It’s easy to get stuck in a cooking rut. If you’ve been making the same holiday dishes year after year  - we say it’s time to spice things up! It might seem like a daunting task to change up your holiday menu, but fear not: we’ve gathered a list of our favorite exotic spices that are sure to give your traditional, worn-out annual  dishes a completely new, modern, exotic makeover that everyone will be raving about. We promise. 

Ready to redefine family  tradition?

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1. Sumac

Sumac is one of our favorite go-to spices and a must-have in our spice cabinet. Originating from Middle Eastern cuisine, this richly hued red spice adds a subtle pop to any dish. It’s tangy and zesty, yet not the least bit spicy or overpowering, which makes it a welcome addition to even the most sensitive palettes. We love topping off our olive oil roasted potatoes and veggies with sumac for a quiet kick.

2. Preserved lemon

Okay, while not technically a spice, we just couldn’t resist. Preserved lemons are the Middle Eastern cuisine’s best-kept secret. They are so good, so tangy, so zesty, and so easy - we can’t believe a trend hasn’t caught on (yet!). Preserved lemons are made by cutting up fresh lemons and storing them in a jar with fresh lemon juice and salt for one month. When they’re ready, the skin softens and transforms into an edible, sour-free, salty punch of flavor that adds such a beautiful depth and zest. Think tomato sauce, chicken, fish, sauteed spinach - your imagination is the limit. When cooking with them, be sure to give them a quick rinse to wash off the excess salt. 

Pro tip: Pan fry them with La Española Classic Olive Oil and they will caramelize. Add garlic and fresh thyme or rosemary for an amazingly flavorful base to your dish.

3. Zatar

Did we mention we really love Middle Eastern spices? The last one our list, Zatar is actually a spice mixture that has an herbaceous, nutty flavor. Mix your zatar spice blend with La Española Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt for an incredibly easy and flavor-packed sauce! Serve it up with some crusty bread as a quick appetizer, or drizzle it on top of your chicken, fish or veggie dish for a major pop.

4. Garam Masala

You know when you go to an Indian restaurant and you can’t put your finger on why it tastes so different from your curries at home? Three words: Garam Masala (and we’ll get to the third next!). Garam Masala is a spice blend and staple for Indian cooking. It’s a mixture of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, mace, mustard seed, cloves, and cardamom. Add a spoonful of this flavor-packed blend to your holiday chili, soups, stews or chicken for an exotic Indian flair.

5. Asafoetida

Remember we said we’ll tell you about that third ingredient later? Asafoetida is the magical Indian spice that gives authentic Indian food that incredibly rich, robust flavor profile. The oniony, garlicky essence is a flavor enhancer, kind of like salt. Add a pinch of this potent stuff into a pan and saute in olive oil with other spices to really bring out the flavor of your spices. Then add the rest of your ingredients - vegetables, legumes, chicken, etc. You’ll be surprised by how much depth this powerful powder adds to your dishes. 

Pro tip: DON’T SMELL IT RAW. It has a sulfury smell when uncooked. Once it’s cooked, it loses its odor and transforms into a heavenly aroma!

6. Galangal

Last but not least, galangal is a Southeast Asian spice that comes from a root similar in appearance to ginger, but can be found in powder form. It’s citrusy, zesty, and adds a wonderful freshness and complexity to soups, sauces, and fish. Add a pinch to a dish to transport your friends and family to balmy Thailand. You’re welcome. 

What are your favorite spices to liven up your holiday cooking? Come tell us on social media - you can join the conversation at Facebook and Instagram