Allspice is widely used in dishes throughout the Caribbean and in Mexico. It is one of the main ingredients in Jamaican jerk seasoning. In fact, the flavor of allspice is what sets this seasoning blend apart and identifies it as truly Jamaican. If you plan on making Caribbean dishes, it is a good idea to keep allspice on hand as this is not an ingredient that you should omit without finding a replacement.
If you run out or if you cannot find allspice in your local supermarket, you will need to find an alternative to allspice that provides the same or similar flavors. Fortunately, there are several ingredients that you can substitute for allspice and you may already have them on your spice rack.
Your best bet: A blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves
Sometimes referred to in Jamaica as “pimento” (Spanish for “pepper”), allspice got its name because its flavor shares some of the characteristics of these three spices along with that of peppercorns. The blend of these spices can, therefore, create a reasonable approximation of allspice’s complex flavor.
The most popular blend recipe is a combination of all three spices in equal amounts. If your recipe calls for a teaspoon of allspice, you would use a teaspoon of this blend in its place.
Note that it is possible to omit the nutmeg or use a blend of two parts cinnamon to one part each of nutmeg and cloves. Some blends include a pinch of black pepper. It is recommended that you prepare this spice blend when you need it since it will lose its flavor if kept for long periods. If you do make it ahead of time, store it in an airtight container; preferably, one made of glass.
A decent second choice: Pumpkin pie spice
Most spice brands have their own pumpkin pie spice that will be easy to find even outside of the holiday season. You may even have some left over from last year.
As you may have guessed, pumpkin pie spice is a blend that is formulated to provide the flavors associated with pumpkin pie. Most pumpkin pie spice blends include allspice along with other spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. The fact that allspice is one of the ingredients in pumpkin pie spice is one reason that it makes a good allspice substitute.
Pumpkin pie spice is a one to one substitute, so you would use exactly the same amount of it that your recipe specifies for allspice.
In a pinch: Ground cloves
The powerful flavor of cloves has much in common with the flavor of allspice. However, it is important to note that the pungency of cloves can easily overpower other more delicate flavors.
When using ground cloves as an allspice substitute, you will need to use less of the cloves. If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of allspice, you will need to use 1/2 a teaspoon of ground clove. It is recommended that you buy this spice ground rather than attempt to grind it yourself. Not only is it difficult to grind, but the oils can also damage any plastic parts on your grinder.
If none of the above substitutes are viable for you, your other options include mace (from the same plant as nutmeg) and whole allspice berries. Use five whole allspice berries to replace one teaspoon of ground allspice.