Scented candle companies would have you believe that cinnamon is a scent that is inherently associated with only sweet things. Same with nutmeg and ginger and cloves and their ilk. They’d have you believe that you’d be out of your mind to think you could find warm spices of the autumnal variety in anything that is not a pie or cookie. (And certainly that you would not—gasp!—want anything to do with them at any time of year when the average temperature is above 50.) And that’s just… stupid. Warm spices are extremely on-brand for fall, yes. But they also play an important role in some of our favorite dishes we eat all year-round, and not just the sweet ones. The kick from cardamom, cinnamon, or ginger in a savory dish adds a layer of complexity to sauces, vegetables, or meat rubs that are otherwise sort of lack-luster. And when deployed properly in a beverage—especially cocktails—dried, warm spices infuse a liquid with flavors that give you the feeling of getting toasty from the inside out, even if it’s chilled. We pulled some of our best recipes from the MUNCHIES archives that showcase all of the best ways to use warm spices, some that you might not have thought of before. (And not one of them is a latte.)
This recipe comes from culinary historian and author Michael Twitty, who says that spice blends like this were common in the kitchens of enslaved people in the American South, each one unique to the cook in charge. In his book, The Cooking Gene, he writes that this mix “goes in everything in place of just pepper,” from meat dishes to soups.
In this easy vegan dish, whole cardamom gets toasted with bright fennel and coriander seeds, and smoky cumin and paprika, for an irresistible flavor combo.
Chef and cookbook author Nik Sharma suggests keeping some of these toasted spices—like cardamom, cumin, and black peppercorn—whole for extra bold flavor, only blending about half of the mixture in a spice grinder.
The familiar flavor combo of allspice, ginger, and brown sugar gets bumped up a notch with plenty of scotch bonnet peppers and a splash of dark rum in this jerk sauce.
Musician and cookbook author Kelis keeps her jerk sauce pretty classic, using molasses instead of brown sugar, for a sauce that can go on your protein of choice.
Just a bit of nutmeg and fresh cracked pepper helps to take this sweet potato mash from something that tastes more like dessert to something that makes a great holiday side dish.
Warm spices like cinnamon make their way into lots of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern meat dishes, and these skewered lamb koftas are the perfect example.
This classic slow-cooked pork dish from China’s Hunan province gets its red hue from dry red chilies, plus extra warm spice from a whole cinnamon stick, fresh ginger, and star anise.
Rice dishes with warm spices like cinnamon and cardamom are found in lots of cuisines, and makloubeh is the Palestinian version that’s common on a lot of celebratory tables.
These dense, buttery spiced cookies are super easy to make, coming together in just 30 minutes.
Mix this homemade granola, with plenty of cinnamon and cardamom, into yogurt for an easy fall breakfast.
Claire Ptak of London’s Violet Bakery makes her ginger snaps with all the usual warm spice suspects—cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg. But she also changes it up a bit, adding in a pinch of coriander and smoky paprika for a little something different.
Traditionally, Georgian bread like this nazuki is baked in giant clay ovens that get super hot, but you can recreate that environment in your home oven with a baking stone or cast iron pans.
Not a fan of the liquid version of eggnog? Try it in all its cinnamon-and-nutmeg-y glory, bourbon and all, in cookie form.
Or how about in the form of a cake? With plenty of cinnamon buttercream frosting layered under a melted chocolate drizzle.
Something as simple as rolling what is otherwise basically sugar cookie dough around in cinnamon makes for a wholly different dessert experience.
No need to fear the daunting task of expertly icing this layered cake, as we think it actually looks better a little rustic like this, with its edges exposed.
Make like Homer Simpson and get these cinnamon buns started on Saturday night for warm and cozy breakfast on Sunday morning.
This very citrusy mint tea gets bumped up a notch with 12 whole cardamom pods and some orange blossom and rose water.
You can mull just about anything you want with the right blend of warm spices, but if you really want to warm yourself up, Michigan-style, you’re gonna want to add some Everclear. (Yeah, you read that right, we’re grown-ass adults advocating for other grown-ass adults not in a fraternity to consume Everclear.)
And by that we mean “hot” as in “warm temperature,” we’re not out here sexualizing your beverages, even if they happen to be named after humans.
Use this vanilla-cinnamon simple syrup for plenty of other cold-weather cocktails.