When I sent out my first gift guide in 2020, I was hesitant. I wondered if the world needed another gift guide or if I would have enough recs to sustain this year after year. I didn’t need to worry as these gift guides are one of my favorite things to write and I hear from you that they’re helpful year round. This is your space to find gifts for your loved ones and for yourself for all sorts of occasions, traditional or not. A few reminders: you should not go into debt to buy gifts, secondhand and homemade gifts are wonderful though hard to link, and sometimes the card is the best part of the gift. Stuff won’t solve your problems but sometimes we want a physical manifestation of our affections (and personally, a nice candle at the end of the day is a real mood boost).
How it works:
All of the products here are ones I have personally purchased, been gifted, or gifted to someone. I don’t recommend anything sight unseen. That is very important to me and will always be the case. I started writing this in February. This is longer than a typical newsletter so your email app may cut it off. Make sure to click “View Entire Message” to see the whole thing or open in your browser.
This Needs Hot Sauce is a reader-supported publication. To receive more recommendations all year and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Per tradition, I also got some recommendations from friends with excellent taste. Some of the links are affiliate links which means I receive a small commission if you shop through them, at no extra cost to you. Prices are accurate at the time of publication and lots of these items will probably go on sale at some point. I opened the comments on this post to everyone so I’d love to hear your favorite gifts that you’ve given or received in the comments! If you find the guide helpful, share it with a friend or on social media! It helps a lot. Happy gifting!
Now, let’s dive in.
Brightland Olive Oil, Vinegar, and Honey (starts at $20) I’ve wanted to try Brightland’s California made products for years and Michelle and Manny gave me a set for my birthday, which came in beautiful packaging with recipe ideas and a spout for the oil. My favorite product wound up being Parasol, the champagne vinegar, which I’m trying not to use up too quickly. It’s delicious on salads, on avocado toast, or in a sauce that just needs a hit of acid. I also love the orange blossom honey which has lovely citrus notes. The olive oil is also very good and designed to be left out on the counter. Fancy kitchen ingredients will always be a favorite gift, they are consumable, beautiful, and a little luxury for someone who likes to cook or entertain. For the holidays, they also have a mini set that includes a few olive oil flavors.
Our Pantry Sauces ($16.95): A good jarred sauce is worth its weight in gold and my favorite Our Pantry sauce, the cherry tomato arrabiata, happens to be gold. It’s made from yellow tomatoes and is so good, with a nice kick. I served this to friends recently with this fun pasta shape and only added olive oil and parmesan cheese and we were all raving about it. That’s hard to find in a jarred sauce. This line features sauces made by different chefs, including a salsa and a BBQ sauce. They’re great for cooking—I recently went to a dinner with the brand where they used the barbecue sauce mixed with mayo as a dip for roasted potatoes and it was incredible.
Ghia Spritzes ($60): It’s really nice to have good NA options for entertaining or just a night of TV and Ghia’s canned spritzes fit the bill. My favorite flavor is the Lime and Salt and I also like the Ghia Ginger (the original is a bit bitter for me). You can drink the spritz straight from the can or serve it over ice like a proper cocktail. Grab a pack for stocking stuffers or to pair with a cute set of glassware for someone who’s not drinking, for any reason. These are a great host gift as well—every party needs an NA option.
Nam Coffee ($16.95): This newsletter runs on coffee and it’s a something that I always like to experiment with, trying new alt milks, roasts, and brands. This year, I became a fan of Nam coffee, which is coffee from Vietnam that’s roasted in California. It features both arabica and robusta beans and the packaging is so cute and colorful. My favorite roast is the Orange County and I’ve gotten Julia hooked as well. Get this for anyone who needs a little boost to get through the day. They even have a cute gift set with a filter for easy brewing.
Red Clay Margarita Salts and Seafood Seasoning ($25): When asked, “do you want salt on that rim?” my answer is always yes. Last winter, we got a cocktail shaker and I got very into making margaritas at home with salt rimmed glasses (I even wrote about it for Food & Wine). My go to salt is Red Clay’s spicy margarita salt, which is also wonderful for cooking (try it on roasted vegetables or popcorn). It’s a little spicy, a little citrusy, and adds something special to each drink. I also love their seafood seasoning, which is like a more complex Old Bay, on popcorn with nutritional yeast (I’m sure it would also be great on seafood). My code ABIGAIL20 gets you 20% off anything on the site (get some hot honey while you’re shopping to really upgrade your pizza).
