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How to Make a Simmer Pot (Stovetop Potpourri)

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There’s something about the scent of cinnamon, orange, and cloves that adds comfort to a home during the holidays. A simmer pot is the perfect way to combine these fragrances (and many others) to create a cozy atmosphere in your home. The only risk is that your family will think you’re baking something delicious! Sorry, kids, it’s just the stovetop potpourri.

Simmer pot in Dutch oven filled with cranberries, orange slices, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, rosemary stems, and bay leaf.

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What is a simmer pot?

A simmering pot (or stovetop potpourri) generally includes a mix of aromatic ingredients that create a lovely fragrance as they simmer on the stove. It makes a great substitute for candles when you want the aroma to fill your kitchen and waft into the other rooms.

Dutch oven filled with orange slices, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, rosemary, and bay leaves.
Christmas simmer pot (a.k.a. “stovetop potpourri”)

Simmer pots are the perfect way to make your home smell inviting, especially during the fall and winter seasons.

If you have roommates or family members who love to eat Kimchi, a simmer pot is also a great tool to have at your disposal. Ask me how I know!

The best part about simmer pots is the chance to use your creativity. You can create a signature simmer pot blend for fall or Christmas. A simmer pot makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for the holidays.

Free Printable Gift Tags

To help you create stovetop potpourri kits, I’m offering free printable gift tags. Just fill out the form at the end of this post, and check your inbox for details.

Cellophane gift bag filled with orange, cranberries, and spices shown with gift tag that says "Stovetop Potpourri" next to dried orange slices.
Free printable “stovetop potpourri” gift tags

Once you print and cut the tags, you can tie them around your bags or mason jars with ribbon or twine. Your friends and family will love the thoughtful gift…or they’ll take it as a hint that their house needs to smell better. Either way, it’s a win-win for you.

How to Make a Simmer Pot

To get started, simply blend ingredients that are pleasing to you and keep your mixture at a low boil (or simmer) on the stove. There are no rules about which spices or fruit to include, but I’ll share the combo that I love for the holidays.

I like to use a Dutch oven, but any small saucepan will work. You can also use a slow cooker or crock pot with the same ingredients on a low heat setting.

Typical Simmer Pot Ingredients

When designing your simmer pot blend, consider a mix of bright scents like citrus fruits, mulling spices like cinnamon, and earthy scents like pine. Here are a few categories you can choose from to spark your imagination.

Simmer pot ingredients including oranges, cranberries, cinnamon sticks, star anise, whole cloves, bay leaf, and rosemary stems.
Common simmer pot ingredients

Liquid Base

Most simmer pots start with water, but you can substitute apple cider for a sweeter scent. Cider comes in handy for a fall concoction, in particular.


Fruit can not only add sweet scents to your mixture but also create a contrast in color. Consider adding slices of oranges, lemons, fresh cranberries, or apples.

Dried orange slices shown with cinnamon sticks and star anise.
Dried orange slices

If you want to save your simmer pot ingredients for later, you can make dried orange slices. This is a great option for gift-giving too. You can dry lemon slices or apples with the same technique.


Try adding one or two spices at a time to avoid an overly complex fragrance. My favorite simmer pot spices are cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. You can also try nutmeg, ginger, cardamom pods, allspice berries, or pumpkin pie spice (especially for fall).

Ground spices are fine if that’s what you have in your pantry, but I recommend cinnamon sticks and whole cloves for this type of craft. They tend to have a more potent scent as they simmer.

Dutch oven filled with simmer pot ingredients, including cranberries, cinnamon sticks, rosemary, orange slices, and star anise.

I also have a tutorial using whole cloves to make orange pomander balls, so be sure to check that out if you have cloves left over.


Sweet spices tend to work best for simmer pots as opposed to savory spices. However, a sprig of rosemary or a bay leaf can add some sophistication to your aroma.

Lavender is the perfect herb to use for spring or summer simmer pots if you want a scent that is more fitting for the season.


Vanilla, peppermint, and almond extracts are great options for making a simmer pot at home. I especially love the smell of peppermint when I’m suffering from seasonal colds in the winter.

You can also use vanilla bean or mint leaves if you have those handy instead.

Other Earthy Tones

During the holidays, you could add a piece of pine or a fragrant evergreen stem to your stovetop potpourri. This also gives the mixture some variation in texture and color. It’s especially nice to include a pop of green if you’re giving a simmer pot kit as a gift.

Easy Simmer Pot Recipe

Simmer pot ingredients, including oranges, dried orange slices, cranberries, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, rosemary, and bay leaves.

For this Christmas simmer pot recipe, I chose a mix of cinnamon sticks, fresh orange slices, star anise, whole cloves, bay leaves, and a sprig of rosemary from my vegetable garden.

