You will find apple pie spice to be an effective and flavorful ingredient, whether you are making an apple pie from scratch or want added flavor for your French toast. You can use it in your oatmeal or as a flavoring for mulled cider. While a pre-made blend allows you to add the spices quickly and in a carefully composed ratio, it is not essential. Quite a few apple pie spice substitutes can deliver a similar or better result.
Your best bet: Make your own apple pie spice
You only need four ingredients to make an apple pie spice blend that is as good as or better than most pre-made versions. However, you can add more spices if you wish. The primary four are:
To make one 9-inch pie, you can use a 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon of the other spices; however, feel free to adjust the amounts to your liking. For added depth, consider adding a 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom. Use your homemade apple pie spice exactly as you would your favorite pre-made version.
A decent second choice: Pumpkin pie spice
The main difference between pumpkin pie spice and apple pie spice is the addition of cloves. Even with the cloves, pumpkin pie spice is an effective alternative to apple pie spice. Cloves work well with the other spices in apple pie spice and can be an effective complement for apples. If you are worried that the clove flavor will be overwhelming or you simply do not like cloves, consider adding a little extra cinnamon to help mask it.
Use the same amount of pumpkin pie spice that your recipe requires for apple pie spice.
In a pinch: Chinese five spice powder
Chinese five spice powder is an ancient spice blend that typically contains more than just five spices. The spices used to make it include some of the ones found in apple pie spice like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Star anise is one of the main flavors in Chinese five spice powder and its pungency pairs well with the sweetness of apple pie filling. Any savory spices that you might find in a five spice blend like turmeric or Sichuan pepper will typically not be strong enough to be an issue in your dish; however, add a little more cinnamon if the flavors are not sweet enough for your taste.
Use Chinese five spice powder exactly as your recipe dictates for apple pie spice.
Cinnamon is by far the strongest flavor in apple pie spice and is what most people want from an apple pie. In fact, there are some apple pie recipes that have cinnamon as the only spice. Cinnamon works well in most desserts and is thus an excellent alternative to an apple pie spice blend.
If you want a little more complexity, feel free to use cinnamon along with any of the other spices in apple spice. A cinnamon and nutmeg combination or cinnamon and ginger combination will work better than cinnamon alone and will provide many of the flavor notes that you want from apple pie spice.