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What’s a Simmer Pot, and How Do You Make One?

A simmer pot filled with cranberries, a sliced clementine, and a sprig of thyme.

Want to make your house smell great with an all-natural approach? Meet your new best friend: the simmer pot!

Simmer pots (or “simmer potpourri”) are an increasingly popular way to give your living space a wonderful, completely customizable scent. They’re also incredibly easy to make and free of any artificial ingredients.

Ready to make your home smell lovely? Let’s make a simmer pot!

What Is a Simmer Pot?

A simmer pot is basically a DIY air freshener made by heating fragrant herbs, fruits, and other spices in a saucepan filled with water.

They’re an easy, natural, and customizable way to make your home smell wonderful without worrying about open flames from candles, artificial scents, or unwanted chemicals and fumes. Because they’re made with just water and herbs, you can rest assured the whole family will be inhaling fewer toxins.

What You’ll Need

A mesh tea strainer and a copper saucepan
House Again/NutriChef

To make your simmer pot, you’ll need the following kitchen items:

A reliable saucepan: Bonus if it looks pretty sitting out on the stove. A small-to-medium-sized pan, like this one from NutriChef, is best. It heats evenly and has an aluminum-alloy core. Its beautiful, coppery-brown finish will look fab in any kitchen.

NutriChef Nonstick Saucepan

Sleek and perfect for your simmer pot.

A slow-cooker: You can use this method instead of the saucepan if you prefer. Look for a pot that allows for more manual control, like the Crock-Pot Three-Quart. With its sleek, stainless-steel finish, it won’t look out of place on your countertop. It also has three different heat settings, so you can adjust as needed and keep your simmer pot going for hours.

Crock-Pot Three-Quart Round Manual Slow Cooker

Manual settings allow for greater control over your simmer pot.

A Y-shaped citrus peeler: If you’re planning to use any sort of fruit rind or peel, it’s important to have a good, sharp peeler. A regular peeler or zester will probably make the pieces smaller than you want (although you can definitely throw zest into a simmer pot, too). A Y-shaped peeler, like the OXO Good Grips, will help you avoid this. The sharp, strong blades easily slice through any fruit for perfect pieces of peel, every time.

OXO Good Grips Y-Peeler

Perfect for large pieces of fruit peel.

A tea infuser: For most simmer pots, you simply put ingredients in a pot and let them float around. However, you might want to “steep” your ingredients like a tea. This works particularly well for smaller pots. A small mesh tea infuser, like this one by House Again, is ideal. Made from finely woven stainless steel, it will allow you to collect your ingredients in one place and pull them out again, without leaving any behind, stuck to your pot.

House Again Tea Ball Infuser

Keep all of your ingredients together.

Choosing Your Scented Ingredients

Cinnamon sticks tied with a string next to star anise pods.

When it comes to the ingredients for your simmer pot, you can choose any fruits, herbs, or flowers with a scent you enjoy. Feel free to mix things up and experiment by combining different ingredients to create a custom blend—this is where you can really get creative!

We’ll help you get started with some of our favorite mixtures. These ingredients are for simmer pots that hold 3-4 cups of water, but you can adjust the amounts if you’re using more or less water:

Autumn simmer pot: Ingredients include the peel of one apple, the peel of one orange, 2-3 cinnamon sticks, and approximately one teaspoon each of nutmeg and cloves. You also might want to add slices of both apple and orange, although you probably won’t need the whole fruit.

McCormick Cinnamon Sticks, 8 oz

A popular ingredient for simmer pots because the scent is divine.

Holiday simmer pot: Combine the peel and slices of one apple, approximately 1 cup of cranberries, the peel and slices of one orange, 2-3 cinnamon sticks, a teaspoon of cloves, and 2-4 star anise pods.

Soeos Organic Star Anise Seeds

This fragrant spice is perfect for a holiday simmer pot.

Soothing herbal simmer pot: For this relaxing pot, you’ll need approximately 1/2 cup of dried lavender, or 6-8 drops of pure lavender essential oil (adjust as needed), a branch of fresh eucalyptus, and a few sprigs of rosemary. A good rule of thumb is to start with smaller amounts of the herbs, let them come to a boil, and then add more if you want a stronger scent or dilute with more water if you want to weaken it.

Organic Rosemary, Two Bunches

A few sprigs for your simmer pot and a few for your dinner.

Those are just a few of our favorites, but whatever your favorite scents are, you can create a simmer pot with them and fill your home with your favorite aromas.

How to Make a Simmer Pot

It’s actually incredibly easy to make a simmer pot for your home. Follow these instructions if you’re using a saucepan:

  1. Fill your saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add your scent ingredients and let the water continue to boil for a few more minutes.
  3. Lower the heat until your ingredients are—you guessed it—simmering. You can leave the pot simmering for a few hours at a time, as long as the heat stays low enough to keep it warm but not boiling.
Tip: To avoid running out of water or burning your pot, top it off with fresh, room temperature water every 30-45 minutes.

If you prefer, you can also use a slow-cooker as a simmer pot. For this method, follow these steps:

  1. Add water and your ingredients until your slow-cooker is about half full.
  2. Put the cover on and turn on the heat.
  3. Heat until the pot starts to boil—you’ll be able to tell because the lid will have drops of water that roll down the sides from the steam condensing.
  4. Uncover and turn the slow cooker down to its Low, Warm, or Simmer setting.

Again, always remember to keep an eye on your pot and make sure the water isn’t evaporating too quickly; you can add more as needed.

Simmer pots are the perfect way to make your home feel (and smell) cozy. Plus, you can customize them to your liking and fill your space with all your favorite scents, naturally!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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