Popular for their intense flavor, which adds a unique warmth to dishes, cloves are often used as a spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. They have a unique appearance with their small, brown, cone-shaped buds. Cloves are also used in international dishes such as ham and pumpkin pie.
Finding out that you don’t have any cloves at home at the last minute is quite panicking, but we have the best solution! While their flavor is irreplaceable, there are some substitutes for cloves that you can use when you’re in an emergency. If you’re not a fan of the intense flavor cloves bring to the dish but enjoy its texture, then also you can use these alternatives in the recipe.
10 Best Substitute For Cloves
The best substitute for cloves is nutmeg, which we’re pretty sure you can find lying around in your kitchen somewhere! Both these spices share some common properties, such as their warm, slightly sweet, and intense flavor, which is why you can use nutmeg in almost any dish that calls for cloves.
Nutmeg is a spice derived from the dried and ground seeds of the nutmeg tree, but whole seeds are also available. Nutmeg has a warm bittersweet, and nutty aroma that blends well in pies, soups, sauces, vegetables, puddings, meats, cakes, beverages, and baked goods.
How to substitute: If a recipe requires 10 cloves, then use 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg as a replacement. Adding a pinch of cinnamon will also give your dish a similar flavor profile.
While people often use this spice in desserts and coffee, cinnamon is actually a great alternative to cloves in savory dishes as well. Both these spices hail from the same family – the evergreen trees. Cinnamon is made from the inner bark of these trees that are then dried and rolled into cinnamon sticks or ground into a fine powder.
It has a warm and woody aroma with sweet undertones and is used in almost all types of cuisines. The flavor of cinnamon is not as intense as cloves, so you might have to use a little more of it to get the desired flavor in your dish.
How to substitute: If using ground cinnamon, then for every 10 cloves, use 3 teaspoons of cinnamon. If using cinnamon sticks, break them into small pieces and grind them into powder for best results.
3. Ground Cloves
Ground cloves, as their name suggests, are nothing but cloves that have been ground into a powder form. They are commonly used in baking and give a fantastic flavor to cakes, cookies, pies, and other desserts. Ground cloves can also be used as a rub for meats or added to soups and stews for an extra flavor boost.
If you are not very fond of the intense flavor of cloves but love their aroma, then you can use ground cloves as a replacement. This will give your dish the same warm and woody flavor without being too overpowering. Ground cloves are readily available in supermarkets, so this is probably the easiest substitution on our list.
How to substitute: You can use equal amounts of ground cloves as a replacement for whole cloves.
Found in both sweet and savory dishes, cardamom is a staple spice in Indian cuisine but is recognized worldwide. It has a warm, slightly spicy, and sweet flavor with floral notes and hints of lemon that make it perfect for use in desserts. Cardamom is also used to flavor coffee and tea.
These small green pods contain tiny black seeds used to make cardamom powder. Both the pods and seeds can be used as flavoring agents in dishes. Cardamom is an excellent alternative if you want to add a subtle flavor to your dish without making it too sweet. You can use it in curries, rice dishes, meat dishes, and desserts.
How to substitute: For every 10 cloves, use 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or 3-4 green cardamom pods.
5. Black Peppercorns
Peppercorns come in various colors, such as green, red, white, and black. Black peppercorns are the most commonly used type of peppercorn and have a strong, pungent, and slightly spicy flavor. They are used to flavor soups, stews, sauces, vegetables, meats, and even desserts.
While black peppercorns might not give your dish the same warm flavor as cloves, they will definitely add a depth of flavor that will take your dish to the next level. If you enjoy the heat of black pepper, this is an excellent alternative for you.
How to substitute: If a recipe requires 10 cloves, then use 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns. You can also use white or green peppercorns as a replacement, but be mindful of their flavor.
Also known as the “rail spice” of nutmeg, mace is a red or orange that is made from the waxy outer covering of the nutmeg seed. It has a warm, sweet, and slightly spicy flavor with hints of lemon and pepper. Mace is often used as a flavoring agent in desserts, baked goods, and sauces.
While it is not as popular as nutmeg, it can be used to substitute recipes that call for cloves. It’s frequently used in curry pastes, sauces, soups, fish and poultry dishes, rice, and baked foods. The only drawback of using mace is that it is not as easily available as some of the other spices on our list.
How to substitute: For every 10 cloves, use 1/4 teaspoon of ground mace or 1/2 teaspoon of grated mace.
7. Star Anise
The name star anise comes from the star-shaped fruit of the Illicium verum tree. This spice has a licorice-like flavor with hints of anise, fennel, and cinnamon, which is why it is often used as an alternative for cloves. It is commonly used in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine to flavor soups, meats, and desserts.
Star anise can also be used in Indian dishes such as curries and masala. While star anise might not have the same woody flavor as cloves, it will definitely add a depth of flavor to your dish. While it might not be as readily available as some of the other spices on our list, it is definitely worth seeking out if you want to give your dish an exotic flavor.
How to substitute: For every 10 cloves, use 1-star anise fruit or 1/4 teaspoon of ground star anise.
8. Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of spices that are commonly used in pumpkin pies but can also be used to flavor other desserts and baked goods. It typically contains cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves- everything you need in one place.
The best part about using this alternative is that even though you might not have this spice blend on hand, it is easy to make at home with spices that you probably already have in your pantry. It’s a wonderful combination of herbs and spices that has a mild and earthy flavor with slightly spicy undertones.
How to substitute: If a recipe calls for 10 cloves, then use 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.
9. Five-Spice Powder
As the name suggests, the five-spice powder is a blend of five different spices: star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds. It is commonly used in Chinese cuisine to flavor meats, soups, and stir-fries. This spice blend has a strong, pungent flavor with spicy, sweet, and sour undertones.
While it might not be the first spice that comes to mind when thinking of a replacement for cloves, it is definitely worth trying if you want to add a unique flavor to your dish.
How to substitute: You can use this powder as a 1:1 replacement for cloves in most recipes.
This is another common spice that can be used as a cloves substitute, especially in dishes like ham, pickling, and pumpkin pie, where the strong flavor of cloves is desired. Allspice is available whole or ground and is made from the dried berries of an evergreen tree called Pimenta dioica.
It has a flavor that is similar to cloves, with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. This spice is commonly used in Caribbean cuisine and can be used to flavor meats, soups, stews, and baked goods.
How to substitute: For every 10 cloves, use 1 teaspoon of ground allspice.
While most people enjoy the bite cloves add to the recipes, these are some wonderful substitutes for cloves for those who want a subtle flavor. They work well in almost every recipe and are easily available in local stores.