Make DIY Stovetop Potpourri For Seasonal Simmering

Make some simmering stovetop potpourri from items in the pantry (or the woods) to fill your home with welcoming, festive holiday scents!

by Michelle Bruhn
PHOTO: Sonja Calovini/AdobeStock

Catching the scent of potpourri simmering is so satisfying. Whether it brings you back to childhood memories or smells like the traditions you want to start, we’ll get you there with a few simple steps. 

This project can be completed by raiding your pantry, and it can include heading out to the woods to forage for needles and greens while walking through the snow. You choose your adventure here.

My boys still love going on the scavenger hunts (foraging) to add to our potpourri. That’s actually how we started this family tradition. I wanted something to do with all the odds and ends we collected on our winter walks.   

This is a 100% kid friendly project. 

About Potpourri

Simmering potpourri started centuries ago to clean the air from dank smells and “sicknesses”. Many of the ingredients we commonly use today have multiple health benefits. Smelling citrus can relieve headaches, cinnamon helps you stay alert, and both rosemary and clove ease stress and anxiety.

We can all use those boosts during the holidays. 

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Potpourri recipes vary widely, because they’re extremely flexible. I tend to stick to one of three “collections” when I make these—either apple, citrus or pine, but I do encourage mixing and matching. 

You can use any type of citrus, either thin, dehydrated slices or just the peelings. As I mentioned, there are “collections” of ingredients that work well together. But within those groupings, you can have fun and make it your own!

Amounts of each ingredient can vary depending on what you have on hand—or what you want to forage. It is best to use whole spices (whole cloves, star anise, full cinnamon sticks) as they release their smells slowly and last longer in the pot.   

Potpourri Collections

  • Apple, cinnamon stick, anise, cloves, all spice
  • Pine needles, cedar greens, rosemary, cloves
  • Orange (slices or peelings), cinnamon sticks, cloves 

You can add cranberries and spices like cinnamon, clove and anise to any of the families. 


Add a few sprigs of greens or a few slices of citrus, a single cinnamon stick and a few teaspoons of whole spices to each batch. Cover generously with water and set to simmer and enjoy.

It really is that simple. 

We often keep a pot simmering and add to it for a few days in a row. Our simmer pot (a cast iron woodstove steamer) sits on top of our wood stove, which we keep burning to help heat our home all winter. A pot on a stove top or a crockpot with the lid off works well too.

It is important to always keep enough water in whatever pot you’re using, as burnt anything ruins the effect very quickly! And always remember to never leave your home with the stove on. 

If making for yourself, feel free to use fresh oranges, apples and cranberries. But if you’re gifting, remember to dehydrate the fruits completely so it stores until the recipient is ready to use it. Some people like to add essential oils like pine, sweet orange or clove to the mixes to add even more scent. 

If gifting, you can make these handmade treats really special with packaging. Since you’ll want to keep this airtight—to not lose the aromas—a canning jar works well. Plus jars are easy to spruce up with some ribbon and handmade tags. 

Hope you get to enjoy your own and the chance to give the gift of slowing down to smell the potpourri to others this holiday season!

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