Cloves are one the iconic flavors of the holiday season. Whether you’re preparing a holiday dish or using cloves in sweet and savory dishes throughout the year, they’re a hard flavor to replicate. If you need a quick substitution for cloves, the seven options in this article may be the perfect fit.

What are Cloves?

Cloves are a fragrant spice often used in savory dishes, desserts, and drinks. Both whole and ground cloves can be used in recipes to lend flavor to a dish. They are a popular option for flavoring fall and holiday season dishes such as pumpkin pie, mulled wine, spiced cider, and chai tea.

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Cloves come from the flower buds of the evergreen tree called a clove tree. The buds are harvested before they mature, then dried. These buds are shaped like small spikes with a round, bulbous top. They have a reddish-brown color and a strong flavor and aroma.

Clove trees are grown in India and Madagascar, although they are also produce in areas of Indonesia. At one point, Indonesia was well-known as the most prominent trader of cloves and other spices, leading to the name “Spice Islands.” Today, clove trees are cultivated in several world areas.

jar of spilled ground cloves

7 Substitutes for Ground Cloves

If you’re looking for a substitute for ground cloves in cooking, use one of the seven options below.

  1. Nutmeg

If you need to replace ground cloves in a recipe, nutmeg is a great option because it is both nutty and sweet like cloves. Because this seasoning is so strong, start with half as much ground nutmeg as called for in the recipe. Gradually add more as needed for flavor.

  1. Cardamom

Cardamom can be purchased in both its pod and ground form. It is often used with other spices on this list, making it a good stand-in for cloves. Its citrusy and earthy flavor make it a good fit for both savory and sweet dishes.

Cardamom can be used as a 1:1 substitute for ground cloves, although you should use it with cinnamon or nutmeg to make it a stronger substitution for cloves.

  1. Cinnamon

Cloves and cinnamon are often used in the same recipes because of their complementary flavor profiles. Cinnamon by itself is not as sweet as cloves, so it should not be used on its own as a substitute for ground cloves. However, a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg can be used as a 1:1 substitution for cloves.

  1. Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice can be a good substitute for cloves because it typically has cloves in it. This spice blend combines nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and sometimes allspice to get the traditional fall flavors.

Pumpkin pie spice can be used as a 1:1 substitution for ground cloves in recipes. Keep in mind that this seasoning blend can be used in savory dishes, especially if ginger would complement the flavors of your dish.

  1. Allspice

Allspice has a warm and peppery flavor that imitates the flavor of cloves in recipes. Ground allspice can be used as a 1:1 substitute for ground cloves in recipes.

  1. Mace

Mace is a good replacement for ground cloves because it complements other ingredients in the dish. When combined with vanilla, this seasoning can be especially good to replace ground cloves. It adds dimension to your dish, much like cloves.

It can be used as a 1:1 substitution for cloves, although it can also be combined with pumpkin pie spice to enhance the flavor.

  1. Star anise

Star anise is a star-shaped seed pod that can be either whole or ground in recipes. It has a warm, sweet, and spicy licorice flavor that mimics the flavor of cloves. It can be a good 1:1 substitution for cloves in both sweet and savory dishes.