Fall is a great time of year to season heartier dishes with heartier spices—and to possibly improve your health as well. Combo spices like allspice, five-spice powder, and pumpkin pie spice, as well as cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric add flavor to cold-weather stews, sauces, compotes, and desserts. And thanks to their abundance of phytonutrients and antioxidants, these spices are a great addition to a healthy diet. Check your spice rack and make sure you have these autumn favorites on hand. To keep them fresh, store them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place, preferably away from direct light.
Allspice: A little bit of allspice makes everything nice. Allspice comes from a small, dry, dark-brown berry that is native to the West Indies and Central and South America. It tastes like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, hence its name. Allspice lends a sweet and spicy flavor to stews and to casseroles like this Chickpea, Eggplant, and Tomato Casserole. It’s also a primary ingredient in jerk seasoning.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of evergreen trees native to Asia. The variety found in most supermarkets is cassia cinnamon, also known as Chinese cinnamon. It has a robust, bittersweet flavor and comes in rolled sticks or in ground form. Studies show that cinnamon may help regulate blood sugar levels, so go ahead and season your morning oatmeal with this tasty spice. Try our Cider-Roasted Sweet Potatoes, where cinnamon enhances the sweetness of the sweet potatoes.
Five-spice powder: Chinese five-spice powder is a combo of cinnamon, star anise, ground fennel, ground cloves, and Szechuan pepper. Mainly used in Chinese dishes, it also makes a flavorful rub for chicken and pork. Look for it in larger supermarkets or Asian groceries or make your own: In a spice grinder, finely grind 2 tablespoons each of Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, and fennel seeds. Stir in 2 tablespoons each of ground cinnamon and ground cloves. Try our Five-Spice Grilled Chicken with Asian Dipping Sauce, where we use five-spice powder as a rub mixture for grilled chicken breasts.
Ginger: Both fresh and ground ginger can be used on all Phases of the South Beach Diet. Avoid candied ginger, however. Ginger is highly regarded for its anti-inflammatory properties and it aids in digestion. For a ginger tea, steep quarter-size slices of peeled fresh ginger in boiling water for about 15 minutes. It’s delicious with lemon and may help relieve nausea. We use ground ginger, along with cumin and nutmeg, in our Butternut Squash with Lentils. Ginger is also delicious in Indian and Asian dishes, compotes, and healthy desserts.
Pumpkin pie spice: This popular spice, which is so called because it’s typically used to flavor pumpkin pies, is also a great addition to soups, pasta dishes, whole grain quick breads, and even lattes. The spice isn’t actually from pumpkin; it’s a combination of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Try our South Beach Diet Pumpkin Pie, which uses ground cloves, ginger, and cinnamon to season the pumpkin purée. You can sub in pumpkin pie spice for the individual spices.
Turmeric: Lauded for its powerful antioxidants, including a compound called curcumin that has been shown to help reduce inflammation and may help ease the pain of arthritis, turmeric is what gives curry powder its yellow color. This superspice is found in many Indian dishes such as our Tandoori Cornish Hens and it is a traditional addition to curries and lamb dishes. You can also add a little to your ginger tea.