Whether you’re looking to expand your fall flavor palate or you’re simply not a fan of pumpkin spice, we’ve got you covered. A range of important health benefits accompany these autumn spices, so cozy up with a cup of tea (or a pumpkin spice latte, no judgments here!) and read on to discover the vibrant flavors of fall.
With the arrival of autumn comes a splendid symphony of warm and cozy fall spices almost always dominated by pumpkin spice. Truth be told, pumpkin spice is simply a blend – albeit a wonderful blend – of the season’s rich and complex flavor profiles. Here’s a list of fall spices that take your autumn flavor palate to a whole new level.
Fall Spices: Cinnamon
When it comes to fall spices, cinnamon is a popular flavor alongside the frontrunner pumpkin spice. Did you know that cinnamon packs a pretty serious nutritional punch? Here are a few of the highlights:
Antioxidants – Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants, which are essential for protecting our body’s cells from stress and damage. Antioxidants aid in lowering the risk of some chronic diseases and help fight chronic inflammation.
Insulin Sensitivity – Some studies show that cinnamon may improve insulin sensitivity, which may help regulate blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes or are at risk of developing diabetes, cinnamon may offer health benefits (1), though more research is needed.
Cinnamic Acid – This compound found in cinnamon fights inflammation and certain cancers. It also appears to contain antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties (2).
Savor the Season with Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a versatile spice that can be enjoyed in sweet or savory dishes, but you certainly don’t have to get formal about it.
Sprinkle it on your oatmeal or whole grain toast, add cinnamon to your coffee or sprinkle it over sliced apples, figs, peaches or pears.
Fall Spices: Nutmeg
Woody, warm and boldly flavorful, nutmeg is a quintessential, though perhaps underrated, autumn spice. Nutmeg tastes like sweater weather, pumpkin pie and a warm snickerdoodle fresh out of the oven. More specifically, nutmeg has a woody flavor that pairs well in both savory and sweet dishes.
Also known as jaiphal, nutmeg boasts a broad range of health benefits.
Sleep – While the benefits of nutmeg for sleep require more research, early indications show that nutmeg may aid in quality of sleep and duration of sleep, meaning you’re potentially sleeping better for longer (3). Again, stronger research is needed, but it certainly sounds promising.
Skin Health and Collagen Production – Antioxidants are vital for the production of collagen, which can improve the elasticity of skin. Potential benefits of nutmeg on skin appear to be directly related to nutmeg’s high antioxidant properties, and nutmeg oil is commonly used in ayurveda.
Add Depth to Holiday Dishes with Nutmeg
Nutmeg can easily overpower a dish due to its deep and rich flavor compounds – a little nutmeg goes a long way. The natural oils in nutmeg are highly nutritious, so dare to find whole nutmeg kernels instead of pre-ground nutmeg.
Grate fresh nutmeg spice over pies, pastries, holiday desserts, coffee, tea and eggnog. Try adding nutmeg to these Snickerdoodle Donuts – a family favorite!
Fall Spices: Cardamom
The Swahili word iliki in English translates to cardamom, a warm fall spice that I like to think is similar to licorice in that people usually love it or don’t enjoy it at all, with strong feelings on both sides. It’s a bold spice that is native to India, though it is now produced commercially in other countries including Tanzania and Guatemala.
Cardamom has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Some studies show that cardamom may help fight bacterial and fungal infections as well as fight common mouth bacteria. Cardamom is also rich in antioxidants, which can help fight inflammation and chronic illness.
What does cardamom taste like?
It’s often described as a citrusy flavor with floral notes and appears prominently in Indian and Arabic cuisine. If you’re new to cardamom, note that it’s sold in several forms, including whole pods, seeds and powder. If you can’t find it in your local international food market, try buying cardamom online in powder or ground form.
How to Enjoy Cardamom
Black tea and coffee pair beautifully with cardamom. Coffee or black tea with cardamom is easy to make. Simply sprinkle ground cardamom over the liquid and stir well or steep whole seeds or pods with the tea or coffee and strain before enjoying.
Like cinnamon, cardamom is enjoyed in both sweet and savory dishes, such as pear tarts or an unexpected twist on apple pie, Indian rice dishes like biryani, curries and even gingerbread.
Check out these 15 Warming Cardamom Recipes from One Green Planet (hello, maple cardamom candied walnuts!).
Fall Spices: Vanilla
I know, I know, vanilla is an “all the time” spice. Its popularity in fall recipes and its big time health benefits make it a perfect addition to our list of healthy autumn spices, sans pumpkin. Vanilla is wonderful on its own and pairs well with other warming spices like nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon.
If you’ve heard about Mexican Vanilla or been asked to bring some home from your vacation in Mexico, it’s for good reason. The vanilla bean pods were first cultivated more than a thousand years ago in Mexico by the Totonac people. Today, it’s mostly sold in synthetic form. When we discuss vanilla benefits, we refer specifically to vanilla in its most natural form as well as organic vanilla extract – not imitation.
Antioxidants – Vanilla is known to contain significant amounts of antioxidants, which are essential for reducing oxidative stress in our cells. Vanilla gets its antioxidants from potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.
Cognitive Function and Mood Enhancement – Simply smelling vanilla may have the power to improve alertness, reduce anxiety and improve mood. More research needs to be explored but early data suggests vanilla may have aromatherapy benefits.
Elevate Fall Recipes with Vanilla
Vanilla doesn’t have to be boring! Go beyond the usual this season and enjoy vanilla in new ways. Add vanilla to your coffee or try a vanilla-infused hot chocolate. Pair cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla over oatmeal for a big bowl of comfort on a chilly morning. Add vanilla to your traditional fall pumpkin breads, pies, sugar cookies and muffins.
Lone Goose Bakery offers delicious ideas that you can create at home for fall-themed food and drink with vanilla extract.
Fall Spices: Allspice
Raise your hand if you used to think allspice was a bunch of different spices all blended together. Same here, sister. Those mixes do exist, but you and I know authentic allspice is actually an evergreen plant that produces berries. Those berries are dried and ground into powder and that’s typically the form in which we find allspice on market shelves.
Beyond its culinary uses, including a leading role in Jamaican jerk seasoning, allspice is a warm and peppery spice with known health benefits.
Pain Relief – A component of allspice called eugenol has been researched for its role in reducing pain and inflammation in such conditions as arthritis.
Antifungal Properties – Allspice also contains compounds that serve as antimicrobials by fighting fungi and some strains of bacteria.
Gut Health – Some studies suggest that allspice has medicinal properties that aid in digestion and alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort (4).
Spice Up the Season
If you can find whole allspice berries, try adding them to your fall and winter soups and stews. They’re also wonderful in mulled cider. For a bolder, more peppery flavor profile use ground allspice to season Mediterranean cuisine, gingerbread, fruitcakes and molasses cookies.
Here are more ideas on how to use allspice from bon appetit.
Whether you’re an “everything pumpkin” kind of person looking for fresh fall flavors or you’re simply not a pumpkin spice fan at all, these comforting fall spices are sure to bring warmth and wellness to your kitchen this season.
Sources Cited in This Article:
- National Library of Medicine: Cinnamon as a Complementary Therapeutic Approach for Dysglycemia and Dyslipidemia Control in Type 2 Diabetes
- National Institutes of Health: Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Cinnamic Acid Derivatives
- WebMD: Nutmeg: Health Benefits, Nutrition and Uses
- National Library of Medicine: Medicinal Properties of the Jamaican Pepper Plant Pimenta Dioica and Allspice
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