Allspice shows up in a variety of sweet and savory recipes, but even well-stocked pantries often lack allspice. As its name suggests, allspice tastes like a blend of spices, but it actually comes from the berries of a single plant. You can mimic this complex flavor using other familiar spices, alone or blended.
Cooking with Allspice
The flavor of allspice is comparable to a combination of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, with a slightly peppery finish. Also called Jamaica pepper, allspice is available in the form of whole, dried berries or finely ground powder. Although allspice is perhaps most famous as an ingredient in Jamaican jerk seasoning, it's also used in many baked goods, pickle brines, sausages and Mexican mole sauces.
Whole or Ground Cloves
Cloves and allspice are common substitutes for each other because both spices contain high levels of a flavor compound called eugenol. The eugenol gives both spices their woodsy flavor and aroma. Whole cloves are ideal as substitutes in brines and other recipes that call for whole allspice berries. You can also use ground cloves to substitute ground allspice. Cloves tend to be more pungent than allspice, so use about half the amount called for in the recipe.
Pie Spice Blends
Pumpkin pie spice and apple pie spice are blends that you can substitute for an equal measure of ground allspice, even if you’re not making pie. These spice mixes typically contain a mixture of allspice and other spices that are similar in flavor. Pumpkin pie spice usually blends allspice with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Apple pie spice is usually heavier on the cinnamon, while also incorporating allspice and nutmeg.
Make a Mix
For the most similar alternative to the nuanced flavor of ground allspice, make your own blend of spices. Mix 2 parts ground cinnamon, 2 parts ground cloves and 1 part ground nutmeg. To highlight the peppery quality in allspice in spicy or savory recipes, add 1 part finely ground black pepper. Use this blend, with or without the pepper, to substitute for an equal amount of ground allspice.
- On Food and Cooking; Harold McGee
- The New Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- Food and Wine: Smart Substitutes for Critical Ingredients
- Better Homes and Gardens: Emergency Ingredient Substitutions
Lindsay Lau is a food writer and recipe developer with experience cooking professionally at both restaurants and catered events. As a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, Lau specializes in healthy cooking techniques.