The unmistakable flavor and aroma of cloves take our dishes to a whole new level, undoubtedly. But what if we don’t have this spice at home- that’s why we’ve got you covered with the best clove substitutes.

The best alternatives that will replace whole cloves and ground cloves in cooking and baking include:

  1. Clove liquid extract
  2. Nutmeg
  3. Mace
  4. Allspice
  5. Cinnamon
  6. Star anise
  7. Green Cardamom- For A Twist Of Flavor
  8. Cumin- For A Different Flavor Dimension
  9. Pumpkin pie spice mix
  10. Chinese five-spice mix
  11. Pickling spices

So, let’s take a look at how these substitutes will help you to camouflage the absence of cloves in your favorite dishes!

The Best 11 Substitutes For Cloves

Cloves’ characteristic flavor and intense aroma enrich our foods, whether sweet or savory. Many cuisines around the world widely use whole and ground cloves and have recognized them to be a warm spice that could go a long way in a recipe, even with a minor addition.

However, owing to the intense flavor and fragrance this spice imparts, some find it overwhelming to their palate and are interested in reaching for alternatives that could give a similar warmth and flavor. So, we have presented the best clove substitutes so you can pick the best for you if you don’t like the taste of cloves or simply run short of it in the middle of certain preparations.

Substitutes For Cloves - SpiceRally

01- Clove Liquid Extract

If you don’t have whole or ground cloves in hand, clove liquid extract would be the closest option that you could have to get the exact flavor and aroma. Remember that you shouldn’t get this mixed up with clove essential oil. The extract is not an essential oil, and the essential oil is not typically used in food preparation.

Liquid clove extract can be used to spice up cakes, cookies, brownies, homemade ice cream, frosting, etc. You can also use this in liquids like spiced beverages and cocktails. It is suggested that you should start with a small amount of the clove extract and then adjust the flair as desired.

02- Nutmeg

Were you looking for another pantry staple to replace cloves? Nutmeg is a great choice that’ll impart a similar bitter-sweet flavor. Nutmeg is not as intense as cloves, but it could still be an excellent flavor approximation if you expect nutty warmth in your dishes.

Since nutmeg is a spice that compliments sweet and savory dishes equally along with beverages, you can use this instead of cloves in all of them. Use ground nutmeg or freshly shaved nutmeg from the seed in a 1:1 ratio, or begin with a moderate amount. You can also consider combining nutmeg with another warm spice like cinnamon.

03- Mace

Mace is known for its warm, woody, and spicy-sweet flavor. It imparts a similar accent as nutmeg but could be a little more intense than that. You can easily find ground mace if you don’t have cloves around.

You can use ground mace in place of both whole and ground cloves in:

  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Spice mixtures and seasoning blends
  • Poultry, meat, or fish dishes
  • Rice dishes
  • Baked goods

Consider using a 1:1 ratio, or if you are not familiar with substitutions, you can start with a small amount 

and then increase the quantity as desired. Mace also could be incorporated with another warm ingredient like cinnamon or cumin.

04- Allspice

Allspice is such an interesting spice that combines the flavor elements of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon with a hit of black pepper. This is also categorized as a warming spice, making it an ideal substitute for cloves. You can use both allspice berries and ground allspice in place of cloves in sweet and savory preparations.

If a recipe calls for whole cloves, you can use allspice berries and remove them at the end of the cooking process, just like you would do with whole clove buds. Ground allspice could also be used in the same amount as you would use ground cloves. But as we mentioned earlier, if you are unfamiliar with replacing, you can start moderately and adjust according to taste.

05- Cinnamon

Ubiquitous cinnamon is another excellent alternative for cloves, especially if you do not like the intensity of cloves but still need a similar warmth and flavor. It would be best if you could find Cassia cinnamon since Ceylon cinnamon could impart a less intense and more sweet taste.

Ground cinnamon can be used as a replacement in desserts, baked goods, smoothies, beverages, etc., while cinnamon quills can replace whole cloves in soups, stews, curries, etc. If you prefer using ground cinnamon, you can combine it with nutmeg or use it alone. 

In addition, we suggest you mix ground cinnamon with vanilla in sweet preparations in order to mask off the absence of cloves completely.

06- Star Anise

Ground or whole star anise florets are readily available in the store, and you might already have this in your spice cabinet. So, if you are in the middle of a certain preparation and find that you have run out of cloves, star anise could definitely come to your rescue!

This spice is warm and has a sweet, spicy, and strong licorice-like note which you don’t usually savor in cloves. Therefore, this option is better off as a substitute in richly spiced dishes that call for other spices like sauces, curries, marinades, pies, etc. 

And it would be better if you leave this out from sweet preparations or beverages that require cloves as a primary ingredient. This option can also go into your dishes in a 1:1 ratio or in adjusted amounts that suit your palate.

