Upgrade Your Spice Cabinet With These 6 Clove Substitutes

I love making apple cake with clove, and it is sweet, spicy, and warm all in one. However, I accidentally let some water drip into my clove jar one time. When I took out the jar again a few days later, all the cloves had developed a rot, much to my horror. But the loss wasn’t too great, as I had a clove substitute for putting in my apple cake a cabinet away.

Clove Substitutes

Clove is one of the most flavorful spices out there. It is obtained from a fragrant tropical evergreen tree. Cloves are dried, and premature flower buds were picked right before they could blossom. Since the spice form of cloves looks a lot like small nails, they got their name from the Latin word Clavus, meaning nail.

Clove spice is quite expensive due to its medley of uses in the kitchen and the infirmary.

What does a clove taste like?

Cloves possess a strong and potent flavor. They are often described as having an edgy, sweet taste with pepper notes in them. However, remember that eating a whole clove may numb or even burn your palate. Therefore, it is best to practice caution.

Are cloves aromatic?

Yes, cloves have a beautiful aroma. Like allspice, cloves also contain eugenol, a kind of essential oil, giving it its strong and fresh scent.

Which spices pair well with clove?

The following spices pair well with cloves:  

Allspice, cardamom, tamarind, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, coriander, star anise, nutmeg, turmeric.

Which dishes benefit the most from cloves?

Many recipes can do with a little addition of clove. However, if you cook anything from the following, a little clove would go a long way:

  1. Apples
  2. Oranges
  3. Beetroots
  4. Onions
  5. Chocolate
  6. Red cabbages
  7. Lemon
  8. Any meat­­­­­­­­

What are the culinary uses of cloves?

You can use clove in recipes like:

  1. Masala chai tea
  2. Hot apple cider
  3. Dutch poached pears
  4. Roasted turkey
  5. Lamb tagine
  6. Beef stew
  7. Chinese red braise

However, since clove is considered a baking spice in the West, therefore, cloves usually make an appearance in baked goods and dessert items such as:

  1. Pumpkin pie
  2. Coffee
  3. Gingerbread

When is the best time to buy cloves?

Cloves are available year-round due to different harvest times in different countries. However, if you do not know whether the clove you are buying is fresh, perform a simple test.

Take some cloves and put them in a glass of water. They are good to use if they float vertically with their stems pointing down. However, if they float horizontally or sink, then know that they are no longer good to use.

Moreover, ensure that the cloves you are buying are clean and intact. They must have a rich dark brown color with reddish snap-able stems. In addition, cloves lose their volatile oil rapidly after being ground. Therefore, grind them right before using instead of grinding the entire batch together to ensure they remain fresh.

How to grind cloves?

Cloves are pretty hard, so an electric grinder will do the job way more efficiently than a traditional mortar and pestle. Keep the ground and whole clove in an airtight jar away from moisture and sunlight.

Cloves stored in cool, dry places away from humidity can last up to a year. You can easily find ground cloves at the supermarkets; however, whole cloves are usually available online or at spice shops.

What are the benefits of clove?

Clove essential oil has many medicinal qualities.

  1. Natural pain killers: Cloves have numbing qualities; thus, they are often used as painkillers. In addition, clove’s essential oil wields an anti-inflammatory effect, making it an excellent antidote for toothaches and gum diseases. All you have to do is place a drop of clove oil on the affected area and wait for it to kick in.
  2. Fight infections: Clove contains eugenol, as mentioned previously, which allows it to fight bacteria and viruses, particularly those causing cold sores, ulcers, and herpes. Moreover, one can also use it to remedy upset stomach, intestinal gas, and halitosis.
  3. Stops blood clot formation: Research has revealed that eugenol (in clove) is about as effective as two blood-thinning pills, namely, aspirin and Indocin (indomethacin).
  4. Good for skin: Clove oil is a natural tonic for dry skin. Apply the oil to your skin with a wad of clean cotton every night before going to sleep. The oil will stimulate your skin and boost blood flow. No surprise, it’s a part of so many skincare products for skin rejuvenation.
  5. Last but not least, cloves are a prime source of manganese, vitamin K and dietary fiber.

Clove Nutrition:

Whole Clove Nutrition Per Serving
Calories  10
Carbohydrates  1%
Sugars  2 g
Ground Clove Nutrition Per Serving
Calories  7
Dietary fiber 3%
Total Fat 1%


What is the best substitute for cloves?

There are many substitutes for cloves to choose from, but only some make it to this list. The following substitutes to clove are your best bet for all sorts of dishes. Moreover, they are readily available and easy to find too.

1. Nutmeg 

Nutmeg is an oval seed that is famous as a spice. It is one of the better substitutes for cloves because it has a similar flavor. Nutmeg is produced from the desiccated and crushed seeds of the nutmeg tree. However, the seeds are also sold whole.


Nutmeg has a warm, nutty, and bittersweet flavor that does well in pies, soups, vegetables, sauces, puddings, cakes, meats, drinks, and baked items. You can utilize nutmeg instead of cloves in your recipes in a 1:1 ratio.

