5 Best Cloves Substitutes

Named after the Latin word for nail, clavus, which resembles, this brown spic is the dried flower bud of the tropical evergreen. Ground cloves are used in recipes but may be used whole as a meat seasoning. Holiday hams are often seen with whole cloves inserted. The flavor comes from the compound eugenol. A clove bud in the mouth will be sweet, bitter, and cause astringency (drying the mouth) with a noticeable amount of heat.

While cloves are grown in India and Madagascar, Indonesia is most closely associated with the production of cloves. Once known as the Spice Islands (now part of Indonesia), cloves were such a commodity that in 1667, following the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the British ceded the islands to the Dutch in exchange for a faraway settlement known as New Amsterdam. Today, we know that the Dutch swapped Manhattan (first known as New Amsterdam) for cloves.

Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree known as Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum. In Indonesia, they are native to the Maluku Islands. They are commonly used as a spice, flavoring, or fragrance in consumer products, such as toothpaste, soaps, or cosmetics.

If you don’t have it, substitute ½ tsp ground cloves with:

1. Ground Cloves

Ground cloves is made from the dried flower buds of the clove tree. It has a sweet, spicy aroma and flavor similar to cinnamon. Ground cloves is used to flavor cakes, cookies, pies and other baked goods, as well as meat dishes like pot roast, chicken and turkey.

Ground cloves is also commonly used in garam masala (an Indian spice mix) and mulling spices (a mixture of herbs that’s simmered with wine or cider). Ground cloves can be found in most grocery stores in the spice aisle or near the cinnamon. You can also buy it online at Amazon or other retailers.

2. Nutmeg

Nutmeg substitute is the seed of the fruit of the nutmeg tree. It is mostly used as a spice and a flavoring in cooking – and makes a great substitute for mace.

Nutmeg is used in small amounts to flavor dishes such as eggnog, pumpkin pie, mulled cider or coffee, sauces for meat or game and soups. It can also be added in small quantities to tomato juice to enhance the flavor of tomato juice, especially when served with cheese or eggs.

Nutmeg was once an important spice due to its medicinal properties, but today it is used more often as part of larger dishes.

Nutmeg has a sweet-spicy flavor that is similar to mace (which comes from dried nutmeg), but less pungent than mace. Nutmeg is sometimes used as a replacement for mace because it has a much longer shelf life (about two years). This makes it easier for companies to sell ground nutmeg instead of just whole nutmegs like they do with mace.

3. Allspice

1/2 tsp ground allspice

Another good cloves substitute is Allspice. Allspice is an aromatic spice of the genus Pimenta, a relative of the bay laurel, native to the West Indian islands of Jamaica and Grenada. The name “allspice” was coined by the English, who thought it combined the flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It is also sometimes referred to as newspice and pimento.

Allspice is used in pickling and for meats and vegetables; it is also a major ingredient in most commercial sausage stuffings. Allspice is a common ingredient in Caribbean cuisine, particularly Jamaican cuisine (Jerk chicken or pork), Latin American cuisine (Colombian Empanadas), and Middle Eastern cuisine (turkey stuffing).

The essential oil contains several chemical compounds which contribute to its flavor.

In its fresh green state, allspice has no flavor resembling either black pepper or nutmeg at all; however, once dried, it develops into a spice with a very warm aroma reminiscent of both cloves and cinnamon. It has been described as tasting like a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, orange peel and pepper; some say there are undertones of chamomile or cumin in there as well

4. Cardamom

Ground cardamom is the spice made from the seeds of the cardamom plant. Cardamom is native to India, but it’s also grown in Madagascar and Sri Lanka.

Cardamom has a warm, spicy flavor that pairs well with cinnamon, cloves and ginger. You can use ground cardamom as a substitute for nutmeg or allspice in baked goods. It’s also good in coffee, tea or mulled wine recipes.

5. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a spice that’s been used for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used it in embalming mummies, and the Chinese considered cinnamon a symbol of happiness. Today, you’ll find cinnamon in everything from baked goods to perfumes.

In its pure form, cinnamon is made from the dried inner bark of an evergreen tree called Cinnamomum zeylanicum. It’s harvested by cutting the bark into thin strips, which are then rolled into cylinders called quills or sticks. These are dried until they’re brittle and brownish-red in color.

The most common types of cinnamon are cassia (also called Chinese cinnamon) and Ceylon (also called true cinnamon). Cassia has a stronger flavor than Ceylon and is often used in baking recipes instead of Ceylon because it imparts more heat and aromatic oils than Ceylon does when cooked at high temperatures.

Cloves Substitute

Health Benefits of Cloves

Cloves are best known as a sweet and aromatic spice, and they are used in traditional medicine. 

Cloves contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so using whole or ground cloves to add flavor to your food can provide essential nutrients.

History shows that as early as 200 BC, envoys to China’s court brought cloves customarily held in the mouth to perfume the breath during audiences with the emperor.

The antibacterial properties of cloves can help promote oral health and are a popular flavor in Clove gum.

The compounds extracted from cloves during test tube studies were found to stop the growth of two types of bacteria that contribute to gum disease.

Animal studies have found that the compounds in cloves may have several health benefits, including supporting liver health and helping stabilize blood sugar levels.

Use in Recipes

Cloves are a sharp-smelling spice found in savory dishes, desserts, and drinks. It is used in whole and ground forms to season pot roasts, flavor meat, sauces, and rice dishes, add flavor to hot beverages, and bring spicy warmth to cookies and cakes.

Cloves are often used with cinnamon and nutmeg in sweet dishes, especially “pumpkin pie” flavored items for the autumn and winter holidays, and in drinks such as mulled wine, cider, or chai. You may know cloves as one of the main ingredients in gingerbread baked goods or a staple spice in Indian cuisine.


What is the taste of cloves

The aromatic clove bud in the mouth will be sweet and bitter and cause astringency (drying the mouth) and noticeably hot.

In what types of dishes can I use cloves?

Cloves can be used in whole and ground forms to season pot roasts, flavor meat, sauces, and rice dishes, add flavor to hot beverages, and bring spicy warmth to cookies and cakes.

About Rachelle

Hi, I'm Rachel! I love cooking and finding new recipes but was always missing one of the ingredients in my kitchen. I created Can I Substitute? for people like me who are one substitute away from a great meal. If you're looking for great ingredient substitutes you've come to the right place. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.