Sanzo Seltzers ($34.99): For my pals who must have three beverages at all times, you need to try Sanzo, a line of seltzers featuring Asian flavors (the founders are from Queens, like me). The calamansi and yuzu ginger are my favorites (Dale loves the lychee) and the cans are so cute and cheerful. Abigail10 gets you 10% off your first order. A case of seltzer is a great gift for someone who just moved: it’s stocking the fridge and saving them a trip to the store. You can even do a subscription of someone’s favorite seltzer (I also love Spindrift).
Fix & Fogg Crunchy Peanut Butter ($9.99): I was a devout creamy peanut butter user until I tried this one. It’s so crunchy and tastes like peanuts, not oil. I have made one jar last for two months and even though it is pretty much empty, I have not thrown it out. I’ve also tried their everything nut butter, which is full of seeds if you like a different type of crunch, and I don’t think you can go wrong (they also have sweeter flavors). This would be such a fun gift paired with a jam or a loaf of great bread and you can also design a custom multipack.
Spring & Mulberry Chocolate ($15): A good bar of chocolate can turn a bad day around or be an elegant after dinner dessert. Spring & Mulberry chocolate would be a recommendation even if the packaging was generic and ugly, but it’s anything but. The wrapping is beautiful (no gift wrap needed) the flavors are vibrant, and dates are the only sweetener. The pecan, date, and salt one is my favorite and I recommend getting a gift pack that you can share with neighbors or coworkers. I’ve gifted these to several friends and Erica and I gave them as favors at our ebook launch party. They always get rave reviews.
Cadence Capsules ($76 for 6): Raise your hand if you’ve gotten an Instagram ad for these! I was skeptical as well but my mom ordered some and gave me three to use on my trip to London. I came back a convert and um, still haven’t returned them (sorry, mom). They’re little containers with magnetic labels (you can customize the labels with words or icons) for bringing products on trips, since not everything comes in a travel size. They fit a lot and didn’t leak at all and I’ve since used them on three more trips. They would also be great for someone who showers at the gym a lot. My only qualm with these is that the default set is 6 and I don’t think you need that many. But you can always spilt a set with someone or just get really into decanting your products. Oset also had the brilliant idea of using them to pack spices or condiments when you’re going to a questionably stocked AirBnB kitchen. Since these are quite personal, I would get a giftcard for someone so they could select their own colors and labels.
Away Packing Cubes ($65): I did not feel young or hip when I asked for packing cubes for my birthday but I did feel great traveling with them. If you’re not on team packing cube yet, here’s my pitch: it’s the closest thing to creating drawers in your suitcase for those trips where you’re not going to fully unpack (for me, that’s most trips). The Away set comes in various sizes so I would use one for underwear, socks, and pajamas, one for workout clothes/loungewear, and one for proper outfits. I use the smallest one in my carryon to organize headphones, toiletries, hand sanitizer, etc. I’ll never pack without them, even for a short trip. It just makes things so much easier to find. Get a set for yourself or your travel buddies (this would be a great gift for a Bachelorette party IMO, more useful than a Bride Tribe shirt and they also have a smaller set).
Uniqlo Circle Bag ($19.90): I saw this Uniqlo circle bag on The Cut a week before I left for London and immediately ordered a black one for pickup at the Soho store. Crossbody/fanny pack bags are everywhere (I gave the now sold out Girlfriend Collective one for her birthday) and they are so convenient. The Uniqlo one fits a lot of stuff (including a small water bottle) and I carried it daily while traveling. It also feels safer to have your possessions strapped to your chest if you’re carrying important documents or in busy train stations. It’s great to have for a morning walk or any activity where you want your hands free, like grocery shopping. The straps are adjustable so you can wear it over a coat as well and there are internal pockets.
