House & Home

Homemade Herb and Spice Fire Starters

Homemade herb and spice fire starters

One of my favorite things about fall and winter is the smell of burning wood and bonfires. Whether it comes from a backyard chimenea or a wood-burning stove, I’m always anxious for the temperature to drop a few degrees just so I can light a fire at home.

I mostly keep it low-fi and light some crumpled newspaper to get a fire going, but these homemade herb and spice fire starters are a simple step that makes a fire feel really special. If you use them inside the house, they’ll fill the air with the most wonderful aroma that lingers until the next morning. The only way I can describe it is… it smells like the holidays!

Dried citrus peels, cloves, and cinnamon

Fresh and dried herbs both work for these fire starters (though the dry stuff will burn a bit better), as well as the kinds of spices you’d use to mull cider. If you’ve ever wondered what to do with all those leaves and branches you prune from your herbs but can never use up, this is the perfect application for them.

For dried citrus peels, you can dry them quickly and easily in your oven using the same method for oven-dried oregano. Just take a vegetable peeler to the fruit before you juice it. The oil in the peel helps fuel the fire, making it a fragrant, natural kindling. I personally like the smell of dried orange and lemon peels, but any citrus will work.

Herbs and spices to try:

  • Fresh or dried rosemary sprigs
  • Fresh or dried lemongrass leaves
  • Fresh or dried lemon verbena
  • Fresh or dried lavender
  • Fresh or dried sage
  • Dried citrus peels
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Whole cloves

To assemble your fire starters, you’ll need:

  • Newspaper
  • Natural fiber twine (like cotton, jute or hemp)
Newspaper, twine, spices and herbs

Fold a sheet of newspaper in half lengthwise, and then in half crosswise (the way it comes on the newsstand). Add your favorite fire-starting mix on top. For mine, I used a handful of fresh rosemary, a bundle of fresh lemongrass, a few dried lemon peels, a cinnamon stick, a spoonful of cloves, and a small heaping of dried lavender.

Bundle up spices and herbs in newspaper

Roll it all up, then tie the ends with twine like a Tootsie Roll.

Fragrant fire starters

When you want to start a fire, simply place a few of these herb and spice bundles under your sticks and logs, newspaper end out, and light. Then just kick your feet up and get cozy!

Fire starter in a chimenea
About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Kimberlee
    October 24, 2023 at 11:05 am

    The only problem with these I see for us is that if you use newspaper, which has toxic inks, you can’t use it to make a Dust Bath for your chickens.
    thanks for the ideas of using spices, though.

  • Cary Bradley
    November 30, 2015 at 5:27 am

    Love it but I’m missing how to keep the spices from spilling out of the bundle. Do you fold it all in at one end like a burrito, or just keep it carefully level, or am I overthinking this? 🙂 and couldn’t I use the whole citrus peel, rather than leaving pith behind? You are brilliant! Thanks! !

    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      December 2, 2015 at 10:55 pm

      I wrap my bundle pretty tightly so nothing falls out; you could also try twisting the bundle (as you roll it up) to keep the spices tucked in. I store my bundles flat with my logs, so maybe that’s why I’ve never noticed any issue? And yes, you can use the whole citrus peel – the amount of pith left behind depends on the peeler you use, and it doesn’t make a difference. Stay warm!

      • Cary Bradley
        December 3, 2015 at 2:38 am

        Thank you, dear! I just love this idea and can’t wait to make some. You reminded me with speaking of lemon verbena, of our huge bush in our front yard in Whittier. It loved Southern California and lived alongside a huge pineapple sage bush. Every year when they began looking ratty, we’d prune them back to nubs, and the entire neighborhood smelled glorious! Thanks again for my dear SoCal memory. 🙂 and just let the dogs out, and it’s kind of balmy out. Maybe a Northeastern Santaana Wind… 🙂 hahaha

  • Antony Le
    January 26, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    So very cool…. or hot i should say!

  • Isis Loran
    November 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    What a wonderful idea!!

  • Brittany
    November 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    This is totally happening at my parents’ holiday this year.

  • Missio Terra
    November 26, 2013 at 6:16 am

    Love this idea! We’ll try it in our new wood burning fireplace this year. Thanks!


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