Allspice Vs. Nutmeg: SPICEography Showdown

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Allspice and nutmeg are often paired with each other. You may see them showing up together a lot in both savory and sweet recipes. The fact that both get used in the same dish along with the fact that they have certain flavor similarities can lead to some confusion if you are not familiar with these two spices. If you want to know exactly how allspice differs from nutmeg and the best way to use each of them, the SPICEography Showdown below is for you. Take a look at allspice vs. nutmeg.

How does the flavor of allspice differ from that of nutmeg?

Allspice and nutmeg are two completely different and unrelated spices despite the fact there are some shared flavor notes. The “allspice” name was coined because Englishmen in the 17th century believed that the spice tasted like a mixture of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The most pronounced flavor note in allspice is that of cloves, which keeps it from being as sweet as nutmeg. Allspice has a relatively complex flavor, which is evidenced by the fact that it is likened to three different spices. Nutmeg’s flavor differs by being somewhat simpler and the fact that it has a unique and quite pungent aroma. The flavor of nutmeg can be described as being sweet and nutty with a hint of bitterness.

Can you use allspice as a nutmeg substitute or nutmeg as an allspice substitute?

While allspice does have some of the same flavor notes as nutmeg, the two are not perfectly interchangeable. Allspice is a little too savory and bitter to serve as a nutmeg substitute by itself in many sweet applications. While it could be used in combination with other spices in an apple pie, it may not work as a replacement for nutmeg in a dish where the nutmeg is the primary spice. It can serve as a decent (but not ideal) substitute in some savory dishes. There are quite a few other spices and spice blends that would be better nutmeg substitutes.

Nutmeg can be used to replace allspice, but you may not want to use it alone. For best results, combine nutmeg with cinnamon and cloves to get a better approximation of the allspice flavor. On its own, nutmeg will not be able to serve as a good substitute for allspice in savory dishes. For example, nutmeg should not be your first choice as an allspice substitute in a jerk seasoning.

What are the best ways to use allspice and what are the best ways to use nutmeg?

Allspice is versatile in that it is used in both sweet and savory applications. Among its more popular uses are apple pie spice and pumpkin pie spice where it plays a supporting role to cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. It is the central spice in Jamaican jerk seasoning, where it is supported by a variety of herbs and spices like chili pepper and thyme. You can use allspice to flavor burger patties, meatloaf and as an ingredient in a dry rub for pork or poultry.

Nutmeg is usually used in spicy desserts including custards, cookies, and certain cakes. It also pairs well with some savory items including eggs, beans, and certain cheeses. Nutmeg is traditionally used in certain Middle eastern dishes featuring lamb as well as in haggis, the famous Scottish dish featuring assorted organ meats.