Bamboozle Compost Bin ($40): I bought this in March and I know at least four other people who have been influenced to get it. I have the smaller size and it’s been a game changer in my kitchen game. Thanks to the filter, scraps don’t smell and don’t take up valuable freezer space. I use a produce bag as a liner for easier clean up but you can also rinse it out after you dump your scraps at your compost site or in your outdoor bin, it’s just messier that way. Get this for your friend who wants to start composting and cares about aesthetics. It’s a great habit and one we should all be doing if we can (it makes regular trash less stinky and appealing to rats for starters).
Hawkins New York Marble Coasters ($38): Sometimes you want a coaster with some weight to it. It’s an anchor for your cup of tea or glass of wine. These Hawkins New York coasters are stunning and neutral enough to fit anyone’s decor. They don’t slip, look beautiful in a stack and they’re very gifty. I also love the dishes we have from Hawkins New York and could honestly do a whole gift guide from their site—the glasses and cloth napkins are also gift worthy. So hit that free shipping minimum and order a bunch of gifts.
Canopy Humidifier ($135): I got a humidifier last winter and its been a game changer. It doubles as a white noise machine at night and it makes a difference, you can see the water run out faster as it gets colder). I also like the white noise aspect of it as night. The pieces are easy to clean in the dishwasher and attractive. I don’t really use the aromatherapy aspect of it, but it’s an option (I just order filters on their own instead of doing the subscription but there are options). If you use this link, I get a free filter (you change the filters every 6 weeks). Order this early because last winter they were backordered and winter dryness is no joke.
Now, for the candle section! I love candles and I also do an annual candle swap with friends. If you’re a regular candle user, a wick trimmer really takes things to the next level and many brands make them. If you’re ordering a gift, throw one in to make it extra special.
Flamingo Estate Heirloom Tomato Candle ($50): This doesn’t seem like a winter candle but we doesn’t want a burst of freshness in the midst of winter? I got this as a gift from Oset and I burned it so sparingly because I didn’t want it to end. I now use the vessel to store jewelry and it’s so pretty on my dresser. Flamingo Estate is an LA based brand with some unusual gifts and they’re definitely the most expensive one on this list but it really feels luxurious from start to finish.
Lindsey Created Candles ($25): I finally got one of these candles after having them on my wishlist for years and they are great. I have the paid invoice candle and the raise your rates one and they are great gifts for the freelancers/entrepreneurs in your life. Lindsey is also a UX designer so the website is great and the fragrances aren’t overpowering. These candles do go out of stock sometimes so join the email list if you have your eye on a specific one, it’s worth the wait.
Anecdote Candles ($26): Labels matter when it comes to candles and these labels are fun. I really like the Farmer’s Market one and the descriptions will probably remind you of someone you know. I love these for graduations, birthdays, new apartments, anything like that and the price point is fantastic—they also have great throw. I like the clear jar but they have different sizes to suit your budget.
Poured Candle Bar ($35): Making candles is really fun. Tilden and I took a class at Poured when we visited Hudson and I’ve been burning mine so often since I got it. I love the quality of the candles and would recommend taking the class if you’re in the area. The candles are really high quality, with wooden wicks, and the scents are inspired by the Hudson Valley. It’s a queer owned business started by a lovely couple.
Merit Shade Slick Lip Oil ($24): The first store loyalty program I joined was Sephora when I was 12 years old. I remember asking if there was an age requirement and they said no. I became a Beauty Insider and have never looked back. Lip gloss has always been one of my favorite beauty products and I’m thrilled with its resurgence. Last year, I got two Merit lip oils (the modern rebrand of lip gloss, it’s slightly less sticky) and they’ve both been in heavy rotation. I get compliments on this pink whenever I wear it and the clear is a low maintenance one to throw in your bag. You can order from Sephora if you’re trying to get points or from Merit, where they ship your order in a cute reusable bag (last year they did a big holiday sale). I also love the Tower 28 Lip Glosses and this set is a great deal.
Megababe Squeaky Clean Hand Sanitizer ($6): Hand sanitizer is an essential item for Covid, the flu, or when you accidentally touch something sticky on the subway. I got this one when I restocked on some other Megababe products (featured on last year’s gift guide) and it always gets positive feedback when I offer it to friends. It’s a spray, not a gel, which dries faster, and it would be a great stocking stuffer for teachers or coworkers (when I worked at a school, I could not sanitize my hands enough!).
