10 Ingredients to Simmer to Make Your Home Smell Like the Holidays

updated Oct 31, 2023
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(Image credit: Carly Diaz)

There’s really nothing better than walking into a home that smells of good things like warm spices and herbs, especially around the chillier winter months. While you could time the baking of those gingerbread cookies for right when your family and friends come through the door, there’s an easier, simpler way to waft cozy aromas into the air. A quick stovetop potpourri, made by simmering water with your choice of aromatics, makes for a lovely addition to the holiday home.

Quick Overview

What to Boil to Make Your House Smell Good

  1. Cinnamon sticks
  2. Cardamom pods
  3. Whole cloves
  4. Star anise
  5. Citrus peels
  6. Fresh ginger
  7. Pine sprigs
  8. Masala chai tea bags
  9. Rosemary or sage sprigs
  10. Vanilla or almond extract

How to Make a Stovetop Potpourri

It’s really as simple as filling a pot with water, adding a few spices and herbs, and bringing the whole thing to a simmer. Let it lazily simmer on the stove, and the smell will fill your kitchen and your home. Nearly zero effort required!

Go for a couple of different aromatics in the pot to make your own signature blend. Here are 10 of our favorites to mix and match:

(Image credit: B. and E. Dudzinscy, Shutterstock)

1. Cinnamon Sticks

They’re a classic potpourri spice for good reason — a few sticks in a simmering pot of water will make your entire home smell like you’ve got cinnamon rolls baking.

2. Cardamom Pods

For something a little more tropical, a few cardamom pods will do the trick. They’ll lend a complex scent to the pot (and space) that’s both spicy and herbal.

3. Whole Cloves

Warm, intense cloves are one of the most traditional smells of the holiday season — you’ll only need a few tossed in the pot of simmering water to enjoy their smell.

4. Star Anise

Whole star anise lends a wonderful licorice aroma to the pot, which pairs particularly well with cinnamon and cloves.

(Image credit: Natasha Breen)

5. Citrus Peels

Save the peels from your clementine snack and toss them into the pot. Lemon, orange, and grapefruit peels are also lovely added to the mix for that refreshing, citrusy aroma.

6. Fresh Ginger

Add slices of fresh ginger if you want that pungent-yet-warming smell to linger in the air. Pair it with a few other baking spices, like the ones above, and your house will smell like gingerbread.

7. Pine Sprigs

Whether or not your house already smells like a Christmas tree, it doesn’t hurt to bump up the volume on that seasonal aroma.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

8. Masala Chai Tea Bags

If you’d rather not scrounge for a mix of whole spices, simply toss a few masala chai tea bags into a pot of simmering water for the same effect. (Of course, you can drink it, too!).

9. Rosemary or Sage Sprigs

Herbs like woody rosemary and sage are prominent in the stews and roasts of the season, so it makes sense to add them to the pot for their great aroma.

10. Vanilla or Almond Extract

A few drops of vanilla extract in the simmering pot and your home will smell of baked goods, while a few drops of almond extract will leave it smelling of marzipan. You can’t go wrong either way!

What do you throw on the stove for a warm, cozy smell?