Cloves are a spice with a characteristic strong flavor used in many sweet and savory dishes, spice blends, and drinks. They are the flower buds of a tree native to Maluku islands in Indonesia, also known as Syzygiumaromaticum.
The flower buds have a red-brown color with a spike form and rounded top. They have a strong sweet-bitter and astringent taste and pair well with nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon.
They can be used whole or ground in sauces, rice dishes, soups, curries, marinades, mulled wine, pies, and meat dishes.
However, if you don’t like their flavor because it is too strong for you or simply you have run out of it, other spices can be used as a substitute for cloves in both sweet and savory dishes.
Common substitutes for cloves are ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, pumpkin pie spice, mace, white or black peppercorns, star anise, and five-spice powder as a substitute for cloves.
Let’s learn more about each substitute.
Best Clove Substitutes
The next list of clove substitutes can help you save your recipe. They will provide a very similar taste to cloves, so let’s take a closer look at each and make a pick.
1. Ground cloves
Ground cloves can be used in a recipe that calls for whole cloves.
However, since ground cloves have a stronger flavor than whole cloves you will have to use less to get the same flavor as when you are using whole cloves.
You can use ¾ of a teaspoon of ground cloves for 1 teaspoon of whole cloves in different sauces, rice, soups, marinades, curries, and other sweet and savory dishes.
The only bad thing is that they will slightly change the color of the recipe and give it a stronger cloves flavor.
Nutmeg is one of the better substitutes for cloves because it has a similar flavor.
This spice is made from the dried and ground seeds of the nutmeg tree, but the seeds are also sold whole. Nutmeg has a warm bittersweet and nutty flavor and works well in pies, soups, sauces, vegetables, puddings, meats, cakes, beverages, and baked goods.
You can use nutmeg instead of cloves in your recipes in a 1:1 ratio.
Cinnamon is a spice that is usually used together with cloves and nutmeg. Therefore, it can be also used as a substitute for cloves.
Cinnamon is a spice that is made from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. It has a sweet, warm, slightly spicy flavor and is usually used in baked goods, drinks, desserts, spice blends, and in some cuisines, it is also used in savory dishes.
Cinnamon is not very sweet, therefore you can use it together with nutmeg as a substitute for cloves. You can also use it on its own in a 1:1 ratio.
Allspice is made from the dried berries of the allspice tree.
The mix of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper notes makes it a perfect substitute for cloves. It is available as a whole and grounded and is used as a seasoning for meat, vegetables, soups, stews, and baked goods.
You can use allspice as a substitute for cloves in a 1:1 ratio.
Cardamom is made from seed pods of different plants that belong to the ginger family.
There are two types of cardamom-black and green, and they are both used in sweet and savory dishes. Cardamom has a warm,sweet-spicy flavor with hints of mint and lemon.
It works as a substitute for cloves in a 1:1 ratio in many desserts, meat dishes, curries, rice dishes, baked goods, and beverages.
6. Pumpkin pie spice
Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. This spice mix works amazingly in pies, cookies, bread, cakes, and many other sweet and savory dishes.
Pumpkin pie spice has a mild, earthy, slightly spicy well-rounded flavor. Therefore, you can use pumpkin pie spice as a substitute for cloves in a 1:1 ratio in your dishes.
Mace is a spice that is made from the coating of nutmeg seeds. It has a warm, sweet, woody, and slightly spicy flavor that resembles the mixed flavors of cinnamon and pepper.
It is common in different spice mixtures, sauces, soups, fish and poultry dishes, rice, and baked goods. You can use it as a substitute for cloves in the same amount as cloves in both sweet and savory dishes.
8. White or black peppercorns
White or black peppercorns can be also used as a substitute for cloves to add a spicy and earthy flavor to your dish. They both come from the same plant but have different flavors.
Black peppercorns have a stronger flavor than white peppercorns which have a milder aromatic flavor and are used in dishes with light color.
You can use white and black peppercorns, whole or grounded as a substitute for cloves in soups, sauces, marinades, and other dishes in a 1:1 ratio.
9. Star anise
Star anise is a seed pod with a shape like a star and often contains eight peas. The pod and the seeds are both used whole or grounded in many different dishes.
Star anise has a strong, warm, sweet, and spicy licorice flavor similar to cloves. You can use star anise as a substitute for cloves in various sauces, soups, marinades, pies, baked goods, and other sweet or savory dishes in a 1:1 ratio.
10. Five-spice powder
Five-spice powder is a spice mixture made of ground spices like cloves, cinnamon, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns.
However, some other ingredients like turmeric, nutmeg, anise seeds, and cardamom can be also used as ingredients in five-spice powder.
The five-spice powder has a sweet, spicy, bitter, and warm licorice-like flavor.
It is common in marinades and dry rubs for meats, fish and poultry, and other savory dishes and desserts. As a substitute for cloves, this powder will give a different flavor to your dish. But some hints of cloves will be also present.
Substitute cloves with five-spice powder in a 1:1 ratio.
Substitute Cloves for Nutmeg
Cloves have a sweet and spicy flavor similar to the flavor of nutmeg. There are many recipes where they are both used to give a nice flavor to the dishes. Therefore, they can be also used as each other’s substitute.
You only have to use a smaller amount of ground cloves as a substitute for nutmeg because they have a stronger flavor. For 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, it is best to use ½ teaspoon of ground cloves to get a nice and balanced flavor.
Alternative to Cloves in Ham
Whole cloves are usually poked into apples, oranges, onions, and ham. Ham pairs well with the sweet and spicy flavor of the cloves, which are also used as a decoration.
If you don’t have cloves, unfortunately, there is no other similar spice that can replace the flavor of whole cloves in ham. You can use ground cloves to provide some cloves flavor to the ham but it will not be decorated like with whole cloves.
Whole Cloves vs Ground Cloves
Cloves can be found both ground and whole. You can also buy whole cloves and grind them at home just before you use them in your dish to get the most of the flavor.
However, don’t grind too many cloves at once because when they are grounded, they lose their flavor faster than when they are whole. Using ground cloves instead of whole ones may slightly change the color and give a stronger flavor to the dish.
So, you have to use less grounded cloves as a substitute for whole cloves. Whole cloves are used to give flavor and as a decoration for pork, ham, curry, rice, and other dishes.
Remove them from the dish before serving because they have a very unpleasant flavor and can numb your tongue if you bite them.
What Spice is Close to Cloves?
Allspice is close to cloves. It has a flavor similar to the flavors of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper.
Can I Substitute Nutmeg for Cloves?
Nutmeg is one of the spices that can be used as a substitute for cloves. Because it has a bitter-sweet and nutty flavor similar to the flavor of the cloves.
Are Cloves and Allspice the Same?
Cloves and allspice are not the same. Allspice is a spice made from the berries of the allspice tree, while cloves are the flower buds of the Syzygiumaromaticum tree.
Can I Use Peppercorns Instead of Cloves?
You can use peppercorns instead of cloves. They will give a nice spicy and earthy flavor to your recipe.
Cloves are one of the most popular spices that work well in both sweet and savory dishes and drinks. Who doesn’t like a baked ham poked with cloves or a cup of mulled wine spiced up with gloves on a cold winter day?
Cloves are a unique spice but if you don’t like their flavor, you can try some of the substitutes in today’s article/ They will give a similar flavor to the flavor of the cloves in your favorite recipes.