Caudalie Hand and Nail Cream ($16): French pharmacies are a destination and when I spent less than 24 hours in Paris in September, I made sure to squeeze in a visit. I picked up lots of sunscreen (sunscreen filters are better in the EU and Asia) and a few hand creams for Dale and me. Happily, this cream is also available here, just slightly more expensive. Hand cream is necessary for the winter dry skin that awaits us and I really like the smell.
Violets are Blue Hand and Body Cream ($52): I’ve gifted this to two friends, once for a birthday and once for a graduation, and it was well received both times. It’s a luxurious moisturizer, from the packaging to the lavender scent, that lasts for a while—a little goes a long way. And it can be used on your face or body. Having a chic bedside skincare routine can really make you feel like the leading lady of your own life.
Nopalera Exfoliant ($32): Body care is a passion of mine and I love to exfoliate in the shower (I use a Luvscrub, featured on a past gift guide). This nopal based scrub smells so delicious—I gave it to Erica for her birthday and shamelessly used it when I slept over one night (sorry, Erica). It leaves your skin feeling nice and moisturized (I didn’t need to put lotion on after) and the orange scent wakes you right up. I want to try their body bar as well, a solid moisturizer. I love the brand’s mission “to counter the pervasive Euro-centrist beliefs in the beauty industry and show that Latina can equal luxury.”
Dieux Instant Angel Moisturizer ($45): I was in the habit of switching face moisturizers whenever I ran out. I was, until I tried this one. It’s got a wonderful texture and a little goes a long way—I use it year round and especially love it in the winter. The packaging is fantastic—it comes in a recyclable aluminum tube with a squeeze key so you can get every drop of product. I’ve used the squeeze key for other products too. They just launched a jumbo size and I will be purchasing it. This is the same brand that makes my favorite reusable eye masks—my set is still going strong after a year and a half. They also have good customer service so if it doesn’t work for you, you can get a refund. Use code Charlotte10 for a discount.
Delicacies Jewelry Rigatoni Necklace ($130): For the pasta lover in your life, what’s better than a rigatoni necklace? I got this rose gold one at an event this spring and I wear it all the time. It’s pasta shaped but it’s not too cheesy. All purchases contribute to fighting hunger and the packaging shares the symbolism behind each food. They also have very cute dumpling earrings, avocado earrings, something for everyone.
Herschel Beanies ($25): Dale and I have matching Herschel beanies and I do not care if that is cringe. These beanies are perfect for anyone who lives in a cold climate and hates being cold (raises hand). They come in a ton of colors and they even make baby ones (I’ve seen the baby version IRL and it is absolutely precious). We have the ivy green if you want to join the club. The material on this isn’t as thick as some other beanies I have, so you can wear it during transitional weather moments and not get sweaty. These beanies are classics for a reason.
Hot Bread Kitchen: Starting a food business is not for the faint of heart. Hot Bread Kitchen offers vital support to women food entrepreneurs and I was honored to attend their fundraiser this fall, where women presented their businesses after going through an intensive business incubator program (we got to taste each product as they shared its story). The programs include mentorship, access to commercial kitchens and so much more. If you’re a food lover, you can support them with a donation, or by gifting a product made by one of their program members.
YEAH Philly!: This grassroots Philly based organization works with teens to reduce violence through mentorship, evening activities, food resources, and more. You can donate here or if you’re local, sign up to be a mentor with a friend. They have a focus on West and Southwest Philly and use peer mediation and conflict resolution. I have so much love for Philly and I would totally donate here in the name of a college friend!
La Puerta Abierta: I lived in Guatemala for a year after graduating college and I had the absolute honor of volunteering with La Puerta Abierta, a school in Santiago Atitlan founded by Amanda Flayer Chif. The school promotes literacy, storytelling, and creative play and the programs are absolutely wonderful. In addition to a school, they also run a traveling library to reach kids wherever they are are and they provide great professional development for their teachers too. Your donation in dollars will go really far.
