3 Christmas simmer pot recipes to help you feel like the ultimate host this holiday season

An illustration of a simmer pot with the ingredients for the

Have you ever gone to someone’s house for a cookie exchange, Christmas party or other holiday gathering, walked in the door and thought, “Holy wow, it smells amazing in here”? Well, I’ll let you in on the likely source: They’ve got a simmer pot going.

What’s a simmer pot, you ask? 

Ohhhh, honey. I’m about to spill some super-host/ess secrets.

A simmer pot is merely a pot of water with a bunch of aromatics, spices and fruit added to it and set over a low burner to keep everything at a bare—you guessed it—simmer. The resulting aroma wafts throughout your home and lasts for hours. It’s a simple thing that makes a huge difference in the ambiance of your home, especially at the holidays.

And I just so happen to have three great recipes for Christmas simmer pots for you right here!

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Before we jump into the specific simmer pot recipes, let’s cover some basics: 

What do you need?

First, no matter what the recipe is, you’ll need:

  • A large pot or Dutch oven (7 or 9 quarts)
  • About 6 quarts of tap water
  • A stovetop burner that you don’t mind having occupied for a few hours during your holiday party


You’re supposed to smell it, not eat it. 

It’s all about the balance of scents the simmering process releases—not the concentration of it in the water. So I start with as much water as I can in the pot. That way, the simmer pot lasts as long as possible. 

 You should start your Christmas simmer pot early.

I find that it takes a good hour for the simmering process to start throwing the scent throughout the house. So definitely get it going before the guests arrive.

 Remember: It’s a “simmer” pot, not a “boil” pot.

If you forgot to start your simmer pot until the last minute, it’s okay to crank that stovetop burner all the way up to high. But once the water starts to bubble, dial it back to medium-low or low. If the water temperature is too high for too long, the aromatic compounds will start to break down and the contents of the simmer pot will smell cooked rather than Christmas-y.

 It’s your party, so feel free to customize.

Finally, the recipes below have been fiddled and fussed with to get a good balance of scents going. But you can totally customize them! Want more citrus? Go for it. Want more cinnamon? Throw another stick in the pot. Everyone’s preferences are different!

An illustration of the ingredients included in our

Simmer Pot Recipe #1: Winter Wonderland  

I’m a big fan of a “clean” smelling home, so I wanted to develop a Christmas simmer pot recipe that was a mix of crisp and comforting smells. This one is citrusy, but with a bright pop of evergreen scent from the juniper berries.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • 1/2 cup juniper berries, roughly chopped
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbsp vanilla extract)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp whole coriander


Note: I highly recommend foraging for the juniper berries (i.e., picking them off trees). The juniper berries sold in the spice section at the grocery store for culinary use can be expensive! Also, I tested both and found that the fresh juniper berries foraged from trees threw off more scent. 

There are lots of juniper varieties out there—some berries are small and round, some are large with little lumps on them. But they smell pretty much the same. Give your knife a good wash after chopping them. The resin is sticky!

An illustration of the ingredients that go into our

Simmer Pot Recipe #2: Home for the Holidays  

Who doesn’t love the smell of mulled cider wafting through the house all day long during the holidays? That’s exactly what you’ll get with this Christmas simmer pot recipe—a classic scent profile strong enough to make your whole house smell heavenly. And it looks pretty, too!

You’ll need:

  • 1 apple, sliced into rounds
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 cup fresh or dried cranberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 Tbsp whole allspice
  • 3 thyme sprigs


Note: Cinnamon can quickly overpower all the other scents in this simmer pot recipe, which is why I’ve kept it down to one stick. But if you get it going and feel like it’s just not enough, add another!

Pro tip: You can buy several of these fruits and whole spices from Asian grocery stores at a fraction of the price that you’d pay at a conventional grocery store. If you’re thrifty like me and up for exploring the different cultures and cuisines represented in the aisles, you should be able to find the following at your local Asian market: 


•  Gingerroot
Bay leaf
•  Coriander
•  Green cardamom pods
•  Cinnamon sticks
•  Whole cloves
•  Star anise
•  Whole nutmeg

An illustration of the ingredients that go into our

Simmer Pot Recipe #3: Gingerbread House  

This Christmas simmer pot recipe will seriously make your house smell like you’ve been baking gingerbread cookies all day. Which is amazing, but also, you might want to make sure you have some actual cookies on hand so as not to disappoint your guests. 😉

  • 1 large piece of fresh gingerroot, cut into coins
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp green cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 whole nutmeg pod
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole star anise pods

Whether you pick one or try them all, these Christmas simmer pot recipes will have wonderful scents wafting through your home in no time. 

Need more holiday hosting and decorating ideas? We’ve got SO. MANY.