What Is Mixed Spice in British Food?

Uses, Benefits, and Recipes

Mince pies

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Mixed spice, also referred to as pudding spice, is frequently used in British cooking. Its general sounding name may be due to the fact that this mixture dates all the way back to at least 1828, where it can be found as an ingredient in British cookbooks. The warm flavorings are a part of many traditional British recipes—particularly Christmas desserts—as well as cakes, pies, and baked goods. 

What Is Mixed Spice?

Although there is a little flexibility in this spice mixture, it does combine specific ingredients. Mixed spice includes a balance of some or all of the following ground spices: cinnamon, coriander seed, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and mace.

Although mixed spice includes allspice, you cannot substitute the single spice for the mixture. These two are often confused, but allspice is not a blend; it is the dried unripe fruit of Pimenta dioica. It is also known as Jamaica pepper, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta, Turkish yenibahar, or new spice.

What Does It Taste Like?

British mixed spice is similar to gingerbread spice with its warm and somewhat sweet, somewhat spicy flavor tones. It is a perfect blend of the seasonings we normally associate with the fall and winter.

Origin of Mixed Spice

This British spice blend does have a long history, but there is some uncertainty when it first appeared in cookbooks since it was referred to by different names, such as "sweet spice." There is a listing in the table of contents for mixed spices in Mrs. Frazer's 1795 book called The Practice of Cookery, but it may not have been until the 1800s until it was an ingredient in British cookbooks.

Cooking With Mixed Spice

The spices included in this blend are mainly sweet, with an emphasis on the cinnamon. It is most often used in baking, sprinkled over fruit, or combined with other sweet ingredients. The flavor is somewhat rich so the spice will often appear in Christmas desserts as well as other celebratory recipes. Mixed spice is not just used for sweet cakes, though—a sprinkle or two in a casserole is always welcome.

Recipes With Mixed Spice

Because mixed spice is so frequently used in British holiday baked goods and puddings it is sometimes referred to as "cake spice" or "pudding spice." It is also incorporated into cookies, pancakes, breads, and fruit salads. If you enjoy these warm flavors in savory foods, try the spice mix in a stuffing and as a seasoning for poultry.

Storage

Mixed spice usually comes in glass jars or cellophane packets that should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight; the blend will stay fresh for a few months. Do not put ground spices in the freezer, though whole spice berries do freeze well. 

How to Make Mixed Spice

Mixed spice usually comes pre-mixed as a carefully balanced blend. Trying to create the correct mixture at home is not impossible but takes very precise measuring.

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice

In a bowl, gently mix all of the ingredients and store in an airtight container. The spices will stay fresh for about 3 months. Shake the mixture thoroughly before using. 

Substitutions

If you can't find mixed spice in your grocery store and choose not to make your own, you can still create authentic British dishes. Pumpkin pie spice mix is a great alternative to mixed spice and will create a similar flavor, as will the Dutch spice mix called koekkruiden or speculaaskruiden, which is mainly added to foods associated with the Dutch Sinterklass celebration on December 5. 

Where to Buy Mixed Spice

Because this spice blend is uniquely British, it may not be available in American grocery stores. Jars of this blended spice mix can be ordered online, or if you have access to a spice shop (such as Penzeys), you may find it there; just remember it can be labeled as "baking spice," or "cake spice."

Benefits of Mixed Spice

Practically speaking, this blend of seasonings is quite convenient; each spice is carefully measured and mixed together, saving you time, effort, and the cost of buying each spice separately.

Health-wise, some of the spices in the mix do have beneficial properties. Cinnamon, for example, lowers blood sugar levels; it is also an antioxidant, helps to fight inflammation, and lowers cholesterol levels. Allspice is an antioxidant as well and possesses anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties.