Nutmeg

A bowl of whole nutmeg spice on white background

Nutmeg is a spice that comes from the seed of the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans). Native to Indonesia, the shiny, purplish-brown seed is roughly the size and shape of an olive.

Nutmeg seeds are ground into a fine powder and used in cooking. The flavor combines well with various dishes, including sweet desserts, savory stews and curries, drinks, and sauces.

The nutmeg seed’s coating is used to make mace. These two spices are considered sisters as they come from the same plant.

Flavor

Nutmeg has a warm, sweet, and slightly spicy flavor with a hint of woody bitterness. It is commonly used in small quantities to add depth and complexity to savory and sweet dishes.

Nutmeg has a strong, aromatic fragrance that is warm and sweet. Its aroma is comforting and uplifting.

Pairs with

Proteins

  • chicken
  • fish
  • beef
  • lamb
  • tofu
  • turkey

Vegetables

  • spinach
  • carrots
  • squash
  • potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower

Spices

  • allspice
  • cardamom
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • cilantro
  • ginger

Spice blends: Baharat, berbere, biryani spice mix, bumbu, Jamaican jerk rub, mixed spice, mulling spice, Quatre épices, tempero baiano, tsire.

Culinary uses

Nutmeg can easily overpower a dish if too much is used. It pairs well with other pungent spices, providing delicious depth of flavor.

Nutmeg is well-suited to sweet and savory dishes. In sweet recipes, nutmeg provides a deep, sweet taste to desserts like apple pie, pumpkin pie, and custards.

It also combines well with creamy food and drink. Recipes like eggnog and rice pudding or béchamel sauce are good examples.

Use small amounts of nutmeg in savory dishes to add complexity and enhance the flavor. Sprinkle the powder into meat dishes like homemade sausages, stews, and curries.

How much? Use between half and one teaspoon of powder for sweet and savory cooking. Increasing the amount will quickly overpower the dish.

Substitutes

  • Replace one whole nutmeg with two teaspoons of ground nutmeg.
  • For desserts, apple pie spice is a useful alternative, although it contains ginger which won’t work in every dish. You could also use pumpkin pie spice.
  • To replace nutmeg in a recipe, your best option is to use an equal amount of mace.
  • Garam masala or allspice are good replacement choices for curries and stews.   

Storage

Store nutmeg in a jar or airtight container in a cool, dark place in the kitchen. Although available ground, nutmeg spice flavor oils quickly evaporate. When possible, buy nutmeg whole and grate freshly when needed.

Quick Facts

NameDescription
FamilyMyristicaceae
Flavor compoundMyristicin, cineole, eugenol, geraniol, pinene, sabinene, safrole
Botanical nameMyristica fragrans
Parts usedSeed kernels
Other namesMuscat, muskatnuss, true nutmeg, fragrant nutmeg
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