If you want to learn how to dry herbs, I have a whole post showing four different methods to preserve your garden treasures.

Since my Dutch oven is quite large, I added enough water to fill it halfway. You may want to adjust your quantities below based on the size of your pot.

Holiday Simmer Pot Ingredients

  • 12 cups water
  • 1 fresh orange (or dried orange slices)
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 3-5 star anise
  • 1-2 bay leaves
Simmer pot filled with cranberries, rosemary, star anise, cinnamon sticks, orange slices, and cloves.


  1. Fill the pot or slow cooker about halfway with water and place on medium heat setting.
  2. Cut the orange into 1/4-inch slices, and place them in the pot.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time.
  4. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to a low/warm setting.
  5. Allow the pot to simmer for as long as desired, and add more water as needed. Typically 2-3 hours is long enough for the scent to permeate your home.


  • In place of rosemary sprigs, you could also use pine or other herbs.
  • Star anise has a much stronger scent than anise seeds, but both give hints of licorice.
  • You can substitute dried orange slices for fresh orange. You may need the equivalent of 1.5 oranges if using dried slices.
  • Set a timer for your simmer pot to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate. Continue to monitor the pot while the mixture is simmering and do not leave it unattended.

The combination of citrus and spice had everyone in the house thinking I was making the ultimate dessert!

A simmer pot is a great option if you have orange peels left over from a recipe (or after snacking). You can throw these scraps in a small pot and make your whole house smell fresh and clean for the season. Sometimes the best simmer pots are unplanned.

Another option for home fragrance is making homemade potpourri with dried flowers. I have plenty of tips to share when drying flowers, so be sure to check out that post if you need more DIY gifts.

Download Free Printable Gift Tags

I hope you enjoy making stovetop potpourri this year! Be sure to share the gift with friends. You can grab free printable gift tags by filling out the form below!

Just wrap an orange (or dried orange slices), cranberries, and your preferred spices in a clear cellophane bag and attach your tags.

Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the download.

Happy Simmering!

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Simmer pot filled with cranberries, cinnamon sticks, star anise, rosemary, orange slices, and cloves. Text overlay reads "Christmas Simmer Pot Recipe" and "Free Printable Gift Tags".
Dutch oven filled with orange slices, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, rosemary, and bay leaves.

How to Make a Simmer Pot

Author: firstdayofhome.com
Make this easy simmer pot to add a lovely holiday fragrance to your home. With scents of cinnamon, cloves, oranges, cranberries, and rosemary, this stovetop potpourri smells heavenly and makes a great gift during the holidays.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Active Time 5 minutes
Simmering Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Project Type Arts & Crafts
Cost (US$)$10-12
Yield 1 pot


  • 1 Dutch oven (Can use any small pot or crockpot if desired)


  • 12 cups water (Enough to fill pot 1/2 full)
  • 1 orange (May substitute dried orange slices)
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp whole cloves
  • 3 pods star anise
  • 2 bay leaves


  • Add water to Dutch oven or medium-sized pot until 1/2 full. Heat over medium heat while adding ingredients. You can also use a crockpot or slow cooker if desired.
  • Cut the orange into 1/4-inch slices and add them to the pot. You can substitute dried orange slices or orange peels as well.
  • Add the remaining ingredients one at a time. You can adjust the quantities based on your preferences and pot dimensions.
    Simmer pot ingredients, including oranges, dried orange slices, cranberries, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, rosemary, and bay leaves.
  • Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to low/warm.
  • Add more water as needed, and continue simmering the pot for 2-3 hours. You can turn the heat off and re-simmer the pot for an additional day, if desired.
    Dutch oven filled with simmer pot ingredients, including cranberries, cinnamon sticks, rosemary, orange slices, and star anise.


Do not leave a simmer pot unattended. Set a timer to ensure the pot does not simmer too long.
For additional ingredient options and to print free gift tags, visit the original post at firstdayofhome.com.
Tried this project?Mention @firstdayofhome or tag #firstdayofhome!


  1. What do you do with simmer pot water?

    After you’ve enjoyed your simmer pot, you might be wondering what to do with simmer pot water. You can compost the ingredients or dispose of the solid ingredients and pour the remaining liquid in your garden.

  2. Can you drink simmer pot liquid?

    If you use edible ingredients, you can taste the simmer pot liquid. However, it will develop a strong flavor that may be unpleasant after simmering for an extended period. It is mostly intended for use as a home fragrance.

  3. Can you reheat a simmer pot?

    Yes, you can try reheating an existing simmer pot, but I recommend using your simmer pot for no more than 1-2 days to maintain freshness and prevent mold.

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  1. Thanks for all of these simmer pot tips Crissy! I have most of this on hand so I am going to make one today! Pinned. Merry Christmas my friend!