Meal Prep Made Simple by Abigail Koffler & Erica Adler: I mean, I had to! Erica and I published our first joint ebook together and I’m so proud of it. It’s also on sale right now (through 11/28) with code THANKS. If you or a loved one wants some help in the kitchen, this book is a great resource. It’s structured to help you with decision fatigue and make meal planning work for you with grocery lists, game plans, and remixes to keep you from getting bored. Of course, the recipes are delicious and everything has gluten free and vegetarian options. It’s hard to find time to cook regular meals during the holidays and this will really help!
Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez: I read this on a train ride to DC (one of the best places to read) and the ride passed in a flash. A few month later, Julia read it on the beach and was similarly absorbed. It’s a small town big city romance that also touches on some really important issues, like emotional abuse. I’m hoping for a movie version.
The Switch by Beth O’Leary: A good vacation book is important and this delivered on our trip to London. It’s set in London and the Yorkshire Dales and follows a woman and her grandmother who switch lives for a bit as they each process some grief and general upheaval in the work and romance department. It’s utterly charming and I would absolutely read a sequel.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins Valdez: Not only is this book timely, it’s beautifully written. This historical fiction story follows a real court case in 1973 Montgomery Alabama involving giving Black girls birth control and sterilization without their consent. It’s told through the eyes of a nurse who tries to find justice and shows how the issue affects the entire community. I’d give this to someone who needs some motivation to keep fighting and loves a book you won’t be able to put down.
Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola: Two words: college romance. This debut novel from Twitter fave Bolu Babalola is crackling with chemistry. Set at a mostly white university in the UK, the two Black protagonists are both trying to find their place and learn to express their feelings. They also have great friends and there’s a cool campus media element, which I love to see in a romance. Get me a sequel.
Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen: For every food person who becomes a household name, there are dozens more who don’t get their shine. In this book, Mayukh Sen spotlights seven immigrant women in food, some who you might have heard of like Marcella Hazan, along with others you might not be familiar with, like Elena Zelayeta and Norma Shirley. Each gets a chapter and as a history major, I really appreciated how he talked about some people left so much more behind in terms of research material.
Snacks for Dinner by Lukas Volger: Snack dinners are a lifestyle and Lukas’ cookbook is full of great ideas. I’ve made his sriracha nuts and I have lots of recipes tagged for holiday entertaining. I also love to see a vegetarian cookbook that doesn’t make that a big deal, your gift recipient might not notice the lack of meat, but they will find something they want to cook.
Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martinez: Rick Martinez was in the middle of researching this book, which covers the regions of Mexico and their (delicious) cuisines when the pandemic hit. He wound up staying and eventually buying a house in Mazatlán. This book is deeply personal, beautifully photographed, and a story about coming home and falling in love with a new place. I’ve read this a few times and it’s colorful and elegant enough to live on your coffee table before you stain it from cooking. Rick is also a great Instagram follow and his home is gorgeous.
The Vegan Chinese Kitchen: Recipes and Modern Stories from a Thousand-Year-Old Tradition by Hannah Che: Vegan and vegetarian foods are nothing new, despite all the alt meat companies saying otherwise. Hannah Che became a vegan and wanted to connect with Chinese vegan traditions so she went to a vegetarian cooking school in China and came away with so many fantastic ideas and rich stories about vegan cooking traditions that date back thousands of years. There are so many great vegetable dishes in here and it’s also a great answer to the question, “what do vegetarians/vegans eat?” I’m not against a slightly passive aggressive gift.
I asked some of my friends with excellent taste to share their gift picks with all of us. They never disappoint. Makes sure to give these folks a follow and support their work, they’re all wonderful!
Lissette Calveiro, CEO & Founder of Influence With Impact & Latina Content Creator: I am a big fan of gifting plants and flowers, but the challenge has always been to find something that "lasts" even for those without a green thumb. East Olivia is a small, female-owned shop that creates beautiful dried flower arrangements so that the gift keeps on giving beyond the season. The one I was gifted earlier this year still looks and feels brand new. The vases they come in are also just as beautiful and are sure to make a statement in anyone's space. There's a size and color palette for any style and budget.
