Natural Health,  Recipes

Simmering Spices: Make Your House Smell Amazing, Naturally!

If you’re looking for a natural, non-toxic way to make your house smell amazing during the holiday season, give simmering spices a try! However, simmering spices (also known as stovetop potpourri) can be used to create enjoyable aromas any time of year – not just the holidays. Yet the popular combinations of citrus, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove pretty much scream wintertime or Christmas. 

Read along to learn how to make and use simmering spices to add a delightful scent to your home. Hint: It is ridiculously easy! Simmering spices are created simply by combining natural ingredients in water on the stovetop, and heating them to release aromas in the steam. I’ll share a list of ingredient ideas to use in stovetop potpourri below, along with 5 heavenly-scented simmering spice combinations that we love. 


Why Use Stovetop Simmering Spices?

To make the house smell good. Duh. And why would we want our homes to smell nice, especially around the holidays? So that we feel nice!


Smell Good, Feel Good

Did you know that over all other senses, our sense of smell has the strongest influence over emotions and memories? It is ingrained in our anatomy. When a smell enters our nose, it flows through the olfactory bulb in our brains. The olfactory bulb has direct connections to two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus. No other senses (such as sight, touch or sound) go through those centers of the brain!


Hold the Chemicals, Please!

Yet there are many ways to make your house smell great, right? Candles, room sprays, plug-in air fresheners, essential oils, the list goes on… In our home, we prefer to avoid synthetic chemical fragrances, including most scented aromatherapy candles. 

I hate to break it to you, but traditional paraffin candles are full of toxic petroleum-based substances that become airborne and are inhaled. In addition to the “yuck, no thank you” factor, they give me a gnarly headache! Instead, we like to burn natural beeswax candles – but they don’t smell like much. That is where stovetop simmering spices come to the rescue. 

In addition to being non-toxic, whipping up some homemade simmering spices is very inexpensive compared to using scented candles, especially if you use ingredients you already have on hand!


A variety of ingredients are dispersed amongst a washed concrete surface. Halves of oranges, lemons, lemon peels, ginger, star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, rosemary, whole cloves, ginger powder, and cinnamon powder along with vanilla beans round out the image.


How to Make & Use Stovetop Simmering Spices

Here comes the fun part! When it comes to creating stovetop simmering spices, the options are endless. There are zero rules, so feel free to get creative with the materials, spices, and combinations you put together. Most people simply use what they already have available at home. Or, you could pick up a few special ingredients to spice things up! 

Once you have your chosen simmering spice ingredients, combine them in a pot of water. About half full is good. Start with a small handful of each chunky ingredient such as lemons, apples, or oranges, and a few dashes of spices. Once the mixture begins to heat up, you can always adjust and add more if you find the aroma not as strong as you’d like. Again, nothing is set in stone here!

On the stovetop, turn up the heat to bring everything to a light boil, reduce to a simmer, and then sit back and enjoy the smell that will soon infuse in your home! Keep an eye on your pot, and perhaps set a timer if you’re forgetful. You don’t want all of the water to evaporate and let the pan run dry. Top off with more water as needed to keep the simmering spices going for many hours. Alternatively, you could throw everything together in a crock pot or your trusty Instant Pot and let it simmer with the lid off.


Simmering Spice Ingredient Options & Ideas

  • Orange slices
  • Lemon slices
  • Orange, Lemon, Lime or any other citrus peels, zest – or even lemon powder. See how we re-purpose lemon peels into homemade lemon powder here.
  • Fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, or other aromatic herbs
  • Fresh Cranberries
  • Apple slices, halves, or chunks
  • Bay Leaves
  • Cinnamon sticks, or ground cinnamon powder
  • Nutmeg
  • Fresh ginger, or ginger powder 
  • Cloves, whole or ground
  • Cardamom pods
  • Star Anise
  • Fresh Peppermint
  • Lavender buds
  • Loose-leaf chai tea
  • Maple syrup
  • Pumpkin Spice Seasoning
  • Sprigs of pine or cedar, or fresh sappy pine cones
  • Vanilla Beans, or vanilla extract. If you’re going to get fancy and use whole vanilla beans, scoop out the inside to use for baking and only simmer the outer pod/skin. There is no sense in wasting all the good stuff, since the skin alone provides a rich sweet aroma!
  • A couple drops of essential oils – we prefer to use these certified organic essential oils, which we also use in an EO diffuser!



