It's been right in your kitchen the entire time.

By Noah Kaufman
Updated August 30, 2017
Best Popsicles: Meltdown, New Orleans
Credit: Photo © Vaeda Baty

The unofficial end of summer is here, and for many, Labor Day weekend represents the last chance to fire up the grill, uncork a bottle of rosé and eat some frozen treats. Now, we’re happy to eat popsicles all year long, but we get that many people do not think of them as a cold weather food. So, we thought we’d break out the sticks and make one last popsicle push for the holiday weekend.

Typically, popsicles are sweet concoctions of fruit, juice and sugar like these paletas. But that's only part of the story. Lior Lev Sercarz, master spice blender and owner of La Boîte in New York City stopped by the Food & Wine test kitchen and he shared a different, spicy way to think about them. He brought with him some berry yogurt pops with hibiscus and lemonade turmeric popsicles—both delicious. He said that he loves adding cloves, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon to his ice pops as well. And here, Sercarz shares more of his tips for reinventing popsicles with a little help from your spice cabinet.

Don't worry about recipes

Using spices should be a bit of an experiment according to Sercarz. He suggests taking the smallest amount of a spice you can—just a pinch—and adding that to the puree you intend to freeze. Then just taste and repeat until you reach the spice level that's right for you. Just make sure you write down the results of the experiment. That will make things go a little quicker the next time around.

Cinnamon can replace sugar

We're not talking about a one to one replacement, that would be cinnamon challenge levels of crazy. But Sercarz says he often can use less sugar if he adds cinnamon instead. He puts in the cinnamon first to test out how much, if any additional sugar a recipe needs. The scent of cinnamon, he says, especially a sweeter one like the Vietnamese cinnamon he brought with him, can make you think something tastes like it has more sugar in it than it actually does.

You can use what you have

When it comes to adding spice, even to something unorthodox like popsicles, Sercarz doesn't believe people need to be bound by any recipe. "If something calls for galangal and you don't have galangal, use ginger." No, it won't be the same, he concedes, but it will still be good.

But you should commit to trying something new

Sercarz acknowledges that many people don't regularly keep items like the hibiscus he uses, at home, but, he says, they aren't that hard to get. He's found that grocery stores don't always keep some of the spices he loves in the actual spice aisle, but more often than not they're in stock somewhere in the store. You just have to ask. He's pretty sure you'll be happy if you do.