When it comes to seasonal flavors, fall gets all the hype. And for good reason—what’s not to love about apple picking, in-season squash, and pumpkin-spice everything? But alas, PSL lovers—winter is almost here. And along with swapping out your easy tanks for cozy sweaters, it’s time to give your go-to eats a cold-weather makeover.
Contrary to what many people believe, the first frost doesn’t spell the end of fresh ingredients. According to Ashley Melillo, the blogger behind Blissful Basil, the seemingly endless winter months are prime time for reviving your pantry, filling your vegetable drawer to the brim, and bringing some of last year’s spices out of hibernation.
“The transition from fall to winter in my kitchen isn’t nearly as stark as the one from summer to fall, but there are definitely a few seasonal changes,” says Melillo, whose cooking features delicious, plant-based inventions, “Namely, a surge of heartier vegetables—think chard, kale, carrots, beets, cabbage, leeks, onions, sweet potatoes, and winter squash—moves in.”
Keep scrolling for Ashley’s winter shopping list.
For your pantry
Come winter, warm bowls and creamy soups are the name of the game. Melillo stocks her pantry with tasty ingredients for cozy, nutritious meals. Her list always includes:
Grains: Mellilo swears by rice, millet, and quinoa—all three of which “offer a nice protein boost and pair well with all sorts of dishes from roasted vegetables to curries and even stews.” Don’t forget to pick up rolled oats for some museum-worthy oatmeal and homemade granola bars.
Legumes: Go for yellow split peas and lentils for another boost of plant-based protein in curries, soups, and stews.
Stocks: Always keep low-sodium vegetable stock on hand for vegan bisques and soups.
Canned goods: Pumpkin and sweet potato purées are a must for muffin- and bread-related emergencies.
Raw nuts and seeds: Mellilo likes raw cashews, shelled hemp seeds, pepitas, and raw almonds for simple snacks, creamy sauces, and dressings.
Adaptogens: These herbal ingredients are pretty much the superheroes of stress reduction. In the winter, Milello keeps maca root powder and licorice root at the ready. “From an adaptogenic perspective, maca is most hailed for its ability to regulate hormones, boost energy, and balance mood. It’s easy to incorporate into smoothies and has a slightly spicy malted flavor,” says Melillo. As far as licorice root goes, she prefers to sip it in a sweet cup of tea. It’s particularly beneficial for those “suffering adrenal fatigue, leaky gut, or weakened immune functioning,” she adds.
For your produce drawer
Once you’ve eaten the last of the apples from your farm share, it’s time to give your produce drawer a reboot. Luckily, winter has plenty of fruit and veggies to go around. Along with beets, turnips, celeriac, and carrots, Melillo always buys these three underrated gems:
Persimmons: With plenty of anti-oxidants, fiber, and Vitamin C, this sweet fruit is your gateway to winter superfoods, Melillo says. “The trick with persimmons is to hold off on eating them until they’re very ripe—this is one fruit where soft and mushy is actually a good thing! I love to eat persimmons all on their own, but they’re also wonderful sliced and served over a hearty winter salad or even atop a smoothie bowl.”
Potatoes: Yes, you’re already obsessed with sweet potatoes, but Melillo says other tuber varieties deserve just as much love: “Potatoes are actually a wonderful source of vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and potassium. They also contain an impressive array of phytonutrients with antioxidant properties. I love to add diced potatoes to winter soups and stews. They up the heartiness factor while also offering a boost of vitamins and minerals—a win-win,” Melillo says.
Medjool dates: You can use this naturally sweet staple for all your seasonal baking needs, from energy balls to raw cookies.
For your freezer
When the sun starts setting at 5 p.m., the last thing you want to do is come home and cook a super complicated dinner. Frozen foods can be a lifesaver on frigid nights. No need to scour the freezer aisle for healthy finds, though—Melillo has some handy suggestions for filling your freezer like a health pro:
Soup, stews, and chilis: Just pop the frozen soup in the microwave or a saucepan and bam, dinner is taken care of. Some of Melillo’s freezer finds include this vegan broccoli cheese soup, red lentil dahl, sweet potato curry, and veggie- and nut-based chili. Sop these up with some hearty bread.
Brown rice: Cooking rice can be a time-consuming task, so Melillo suggests freezing a big batch for later use.
Healthy desserts: “On the sweeter end of things, a big bowl of cinnamon-dusted oats topped with spiced apples and almond butter is a frequented favorite of mine,” Melillo says.
For your spice cabinet
Holiday spices can invoke a long walk down memory lane. Think cinnamon-y pumpkin pie, potatoes baked with rosemary, and sage chopped into stuffing. Here’s how Melillo takes advantage of the spices of the season:
Savory: Always keep smoked paprika, ground turmeric (for avocado and egg collaborations), cumin, and coriander on hand for easy flavor upgrades from your usual salt and pepper. When fresh herbs are no longer an option, Melillo recommends keeping a steady supply of dried herbs, including thyme, rubbed sage, dried basil, and dried oregano.
Sweet: “My go-to sweet, warming winter spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and cardamom. There’s so much you can do with these five spices—think spiced compotes, homemade almond milk chai tea lattés, spiced cakes and cookies, and even spiced oats,” says Melillo.