The Best Cloves Substitute for Sweet and Savory Dishes

Cloves are a popular spice you can find in many recipes, such as rice dishes, sauces, soups, marinades, curries, pies, meat dishes, or mulled wine.

While its flavors are warm and versatile, not many people like it because of its strong, bittersweet, and astringent taste. (*)

Read on to find the best substitute for cloves based on your taste and recipe.

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What is a Good Substitute for Cloves?

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Cloves are spices with characteristically strong flavors you can find in numerous sweet and savory dishes, drinks, and spice blends.

Fun fact: These are dried flower buds from a clove tree native to Maluku islands, Indonesia, called the Syzygiumaromaticum (long word, huh?).

So, if you’re still on the hunt for the best substitute for cloves, try any of these:

1. Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice combines cloves, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon. As the name suggests, it’s a blend perfectly suited in desserts like pies, bread, cakes, cookies, and even savory dishes.

Expect this ingredient to have a slightly spicy, mild, and earthy flavor. You can add a 1:1 ratio of the mix when using it as a substitute for cloves.

2. Nutmeg

We believe nutmeg is the best substitute for cloves because it’s a similar spice. It’s a warm spice made from the nutmeg tree’s dried and ground seeds, though you can also purchase the seeds as a whole.

Nutmegs have a warm, bittersweet, nutty taste working excellent in savory and sweet dishes like vegetables, meats, soups, sauces, pies, puddings, cakes, other baked goods, and beverages.

With its warm flavor, you can use an equal amount of ground nutmeg for ground cloves. So, if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of ground cloves, use the same amount of ground nutmeg!

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is another best clove substitute on our list because it’s always easily available. You probably already have a bottle of it in your spice rack right now.

Cinnamon is another warm spice made from the cinnamon tree’s inner bark. Because of its warm and slightly spicy flavor, you can use it in baked goods, desserts, drinks, and even in savory dishes!

Since cinnamon isn’t very sweet, you can use it alongside nutmeg as a more accurate clove substitute. Mix half a teaspoon of cinnamon with the same amount of nutmeg for every teaspoon of ground cloves required in a recipe.

You can also use cinnamon on its own, going for an equal amount the recipe calls for.

4. Allspice

Allspice comes from dried berries of the allspice tree. It has a combination of flavors similar to cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper, making it the best substitute for cloves, too!

With its clove flavor, allspice replaces cloves perfectly, and you can choose either whole or ground allspice, depending on what the recipe needs.

Use this substitute for meat seasoning, vegetables, stews, soups, or baked goods. We love using it in pumpkin soup as it would impart flavor similar to cloves!

5. Cardamom

Cardamom comes from seed pods of plants from the ginger family.

There are black and green cardamom pods, which are helpful in sweet and savory dishes. Expect cardamom to have sweet, spicy, and warm flavors with a hint of lemon and mint.

For every teaspoon of whole cloves needed (or ground), you can use the same amount of cardamom. We like using this ingredient in desserts, curries, baked goods, beverages, meats, curries, or rice dishes.

6. Mace

Mace is made of nutmeg seed coating, having a warm, woody, sweet, and slightly spicy taste resembling cinnamon and pepper. In recipes like sauces, soups, rice, baked goods, or fish and poultry dishes, you can find this ingredient. (*)

You can do the same amount in sweet or savory recipes when using this as a clove substitute.

7. White or Black Peppercorns

Peppercorns make a great clove substitute when adding earthy and spicy flavors to recipes. Black and white peppercorns come from the same plant, though they have different tastes.

Black peppercorns are stronger than white ones, which offer mild, aromatic flavors. The latter is best used for dishes with lighter colors.

We add peppercorns using equal amounts in recipes like sauces, soups, marinades, among others.

8. Star Anise

Star anise is a seed pod that takes the shape of a star, containing eight peas. Both seed and pod are used grounded or whole in various recipes.

It has a strong, sweet, spicy, and warm licorice taste, like cloves. You can use star anise in many recipes, such as sauces, soups, baked goods, marinades, and the like.

9. Chinese Five-Spice Powder

Chinese five-spice powder is a mix of cloves, cinnamon, star anise, fennel, and Szechuan peppercorns. You can also find other varieties of this ingredient, including nutmeg, anise seeds, cardamom, and turmeric.

Regardless of the variety, the Chinese five-spice has a combination of bitter, sweet, spicy, and warm flavors similar to licorice. It isn’t the best substitute for whole cloves, but it can still suit your dish!

You can find the blend in dry rubs or marinades for meats, poultry, and fish, among other sweet and savory recipes. This ingredient may give your recipe a different flavor, but you’ll still have the hint of clove flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn about ground and whole cloves, along with clove substitutes below:

1. What’s the difference between whole and ground cloves?

You can choose between ground cloves and whole cloves. We like purchasing whole cloves to grind them at home right before using them in recipes to receive more flavor.

However, don’t grind too many whole cloves at once because they’ll lose taste quicker when you have ground cloves. Furthermore, you may get a lot more flavor in freshly ground cloves compared to whole cloves for your recipe.

Because of that, it’s best to use fewer ground cloves when substituting them for whole cloves.

Ground cloves are used to flavor the dish more, while whole cloves have the same purpose and add decoration to curries, pork, ham, rice, and other meat dishes or baking recipes.

Fun fact: A clove’s flower bud has a reddish-dark brown color, taking on a spike form with a rounded top. (*)

2. What is a good substitute for cloves in ham?

We recommend using ground cloves if you have no whole cloves for your ham. For every teaspoon of whole cloves needed, use 3/4 teaspoon of ground cloves.

Remember that ground cloves can add taste to ham, but it won’t appear as decorated compared to using ground cloves.

3. How can you remove whole cloves from dishes?

To remove whole cloves easily before serving dishes, we recommend spiking an onion with whole cloves to add in soups, stews, or sauces as you cook. It saves you time and effort having to search for whole cloves since you only need to remove the whole onion once you’re done.

Fun fact: You can do the same thing with orange peels if you’re making sweet recipes like drinks or syrups instead.

4. What is the closest ingredient to cloves?

Allspice is the closest ingredient to cloves, having a similar flavor. After all, allspice contains cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper!

That said, these two spices aren’t the same. Allspice berries come from the allspice tree, whereas cloves come from the flower buds of Syzygiumaromaticum trees.

You can use allspice as a substitute for cloves and vice versa, but there will be a slight flavor change in recipes.

Wrapping It Up

We hope you found the best clove substitutes for your next recipe. Use any of those ingredients above, whether you’re making a pumpkin pie to poultry dishes!

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