Have you ever wondered why the flavors of Thanksgiving are so unique and ever-so distinguishable? Nothing quite compares to the spread of a Thanksgiving dinner. The iconic holiday flavors of your grandmother’s pumpkin pie, your favorite stuffing, or mom’s prized green bean casserole are largely due to a handful of popular winter spices. Here are the top Thanksgiving spices of the most notable turkey day dishes to find at the grocery store and you need to stock up for the holiday season.


Ellen Gibbs

Sage is often described as a warm spice. This does not mean that sage is a spicy/hot ingredient; it means that sage pairs well with other spices and is used in many comfort food dishes. In terms of your Thanksgiving spread, you could find sage lending its flavor to the dressing or stuffing, turkey, or root vegetables like roasted squash. Often, many chefs will fry leaves of sage as a unique garnish for their dish.


cinnamon, herb, relish, condiment, cloves
Natalie Rodriguez

Cinnamon is likely one of the most iconic Thanksgiving spices of this list. Its distinct flavor is recognizable to many. This spice can be found in desserts like pumpkin pie or an apple tart, but also in mashed or glazed sweet potatoes. Whole cinnamon sticks are even used in the process of cooking down and flavoring cranberry sauce. And don't hesitate to indulge in cinnamon flavored dishes, this spice is fairly healthy!


Nutmeg is like the younger sibling of cinnamon—the flavor is just as iconic to the holidays and necessary for many dishes. If you are having pumpkin pie or pumpkin cake or any sweet pumpkin dish, nutmeg is accompanying the cinnamon flavor. There are actually five big spices that combine to create the flavor of pumpkin pie and nutmeg is a very important one.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

pie, pumpkin, chocolate
Connor Finholt

That being said, there is an ingredient in your grocery store called pumpkin pie spice. I am often surprised when I heard people trying plain puréed pumpkin for the first time and are shocked to know that pumpkin does not taste like a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. Pumpkin is a squash and on its own, tastes like any other squash vegetable. Only when the combination of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice are married with pumpkin, does the taste of a pumpkin pie or PSL appear. A container of pumpkin pie spice at the store is simply these five spices already portioned and mixed together for you.


Thyme, like sage could be used for roasting a turkey. Often an oven roasted turkey is prepped with some root vegetable or onions and garlic or citrus fruits (and always a lot of butter, salt, and pepper). Thyme and these possible other ingredients are stuffed in the turkey to given the turkey flavor. If you enjoy roasted potatoes rather than mashed, thyme is a good flavoring for that as well.


olive oil, herb, tea, oil, rosemary
Jessica Kelly

Rosemary is one of those ingredients that cannot decide between the sweet or savory dished on the thanksgiving table If roasting a turkey with citrus, rosemary is a great pairing. However, my own grandmother roasts our turkey with rosemary and garlic, which also go well together. In a sweet sense, rosemary can be used to flavor honey glazed carrots, shortbread cookies, or baked apples.  

Try these thanksgiving spices this year to spice up your meal.