The Best Substitutes for Allspice

Allspice

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As its name suggests, allspice has uses in all sorts of recipes. This chameleon of a spice lends its aromatic warmth to both sweet and savory dishes—everything from meats to beverages to pumpkin pie. If you use allspice with regularity—which, given its versatility, you certainly might—you may run out of it quickly.

Whether you have used the last of your allspice or your local grocery store simply does not stock it, there are several alternatives you can use in a pinch. Here is everything you need to know about allspice, plus three handy substitutes that offer something close to its signature flavor.

What Is Allspice?

Because allspice’s flavor mimics that of a blend of other spices, it is easy to assume it is made up of various components. But check the side of your allspice tin and you will see just one ingredient—allspice!

The allspice berry is the pea-sized product of the evergreen tree Pimenta dioica, native to the Caribbean and Central America.

When first picked, the berries are green but then dry to the darker brown color you are likely familiar with. Ground into a powder, the flavor of allspice is somewhat sweet and earthy reminiscent of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves with a hint of bite like black pepper.

Allspice Uses

Not surprisingly, allspice is used frequently in the cuisines closest to its origins. Latin American and Caribbean—especially Jamaican—dishes often call for a sizable dose. Allspice is an invaluable component in Jamaican jerk seasoning used on chicken, fish, and more.

The flavoring power of allspice is not limited to the Western hemisphere, though. Plenty of Middle Eastern recipes make use of allspice to add complexity to lentils, vegetables, and meat.

Indian chai tea often includes allspice in its sweet-and-savory, multi-spice blend, and English Christmas pudding simply would not be the same without its fragrant warmth. Meanwhile, other desserts like gingerbread, cookies, pumpkin mousse, or sweet potato pie are all enhanced by allspice.

Whole Allspice vs. Ground Allspice

As mentioned, allspice begins as peppercorn-sized pellets. Leaving these berries whole has advantages in certain recipes. According to spice manufacturer McCormick, whole allspice berries have a milder, less intense flavor than the ground version.

This fact makes them ideal for flavoring—but not overpowering—slow-cooked stews and meats with lengthy braising times. If you would like to mull your own holiday cider or wine, allspice berries can join whole cloves and cinnamon sticks in a bouquet of autumnal flavor. Just remember to remove them before drinking. Pickles and sauerkraut also get a subtle flavor boost from whole allspice berries.

Despite the many uses of allspice in its whole, untouched form, most home cooking recipes call for it as a ground spice.

In baked goods, ground allspice can blend seamlessly with wet and dry ingredients. And, in velvety soups and sauces, the last thing you want is an unpleasant crunch—so ground allspice is best. As part of a spice rub, ground allspice is superior to the whole version for smoothly coating meats or vegetables.

Allspice Nutrition Facts

Allspice is not a source of many nutrients. In fact, it flavors foods with nearly zero calories, carbs, and sodium. The following nutrition information, for 1 teaspoon (1.9 grams) of ground allspice, has been provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 5
  • Fat: 0.17g
  • Sodium: 1.46mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1.4g
  • Fiber: 0.4g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0.12g

Best Substitutes for Allspice

Fortunately, allspice’s signature flavor, though unique, is not impossible to imitate. To select the right alternative, look for spices with a balance of warmth, sweetness, and hint of bite.

Also, do not forget about color. In recipes where appearance matters, stick to substitutes with a deep brown hue. Use any of the following spices—or a blend of all three—as a suitable substitute for allspice.

Cloves

Of all the options for allspice alternatives, ground cloves may be the best. Their dark color is nearly a match for allspice’s deep brown, so they will not change the appearance of foods.

As for flavor, their combination of sweetness and pungency is a close cousin to allspice. Still, you may find cloves leave a stronger impression than allspice—so try adding them gradually, if possible. Cloves also are not known for being as peppery as allspice.

Depending on your recipe, feel free to sprinkle in a bit of black pepper to create the same flavor profile.

Ground cloves can be substituted for ground allspice with a one-to-one ratio. Because they are low in almost all nutrients, using them will not dramatically change the nutrition in a finished food.

Nutmeg

There is a reason you will often see allspice paired with nutmeg—the two have a strikingly similar flavor. Like allspice, nutmeg is also harvested in whole pods from an evergreen tree—though it originates in Indonesia, not Central America.

However, nutmeg’s flavor is somewhat simpler and nuttier than that of allspice.

When possible, start with a one-to-two ratio of nutmeg to allspice and work your way up, tasting as you go. If the recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, for example, start with 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.

To recreate the signature kick of allspice in savory dishes, again, try a dash of pepper alongside the nutmeg. Swapping nutmeg for allspice will not make any significant nutrition changes and is not likely to change the appearance of foods either.

Cinnamon

Are you still perusing the spice cabinet? Here is one last common option you are likely to have on hand when the allspice jar is empty—cinnamon.

With its milder, sweeter flavor, cinnamon may not be as ideal as spicier cloves or nutmeg.

But in a pinch, its pleasant earthiness will do just fine. And do not forget about that extra sprinkle-of-pepper option.

Because cinnamon’s taste is not overpowering, you can add it to recipes with a one-to-one ratio to allspice. Like nutmeg and cloves, cinnamon’s color and nutrient profile are close enough to allspice for a nearly indistinguishable switch.

A Word from Verywell

Several common pantry spices can easily come to the rescue when your allspice is all gone. Alone or in combination, warming options like cloves, nutmeg, or cinnamon bring much-needed flavor to stews, muffins, pies, and casseroles.

You also could try similar spice blends like pumpkin pie spice or Chinese five-spice powder. A bit of tinkering with your own perfect blend may yield the best results.

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2 Sources
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  1. McCormick. About allspice uses, pairings and recipes. Updated 2021.

  2. USDA, FoodData Central. Spices, allspice, ground. Updated April 1, 2019.