Myths and misconceptions surround allspice. This pantry staple is not a combination of other ground spices -- cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, according to the gossip -- it actually comes from the dried, unripe berry of the pimento tree. Although allspice doesn't contain cloves, you can absolutely use it as a clove substitute. However, like any substitute, you must focus on the flavors you wish to replicate and ensure to use allspice with complementary tastes.
The Allspice Effect
Allspice works as a clove substitute because the two seasonings share many common notes. Both feature underlying tones of juniper, cinnamon and pepper. However, allspice has a more intense flavor -- hence its all-encompassing name -- which gives your recipe a bolder and more complex taste than the smoother tasting cloves. Adding allspice in place of cloves brings additional notes to the recipe, such as subtle nutmeg and ginger tones.
As a clove substitute, allspice works better in some recipes than others. For an easy flavor-pairing trick, think of allspice as "pumpkin pie" spice and ask yourself if that well-known flavor lends itself to the dish in question. For example, this seasoning works particularly well with chicken and pork dishes, but may clash with beef or fish. Like pumpkin pie spice, it complements sweet breads and pastries, as well as rice, pumpkin and sweet potato dishes. Allspice pairs pleasantly with jams, jellies and fruit-based dishes made with apples, pears and oranges, but it may stand out against green veggie sides.
Other Clove Subs
Even if you're out of allspice, you're not out of luck when it comes to clove substitutions. For a more subtle flavor that has a slightly spicier undertone, use cinnamon in place of cloves. Nutmeg also works as a clove substitute, giving the dish an earthier, nuttier, less spicy flavor. For a taste similar to nutmeg that is just a bit more rich and fragrant, go with mace. Like allspice, these substitutions work at a 1-to-1 ratio.
More to Consider
If you have whole cloves but your recipes calls for ground cloves, or vice versa, you can perform a clove-for-clove substitute; about 1 teaspoon of whole cloves works just as well as 3/4 teaspoon of ground cloves. The allspice-for-cloves subtitution is a two-way street. In a pinch, toss a dash of ground cloves in place of allspice.
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