You have to be yourself when you are creating and cooking. You do what you need to do, and you do it to the best of your ability.

Leah Chase

07- Green Cardamom- For A Twist Of Flavor

Cardamom is known for its complex flavor with sweet, piney, fruity, and menthol-like undertones. This spice is also prized for its incredible aroma that could obviously compete with that of the cloves. Therefore, cardamom can be considered another possible alternative to conceal the non-existence of our topic leader, especially if you do not like the taste of cloves.

Whole cardamom pods could be slightly pounded and added to dishes that require slow cooking or simmering. Ground cardamom is ideal for sweets, baked goods, spice blends, seasoning mixtures, drinks, and even certain savory dishes. It would be best if you start with a small amount of cardamom and then adjust the quantity as you go.

Even though green cardamom can be used as a substitute for cloves, they can have differences in terms of flavor and appearance. Click on this link to discover how these two spices actually differ.

08- Cumin- For A Different Flavor Dimension

Cumin takes the place of the last single element substitute in our list. Distinctly flavored cumin provides a warm, earthy, bitter-sweet flavor which is usually less intense than cloves. But still, this can be used as a last pick if you don’t have anything else we mentioned before.

Ground cumin can be slightly more intense than whole cumin seeds and could help to hide the absence of cloves in sweet and savory dishes or beverage preparations. Adding whole cumin seeds to baked goods will introduce a new flavor dimension, and this option will never disappoint you, particularly if you find adding cloves can incapacitate your palate.

Include ground cumin in place of ground cloves in a 1:1 ratio or a little bit more, depending on how you like it. And if you are using whole cumin seeds, we suggest adjusting the amount as desired.

09- Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

This would essentially be an amazing pick when cloves are not around in your pantry! In fact, pumpkin pie spice mix is basically a blend of cinnamon, ground ginger, ground allspice, ground cloves, and sometimes ground nutmeg. 

So, since the blend itself contains a decent amount of cloves, this could complement many dishes that originally called for nutmeg. We recommend using this substitute with desserts, sauces, pies, cakes, savory dishes, and some beverages. But it will not be so encouraging with recipes that specifically require whole cloves.

Since the bulk of this blend is made with cinnamon and enriched with several other warm spices, we suggest you use half the amount you would usually use the cloves. You can always adjust the taste later if needed.

10- Chinese Five-Spice Mix

This is another blend that includes cloves as a key ingredient. Other elements of this spice blend contain warm spices such as star anise, cinnamon, Szechuan or black peppercorns, along with fennel. So, this blend will have a bolder and spicier taste than that of cloves.

If you prefer the Chinese five-spice mix, consider using it more with savory dishes. This could also be an effective alternative for meat rubs, marinades, sauces,  and it might work in pinches for cakes and puddings. So, start with half the amount you would usually use cloves and alter the quantities as desired.

11- Pickling Spices

Most pickling spices that you find in the store contain cloves along with other warm spices like:

  • Coriander
  • Red pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Mustard seeds
  • Allspice
  • Black pepper

This option is usually a coarse mixture that will complement savory dishes that originally require ground or whole cloves. Pickling spices are better left as a last choice since sometimes you may find the taste of this blend a bit too overwhelming. 

So, it is always better to pick this for dishes that call cloves as a secondary ingredient and remember to use a little at the beginning and then proceed with increasing.

Discover many interesting facts about mighty cloves by referring to this comprehensive article.

Can We Use Whole Cloves And Ground Cloves Interchangeably?

The simple answer is a huge YES! However, as you know, some recipes specifically require whole cloves and ground cloves. Yet, the chances are high that you could use them interchangeably. Therefore, you can use ¾ teaspoon of ground cloves for every one teaspoon of whole cloves and vice versa, called for in the recipe.

You should keep in mind that using ground cloves in place of whole cloves will slightly alter the flavor and color of your dish. In fact, you usually remove the whole cloves before serving the food or drink, so they deliver a more nuanced flavor and provide little to the color of the completed dish.

And, if your recipe requires poking whole cloves into fruits or meat, you’ll likely want to cling to the real thing since there’s just no alternative for the picturesque representation that whole cloves make.

Concluding With The Best Clove Substitutes

Whole cloves and ground cloves are usually considered must-haves in most seasonal goodies. This spice is also a staple in many cuisines as an addition to various savory dishes and beverages. But, there can be times that you run out of this spice or do not really like its intense flavor and aroma notes.

Thus, on such occasions, you can undoubtedly count on the substitutes that we discussed throughout this article. Warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, star anise, and cardamom can work as single-element alternatives, while pumpkin pie spice mix, Chinese five-spice mix, and pickling spices could be used in pinches to replace the taste of cloves.

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