If you run out of cloves in your kitchen, keep reading to discover 9 fantastic alternatives! After exploring all options, you will be able to tell the best substitute for cloves for your needs. 

substitute for cloves

Cloves have the iconic flavor associated with the holiday season. You can use them to make your festive drinks sweet and savory or to dress the Christmas ham. Some people even use cloves to decorate their homes during the winter holidays.

If you run out of this ingredient, it may be challenging to replicate its unique flavor but not impossible.

Keep reading to discover the best substitutes for cloves.

The Best Substitute for Cloves: 9 Great Choices

In this article, we’re exploring the nine best substitutes for cloves: allspice, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, mace, white and black peppercorns, star anise, and five-spice powder.

Let’s get started with allspice.

1. Allspice

Allspice ingredient

Allspice is possibly the best substitute for cloves. It’s usually a mixture of several spices with ground cloves included.

Like cloves, allspice has a robust fragrance, but it’s more poignant. It’s the perfect spice for making snickerdoodles, apple pies, tomato marinades, split peas soup, and apple spice cake.

When replacing cloves with allspice, apply the 1:1 ratio. But you can always add a bit more allspice for enhanced flavor.

In the next section, let’s check out pumpkin spice.

2. Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin spice ingredient

Pumpkin spice is a well-rounded substitute for cloves. Just like allspice, pumpkin spice contains ground cloves. Additionally, it has a characteristic pumpkin taste but not enough to interfere with most recipes.

When replacing cloves with pumpkin spice, use the 1:1 ratio. It’s ideal for creamy pumpkin soup or pear pumpkin tartine. But you might want to add a little cinnamon or nutmeg to dial down the pumpkin essence.

In the next section, let’s check out nutmeg.

3. Nutmeg

Nutmeg ingredient

Nutmeg is a warm spice that has a nutty and sweet flavor, making it an excellent substitute for cloves.

When replacing ground cloves with ground nutmeg, stick to the 1:1 ratio.

You can also combine it with other spices like cinnamon or cardamom. However, keep in mind that nutmeg is super strong, so you only need to use a little in your dishes.

Start with only half of the ground nutmeg the recipe calls for and gradually add more as needed.

In the next section, let’s check out cardamom.

4. Cardamom

Cardamom seeds

Cardamom is a spice sold in either ground form or its pond and used in combination with other spices. It’s a great substitute for cloves, thanks to its slightly herbal and citrusy flavor that works in sweet or savory recipes.

When replacing cloves with cardamom, apply the 1:1 ratio. You can even combine it with nutmeg or cinnamon to make a stronger cloves substitute.

In the next section, let’s check out cinnamon.

5. Cinnamon

Cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon and cloves have a complementary flavor and are used in similar recipes. As such, cinnamon is a great substitute for cloves.

When used on its own, cinnamon doesn’t have a sweet flavor, so you shouldn’t use it in place of ground cloves. Instead, use a nutmeg-cinnamon mixture in the 1:1 ratio.

In the next section, let’s check out mace.

6. Mace

Mace ingredient

Mace is a popular spice with a warm, woody, sweet and spicy flavor. It’s a wonderful substitute for cloves since it compliments other spices used in the dish.

Mace is usually made by grinding the coating of nutmeg seeds. Its flavor resembles that of a pepper-cinnamon mixture.

You can use mace in spice mixtures, soups, sauces, poultry and fish dishes, baked goods, and rice.

When replacing cloves with mace, apply the 1:1 ratio.

In the next section, let’s check out white or black peppercorns.

7. White or Black Peppercorns

Black peppercorns

White and black peppercorns come from the same plant but have different flavors. When used in place of cloves, they add an earthy and spicy flavor to a dish. Both are great substitutes for cloves.

Black peppercorns have a slightly stronger flavor compared to white peppercorns. Meanwhile, white peppercorns have a mild sweet-smelling flavor and are mostly used in light-colored dishes.

When replacing cloves with white or black peppercorns, apply the 1:1 ratio. You can use them in either whole or grounded form.

In the next section, let’s check out star anise.

8. Star Anise

Star anise ingredient

Star anise is a star-shaped seedpod with eight peas inside. Both the pod and seeds are used whole or grounded in different dishes.

The spice has a strong spicy, warm, and sweet flavor similar to cloves. As such, star anise is a great substitute for cloves.

When replacing cloves with star anise, use the 1:1 ratio. It’s a wonderful idea for marinades, baked goods, soups, sauces, and many other savory and sweet dishes.

In the next section, let’s check out five-spice powder.

9. Five-Spice Powder

Fivespice powder ingredient

Five-spice powder is a spice mixture of ground cloves, cinnamon, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel, turmeric, anise seeds, cardamom, and nutmeg. It has a bitter, spicy, sweet, and warm flavor.

When replacing cloves with five-spice powder, apply the 1:1 ratio.

You can use five-spice powder in dry rubs for meat, poultry and fish dishes, and marinades. It’s also a great addition to desserts and savory dishes.

In the next section, let’s find out the differences between ground cloves and whole cloves.

Ground Cloves vs Whole Cloves

ground and whole cloves

Cloves exist as either whole or ground, and you can use either in your dishes and drinks.

Here’s what you should know about ground and whole cloves:

  • A whole clove is the flower bud of the clove tree.
  • The buds resemble small pins or nails. In fact, clove comes from the Latin word clavus, which translates to nail.
  • Whole cloves are dark brown and sweet-scented.
  • Ground cloves are obtained by pulverizing whole cloves.
  • Whole cloves are mostly used to impart flavor in dishes, and they are removed before serving. Meanwhile, ground cloves are cooked into the dish; you can stir them into pie filling and cake batter, as well as combine them with other spices.
  • If you’re using ground cloves, there is no need to add whole cloves to the recipe. But ground cloves can serve as an alternative to whole cloves if your dish requires it.
  • You can buy whole cloves and grind them at home. However, be careful not to grind too many of them since they tend to lose their flavor faster ground.
  • Using ground cloves in place of whole cloves can change the color of a dish and may even give it a much stronger flavor.

In the next section, you can find out more about the best substitute for cloves.

Substitute for Cloves (FAQ)

This section gives you straightforward answers to common questions related to cloves and its alternatives.

Which spice is closest to the flavor of the cloves?

Allspice has the closest flavor to cloves. It’s similar to cloves, cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg since it contains all those flavors.

Can you use cloves as a nutmeg substitute?

Yes, you can use cloves as a nutmeg substitute since they both have a bittersweet nutty flavor.

Are allspice and cloves the same?

No, allspice and cloves are different spices. Allspice comes from the berries of the allspice tree, while cloves come from the flower buds of the clove tree (Syzygiumaromaticum tree).

What kind of dishes can you make with cloves?

Cloves are an excellent addition to both sweet and savory dishes and drinks, including pumpkin pie, gingerbread cookies, oatmeal cream pie, glogg, mulled wine, and chai tea latte.

Can you use cloves with other spice blends?

Yes, cloves pair better with other signature spice blends. These include North Indian garam masala, American pumpkin spice, and Chinese five-spice powder.

The next and final section concludes the entire article on clove substitutes.


To review, cloves are a popular spice that works well for many holiday meals and drinks. People add cloves to sweet and savory recipes and drinks like cider, chai, and mulled wine. The spice is unique, and we all have it in our pantries (most of the time anyway).

If you don’t have cloves, there are always alternatives that you can use. Some cloves alternatives like allspice have a similar flavor to cloves and will work well for your baked goods, meat dishes, soups, or sauces.

What’s your favorite substitute for cloves? Let us know in the comments below!

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