Like clove, it has eugenol, though in fewer proportions. It is the primary ingredient in pumpkin spice, so this substitute is best for pumpkin pie. You may use it in the same ratio as the cloves needed. It is typically found in the ground state, so a little of it will do the trick. Besides, you can use it in soups, potato recipes, and even baking. I particularly love nutmeg as a clove substitute in baking.

Nutmeg Amount per Serving (1 teaspoon)
Calories 12
Carbs 1.1 g
Fiber 0.5 g
Protein 0.1 g
Fat 0.8 g


2. Allspice

Allspice is a dried, unripe berry known as the Jamaica pepper or new spice. The name ‘allspice’ was coined because it has a combined flavor of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. You can substitute clove for allspice if you don’t have any nutmeg.


Its taste contains notes of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper, which make it a perfect substitute for cloves. It is available and grounded and is a very common ingredient of curry powders.

Moreover, it is used to season meat, vegetables, soups, stews, and baked goods. You can use it in any meat dish, stew, and dessert of your choice. Use allspice as an alternative for cloves in the same proportion needed. You can also use Allspice as a direct ground clove substitute.

Allspice Amount per Serving (1 teaspoon)
Calories 5
Carbs 1 g
Fiber 1%
Protein 0 g
Fat 0 g


3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a spice acquired from the inner barks of the trees. It is best used in savory dishes and desserts, usually with cloves and nutmeg. Therefore, it can also be used as a substitute for cloves. In addition, cinnamon contains the chemical eugenol giving both a similar aroma.


It has a sweet, warm, little spicy flavor and is usually used in baked items, beverages, desserts, spice blends, and some cuisines. Moreover, it is also used in savory dishes. This replacement is best for baking recipes like buns and pumpkin pies.

You may use the cinnamon in equal portions of cloves required in the recipe. This is bound to help in flavoring the food. Although, consider adding a little nutmeg, too, as cinnamon is not very sweet.

Cinnamon Amount per Serving (8 g)
Calories 0
Carbs 6 g
Fiber 4 g
Protein 0
Fat 0


4. Mace

Mace is a sweet spice made from the shell of nutmeg. However, it is sold as a distinct spice. The taste is also similar, but the mace is a little more delicate. Mace has a warm, sweet, woody, yet a tad spicy flavor that resembles the mixed savors of cinnamon and pepper. Hence, it can be a great match.


It is common in various spice mixtures, sauces, soups, fish and poultry dishes, rice, and baked goods. Use it in the same ratio as cinnamon and nutmeg for sweet and savory dishes. Try this clove substitute in recipes like roast meats and baking; you will be amazed by the results! Just add it before cooking with all the other ingredients. Mace may give a saffron-like hue to the recipe. 

Mace Amount per Serving (1 teaspoon/ 5 g)
Calories 30
Carbs 5 g
Fiber 2 g
Protein 1 g
Fat 0


5. Black and white peppercorn

White or black peppercorns can also replace cloves to give your dish a spicy and earthy taste. Both of them come from the exact plant but have distinct flavors.

Black and white peppercorn

Black peppercorns have a more robust flavor than white peppercorns, which have a milder aromatic taste and are preferred in light-colored dishes. Black and white peppercorns are a great whole clove alternative.

You can use whole or ground white and black peppercorns as a replacement for cloves in soups, marinades, sauces, and other dishes in a 1:1 proportion.

Black Peppercorn Amount per Serving (1 tablespoon)
Calories 25
Carbs 5 g
Fiber 0 g
Protein 1 g
Fat 0
White Peppercorn Amount per Serving (1 tablespoon)
Calories 21
Carbs 4.9 g
Fiber 1.9 g
Protein 0.7 g
Fat 0.2 g


6. Pumpkin Pie Spice

Another great clove replacement if you don’t have the ingredient in your spice rack is pumpkin pie spice. Pumpkin pie spice is an excellent spice mix that features a blend of ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice isn’t just for making pie, as this spice mix works amazingly well in pies, bread, cookies, cakes, and numerous other sweet and savory foods. 

Pumpkin pie spice has an earthy, mild, and slightly spicy taste. Thus, you can use pumpkin pie spice to alternate cloves in a 1:1 ratio in your dishes. Or else start small and work your way up until you reach the desired taste.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Amount per Serving (1 teaspoon)
Calories 10
Carbs 3 g
Fiber 0 g
Protein 0 g
Fat 0 g


Frequently Asked Questions

How do Whole cloves help a toothache?
The best home remedy method for toothache relief always involves a clove. If it includes anything else, then it is not the best solution. A clove has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anesthetic properties. Therefore, if you have a toothache, simply take a whole clove and put it on the aching tooth. Next, use your mouth to hold it between your upper and lower teeth. Please wait until the burning subsides and the area numbs before spitting it out.
What part of the clove do you grind?
Ground cloves are supposed to be just the dried bud and not the nail. Although many people don’t know this, you are Not supposed to grind the entire clove. However, the bud is ground, and the nail is discarded.
How do you grind whole cloves without a mortar and pestle?
You can grind cloves in a spice or coffee grinder if you don’t have a mortar and pestle at home. You can also utilize a ziplock bag and a blunt object to crush it. However, some people also use cutting boards and knives. Although, the latter seems more trouble than worth it.

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