There are many popular recipes out there that call for the addition of cloves. With a powerful and distinctive flavor, this potent spice is often the one key component that gives a dish the boost it needs to go from ordinary to extraordinary.
Cloves are common enough that it’s typical for most cooks to keep them stocked and available. Then again, there comes a time in the life of every chef when an ingredient is either overlooked on the recipe list or you think you have it only to realize (too late!) that you’re all out.
Luckily, even the most casual of cooks most likely keeps at least one spice on hand that can make a great substitute for cloves.
Your Best Bet: Nutmeg
Out of all the possible substitutes for cloves, nutmeg is typically your best option. It is similarly aromatic with a wonderful and unique taste that is very similar to that of cloves when added to a dish.
Just like with allspice, all you need to do is add an amount of nutmeg equal to the amount of cloves called for in your recipe. Nutmeg is ideal for all varieties of dishes, making a wonderful substitute for cloves in sweet dishes as well as savory.
A Decent Second Choice: Allspice
If you have allspice on hand, this is one of the top options for a cloves substitute. In order to use this substitute, simply add allspice to your dish in the same amount of cloves that your recipe calls for.
Allspice does have its own unique flavor profile, so be conscious of the difference in taste if you choose to use this substitution. For example, desserts often work better with a different substitute, as allspice has hints of black pepper that won’t necessarily complement your sweets.
In A Pinch: Cinnamon
If you don’t keep either nutmeg or allspice, cinnamon can work as a cloves substitute in a pinch. On its own, cinnamon has more spice and less sweetness than the other possible substitutes, so depending on what type of dish you’re cooking, you might need to add another ingredient to create the right flavor.
Vanilla and cinnamon work well together, particularly in desserts. Again, the amount of cinnamon (or the total amount of cinnamon plus vanilla or the ingredient of your choice) should be equal to the amount of cloves that your recipe specifies.
In lieu of allspice, nutmeg or cinnamon, cardamom is another spice that can be used in some dishes to stand in for cloves.
If you’ve got just about everything but cloves, any combination of the spices listed above can be used as a substitute. In fact, you might find that the flavor you achieve is actually better than that of cloves alone!
Of course there’s always the chance that your whole spice rack is looking a bit bare. Even if this is the case, don’t panic! When all else fails, most dishes will turn out just fine without the addition or cloves or a suitable substitution.
The best solution is to keep an eye on your spice rack and take note whenever you’re running low on basic spices that appear again and again in your recipes. By keeping a fresh stock of spices on hand at all times, you can ensure that every dish you cook is flavored beautifully with the perfect spices.