Hannah Orenstein, Author of Meant to Be Mine and other novels, Deputy Lifestyle Editor at Bustle: I bought this cheery mug from The Dune Market, a new indie boutique my friend Emily Raleigh opened on Long Beach Island, New Jersey earlier this year. The shop's vibe is essentially Coastal Grandmother with a focus on ethically-sourced goods. This coffee cup is made by artisans in Bat Trang, Vietnam. I also have too many vintage coupes and books from The Dune Market... and I want more.
Hitha Palepu, Multi-hyphenate: Naghedi's St. Barth's mini tote was a bag I gifted myself earlier this year, and one of the best purchases I made in 2022. My mom, mother-in-law, aunts, cousins, and nieces have all commented on it (it's so cute! you can fit all of that in that bag?) and so I'm gifting them to the most important ladies in my life. The bags are made from recycled neoprene, handwoven by women artisans, and are the most durable bags that are also timeless.
Leah Wiseman Fink, Leadership Coach, Brooklyn mom, pizza wife, and business woman: Last winter I got addicted to going to Higher Dose for their infrared saunas. It did something magical to my brain chemicals, cured some minor physical ailments, and made my head happier and clearer. I splurged on the at-home sauna blanket, and haven't looked back. My cost per use must be a dollar / use by now. Use LEAH15 for a discount.
Natalie Love Cruz, Culinary professional + food writer: My pick this year is USPS Operation Santa. The Post Office receives tens of thousands of letters through their holiday initiative that allows you to read letters addressed to Santa and anonymously adopt one. Through the adoption letter process you can grant someone's wishes and send them a gift through the mail. Helps many folks in need :)
Maiah Johnson Dunn, Writer telling heart-forward stories about New York wine and the Beverage Education Manager at New York Kitchen, a wine and culinary center in the Finger Lakes: I love hosting but there's truly nothing worse than a sink full of glassware at the end of a wine-fueled night. Meet Wine Wash, the product that keeps your wine glasses safe in the dishwasher so you can enjoy a nightcap on the couch. Created by my dear friend Erica, you'll be supporting a female-owned small business while making cleanup easier. Round out your purchase with a witty dish towel, sponge, and gloves.
Irina Groushevaia, Food & Culture Writer, Social Manager at Punch: Not gonna lie, this year I was influenced by Bettina Makalintal using a citrus zester on Instagram. The beautiful curls of lemon and orange zest complete every meal with a stunning visual touch. The freshly zested fruit also add wonderful fragrance and elevate the dish to another level. Serving Martinis at your holiday get together? You can also make a citrus twist to compliment any drink. A budget-friendly gift, this tool will make a big splash for any foodie or cocktail enthusiast.
Andrea Aliseda, Writer, Poet, and Recipe Developer: Not to be totally predictable but Masienda's Doña Rosa tortilla press is absolutely stunning, wonderful to use, sleek, comes in beautiful colors (I have my eye on espuma), and is lightweight—producing perfect tortillas every time!
Olivia Howell, CEO, Fresh Starts Registry, the first and only platform for everything you need to start again: My gift pick is something everyone needs in their life - the perfect planner! Created by journalist, editor, and blogger Jamie Stone, The Progress Over Perfection planner is a 6-month, undated, daily planner to help you organize your life and increase your productivity (without feeling overwhelmed and/or like a failure). Design your days and manage them (well). Every day gets its own page in the Progress Over Perfection planner. Didn’t finish everything on your list? Have a project you want to start next month and don’t want to forget? That’s OK, and this space is for you. And, please remember, there’s no shame in having to move something to a different day. Progress OVER perfection, right?
If you made it this far, you’re a champ! Thank you for reading this year’s gift guide! Happy shopping! Remember to share it with a friend!
I can HIGHLY recommend the candles by Candlefish (https://www.candlefish.com). We did one of their candle-making workshops back in 2019. The 75 candle is my favorite and one I've bought multiple times. I think of it as a summer candle because of the peach smell. Right now, I'm burning the 52 candle, which is a great one for winter.
My favorite gift guide! Thanks for all the great ideas. Those pasta necklaces!!!