Our Favorite Simmering Spice Recipe Combinations


  1. Fresh orange slices, ginger, star anise, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla. I hate to play favorites, but we’ll just say this one is listed at the top for a reason! 
  2. Apples, ginger, lemon peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove
  3. Rosemary, lemon peel or slices, sprigs of fresh cedar or pine, star anise, and bay leaves
  4. Apples, pumpkin spice seasoning, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks
  5. Fresh lavender buds and a dash of vanilla extract


*Any simplified version of these combos is wonderful as well – such as simply rosemary and lemon, or orange and cloves.


A birds eye view of the top of a sauce pan, it is filled halfway with water with star anise, cloves, lemon peels, ginger slices, and bay leaves floating in it. Surrounding the pot in the background are similar ingredients scattered about. It is ready to be heated and turned into stove top potpourri or simmering spices.


Can you smell this through your screen?


No, probably not… I guess that means you better get busy and go make some simmering spices of your own! If you’re into green living and maintaining a toxin-free home, you will probably also like this homemade natural vinegar and citrus household cleaning spray recipe. 


I hope you enjoyed this article, and even more – enjoy your soon-to-be amazing-smelling home. If you come up with some unique simmering spice combinations, be sure to report back and share your secrets with all of us! Please feel free to ask questions, and spread the love by sharing this post. 


Print
5 from 3 votes

Homemade Stovetop Simmering Spices Recipe

Learn how to use beautiful and natural ingredients like citrus, herbs and spices to create homemade stovetop simmering spices. They will make your house smell amazing, and lift your mood! Get inspired with dozens of ingredient options, plus 5 of our favorite simmering spice recipe combinations.
Prep Time5 mins

Equipment

  • Sauce pan or pot for the stove, OR
  • Crock pot or Instant Pot

Materials

  • Use any of the following ingredients to create whatever combinations sound appealing to you, or use what you have available on hand!

Fruit Ideas

  • Any citrus including orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit – slices, rinds, zest, or citrus powder
  • Apples – halves, slices, or diced
  • Fresh cranberries

Fresh Herbs

  • Rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, peppermint, or other aromatic herbs

Spices

  • Cinnamon sticks or powder
  • Ginger, fresh or powder
  • Cloves, whole or ground
  • Cardamom pods
  • Nutmeg
  • Star anise
  • Pumpkin spice seasoning

Other Plant Material

  • Bay leaves
  • Sprigs of pine or cedar
  • Lavender blooms
  • Fresh sappy pinecones
  • Rose petals

Other Ingredient Ideas

  • Essential oils (a couple of drops)
  • Maple Syrup
  • Vanilla Extract (or the skin of used whole bean pods)
  • Loose-leaf chai tea

Instructions

  • Combine your ingredients of choice on a pot of water on the stove, or in a crock pot or Instant Pot with the lid off.
  • Start with a small handful of each chunky ingredient such as orange slices, sprigs of rosemary, or lemon peels – plus a little splash of any liquid, and few dashes of spices. Once the mixture begins to heat up, you can always adjust and add more if you find the aroma not as strong as you’d like. There are no rules here!
  • Turn the heat up to bring everything to a light boil, reduce to a simmer, and enjoy the smell that will soon infuse in your home. 
  • Keep an eye on your pot, and perhaps set a timer if you’re forgetful! You don’t want all of the water to evaporate and let the pan run dry.
  • Top off with more water as needed to enjoy your simmering spices for many hours.

Notes

Our Favorite Simmering Spice Recipe Combinations

  1. Fresh orange slices, ginger, star anise, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla. I hate to play favorites, but we’ll just say this one is listed at the top for a reason! 
  2. Apples, ginger, lemon peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove
  3. Rosemary, lemon peel or slices, sprigs of fresh cedar or pine, star anise, and bay leaves
  4. Apples, pumpkin spice seasoning, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks
  5. Fresh lavender buds and a dash of vanilla extract
*Any simplified version of these combos is wonderful as well – such as rosemary and lemon, or orange and cloves.



DeannaCat signature, keep on growing

One Comment

  • Rosanne van Bodegom

    5 stars
    Thank you so much Deanna! The house smells so amazing and I feel so cozy right now. I did not have a lot in the house but I saved some twigs from my Christmas tree. I boiled them together with cinnamon, juniper berries and some cloves. I’d describe it as a forest smell with a hint of sweetness. Next time, I’m going to boil it on the stove and try to let it simmer using a foodwarmer with beeswax candles underneath. Thanks for this lovely idea and I really like the idea of a toxin-free house <3

    Cheers,
    Rosanne

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *