Cloves are a powerful spice that have a warming, mildly sweet flavor. Their distinctive aromatic characteristics make for a versatile ingredient in savory and sweet dishes. If you don’t have any in the kitchen then you’ll need an everyday clove substitute that isn’t “out of place” in the recipe. We’ve compiled a list of our favorites so that you can finish that recipe today.
The top 4 substitutes for cloves
Nutmeg is a pungent spice with a warm, sweet taste and a powerful fragrance, a lot like cloves. It can be used in a wide range of dishes from meat and vegetables, to puddings and eggnog.
When using nutmeg as a clove substitute, we recommend using an equal amount as you’d use cloves.
Allspice is a fascinating ingredient that incorporates the flavor of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in one spice. It can be used in savory food like curries and sauces, but it is also excellent in sweet dishes. Add a sprinkle of allspice to pumpkin pie for a similar result as cloves.
To replace cloves in a recipe, use an equal amount allspice. For some desserts, use restraint as allspice contains spicey pepper-like notes that aren’t pleasant in sweet food if overdone.
Cinnamon is a common ingredient found in many home spice racks. It will get you through the recipe if you don’t have allspice or nutmeg, but keep in mind it won’t closely mimic the taste of cloves. Cinnamon has less sweetness and a more dominant spicy punch. For some, the flavor of this spice will actually be more enjoyable than cloves.
When using cinnamon, add the same quantity as the original ingredient. You may find the addition of vanilla will help lift the dish, providing greater depth of flavor. Extra sugar will help compensate for cinnamon’s lack of sweetness.
Cardamom is highly fragrant and has minty, citrus-like flavor notes with a spicy undertone. Although delicious toasted as an aromatic addition to Indian curry dishes, it is just as comfortable incorporated into a dessert. Panna cotta, ice cream, cakes, and cookies all taste excellent with a subtle hint of cardamom flavor.
Like cinnamon, cardamom isn’t a close match to cloves, so it’s not at the top of our list of substitutes. Cardamom easily overwhelms a dish so reduce the amount by 25%.
Whole vs Ground Cloves
You can use ground and whole cloves interchangeably in cooking, but keep in mind that the ground version has a little more oomph.
If a recipe calls for one teaspoon of whole cloves, use ¾ teaspoon of the ground version.
When tossing in whole cloves to your cooking, it is best to remove them before serving. For recipes that use the whole spice as a decoration, such as orange pomanders and hams, ground spices aren’t suitable. In this case, leave them off completely.
How to buy cheap cloves
A common reason that people don’t want to use cloves in cooking is the price. To save a few dollars check out the specialist grocers in your area. Indian or Asian grocers use these spices in abundance and often have more competitive pricing than major supermarkets. Another option is buying from bulk bins – an excellent option if you need them for a specific recipe and only want a scattering of them. Always buy from a retailer that has good feedback or one that seems to have plenty of customers. If the spices have been sitting there for many months, they’ll lose their flavor and aroma.
If you need to replace the cloves called for in a recipe then nutmeg or allspice are the best options for making a dish with comparable flavor. What if you don’t like the taste of cloves? We suggest cinnamon or cardamom as tasty alternatives in a wide range of recipes. Cardamom packs a punch in the flavor department so cutting back on quantity is a good idea.