Turmeric is even great in a tea.
When you’re looking to add some heat and added complexity to a dish, chili powder is your go-to. Interestingly enough, chili powder tends to be a blend of different chili peppers, oregano, cumin, salt, coriander pepper, garlic and often cloves. It packs a punch and is a wonderful way to create layers of flavor.
One of my favorite warming dishes is this Turmeric Butternut Squash Stew—it has just the right amount of heat and tang and is perfect to curl up by the fire with. Happy seasoning!
Turmeric Butternut Squash Stew Recipe
This delicious stew is perfect for vegetarians or meat eaters. Comforting and warm, it’s one the whole family can enjoy for dinner. Add some chicken or tofu for extra protein. This stew pairs nicely with brown rice, quinoa or any other grain of your choice.
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoons ginger paste
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1½ medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 sweet potato, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 cup chopped kale
- ½ lime, juiced
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- In a medium stockpot, heat coconut oil for 30 seconds on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir until they start to sputter.
- Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add coconut milk, turmeric, salt and chili powder.
- Add butternut squash and sweet potato. Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until tender.
- Toss in kale, lime juice, and stir. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Born in India and raised in Atlanta, Chef Palak Patel grew up surrounded by traditional Indian cuisine. As her love of all things culinary expanded, she experimented with food, marrying the flavors of her native country with those of her adopted one. Her zest for travel further broadened her flavor palate as she globe-trotted, feasting on everything from local street food to la haute gastronomie. Palak shares these experiences as a TV personality, writer and one of the food industry’s newest and sassiest rising stars, gaining critical acclaim from victories in shows like Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay on Food Network. Palak also battled it out against 24 other seasoned chefs in the Sears Chef’s Challenge, winning $20,000 for the Los Angeles Food Bank. Palak has been a guest on multiple Food Network shows, Marie Claire’s The Fix and Bravo’s Blood, Sweat and Heels. She has been featured in Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and India Abroad, and is a regular food and travel contributor to Table Magazine. Palak also has partnered with high-profile brands such as BMW and Barclays to curate menus for large events, HelloFresh as a guest chef and Mashable about creating a personal brand. Learn more, and contact us to book Chef Palak Patel.
Top photo, Tesh Patel; bottom photo: Palak Patel