Nutmeg and other spices in pinch bowls
9 Ingredients your Pantry Needs for Fall Cooking (That aren’t Pumpkin Spice)

With changing seasons, it’s a good idea to add a few new items to your pantry. A good olive oil, sea salt, herbs and spices you’ll always have on hand – but you’ll want to add to those specific ingredients which are seasonally important. These staples play supporting roles to fresh produce, making cooking for autumn a breeze… and more delicious.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of my top picks for fall, because we all know there’s more to fall cooking than pumpkin spice:

Allspice

You’ll find allspice in many baking recipes, so it’s a good idea to have on hand, but did you know that it’s also an amazing savory ingredient? Just a pinch will do -allspice is quite robust and a little is all you need – but you’ll be amazed at the complexity it adds to your dishes. Add a dash to your vinaigrette, like in this spinach salad, toss it into your roasted winter squash, or try a sprinkle on roasted cauliflower, my favorite.

Whole Nutmeg

Next time you’re in the spice aisle, look for a container of whole nutmeg, instead of pre-ground. Freshly grated nutmeg has so much more flavor and intensity, it’s almost like it’s not the same ingredient as the pre-ground stuff. Use it in baked goods whenever nutmeg is called for, but when using fresh ground, decrease the amount as it’s quite potent. Besides the usual cakes and quick breads, it’s a natural pairing with cooked Swiss chard, (I do a pasta with cooked Swiss chard, nutmeg, toasted pine nuts, and tons of Parmigiano), it is lovely with winter squashes, and any sort of creamy pasta dish… like this baked leek and mushroom dish.

Ceylon Cinnamon

There are two main types of cinnamon, Cassia and Ceylon. It’s worth seeking out Ceylon cinnamon for its more perfumed qualities and less astringent flavor profile. Like allspice and nutmeg, I enjoy using cinnamon in savory cooking, especially in the fall. If you want to try it out but aren’t sure where to start, look to Moroccan cooking, where many traditional savory dishes are made with cinnamon. In my Moroccan Chicken Stew with Pearl Couscous, the cinnamon is balanced with other spices and flavorings, like cumin, paprika, garlic and onions.

Pumpkin seeds in a white pinch bowl

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds add instant fall vibes when sprinkled on your finished dishes. Look for hulled pumpkin seeds, meaning the shell has been removed. I like to buy untoasted and unsalted for more versatility, and as I like to dial in the specific toast level myself. Toss them into homemade granola, add crunch to salads, use as a garnish for roasted vegetables, sprinkle over soups, use in a pesto or dip, or simply snack away. This green pozole uses them to both flavor and thicken the soup.

Hazelnuts

More than any other nut, I’d say, hazelnuts exude autumn. Toasted and tossed into a salad with grapes and roasted squash, adding crunch to green beans, or whatever dish they garnish, they add an unmistakable flavor and welcome texture. As with all nuts, they are enhanced by toasting, but this step is even more important with hazelnuts due to their papery skin. Place them in a toaster oven or use a dry skillet over low heat. Watch them closely so they don’t burn, then once cooled rub the skins from the nuts before using. While I’m obsessed with using hazelnuts in all sorts of savory dishes in the fall, one of my favorite uses is in desserts, like my Hazelnut Panna Cotta.

Canned Pumpkin

Perhaps the most obvious fall pantry staple is canned pumpkin. You’ll always be ready to whip up a loaf of pumpkin bread, easy no-churn pumpkin ice cream, or myriad other fall themed treats like these snacking bars. You’ll want to have pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling, on your pantry shelf for most of your baking needs. Pie filling contains added flavors and sugar and is best for pie recipes that specifically call for its use. Sometimes cans are labeled as solid pack pumpkin, which is the same thing as pumpkin puree and can be used interchangeably.

Tahini

This one may be a surprise to readers. While I use tahini year-round in my cooking, I find it particularly pleasing during the autumn months. You can use it to make a “hummus” out of so many things besides chickpeas – try using eggplant as a tasty alternative. Other roasted veggies that work great are butternut squash, beets, or zucchini – for each one, after roasting, blend with garlic, lemon juice, cumin and tahini. You’ll arrive at a healthy and flavorful spread to serve with pita or cut veggies.
Tahini also makes a great sauce. Mix it with garlic, lemon juice and salt, and if you like, add herbs like parsley or cilantro. Season with salt and thin it out with a little water to reach a saucy consistency, then drizzle over roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower, winter squash or sweet potatoes.
Perhaps my favorite use of tahini, though, is drizzling it over oatmeal with a pinch of cinnamon and a generous pour of pure maple syrup. Top with sliced banana and chopped nuts and I can’t think of a better autumn breakfast.

Apple Butter

Do you get really excited when you see jars of apple butter hit the shelves in the fall, but don’t quite know what to do with it as an ingredient once you get it home? I’m here to help. Apple butter is like a concentrated apple sauce, and actually contains no butter whatsoever. It’s basically applesauce, with added spices and sweetener, that is cooked down until thick, brown, and really delicious. Besides swirling it into my oatmeal, dolloping it on my yogurt, or smearing it on toast with cinnamon and honey, I also like to use it in savory cooking. It can be a glaze for roasted meats, or served alongside cheese and meats on a charcuterie board. These cookies use apple butter in the most perfect way, making a delicious fall treat.

Maple syrup being poured over a bowl of oatmeal

Maple Syrup

Investing in a good bottle of pure maple syrup is a great idea for fall cooking. Real maple syrup is not inexpensive, but in cooking a little goes a long way. Of course there are the usual uses, pancakes and waffles and the such, but during the fall it also shines in savory dishes. While my winter squash, brussels sprouts or root vegetables are roasting, I’ll mix a little orange juice with maple syrup, maybe a few grates of fresh ginger or garlic, and pour this mixture over the vegetables during the last bit of cooking. It turns into a wonderful glaze, highlighting the inherent sweetness of the vegetables. A dab in a vinaigrette, or touch in a butternut squash soup can add balance and bring out the flavor in your dish. Try these Turkey Enchiladas with Maple Roasted Butternut Squash.

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