Spice Substitution Guide

Choose the right spice for a recipe when you're out

Piles of spices
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Cuisines are profoundly influenced by the spices that are indigenous to that region or country and strongly impact the flavors of the dishes. What would Indian cooking be without cardamom pods, or Jamaican recipes be without the kick of allspice? Imagine an Asian dish without ginger or a Mexican recipe void of cumin. Sometimes, however, a home cook may not have the spice called for in a recipe—whether because the spice is difficult to find, or a personal dislike for its taste, or it simply didn't make its way onto the grocery list. Picking the right spice substitute can be challenging, as many spices possess unique character and flavor profiles that are difficult to replicate.

Luckily, there are some good substitutes you can employ to maintain the general taste of a dish. It is important to keep in mind, though, that although the selected flavors should harmonize or hint at the original, the flavor will not be as originally intended in the recipe. Even so, to be safe, begin adding the substitution with just half of the specified amount in the recipe and continue to taste and adjust as needed. 

  • Allspice—substitute cinnamon, cassia, a dash of nutmeg or mace, or a dash of cloves
  • Aniseed—substitute fennel seed, a few drops of anise extract, or anise stars
  • Apple pie spice— for 1 teaspoon substitute a combination of 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon cardamom, and 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Cajun spice—substitute equal parts white pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and onion powder
  • Cardamom—substitute ginger
  • Chili powder—substitute a dash of bottled hot pepper sauce plus a combination of oregano and cumin
  • Chives—substitute half the amount called for with finely chopped scallions, or finely chopped leeks (no dark leaves) that have been soaked in ice water for 1 hour
  • Cinnamon—substitute nutmeg or allspice (use only 1/4 the recipe amount of allspice) 
  • Cloves—substitute allspice, cinnamon, or nutmeg
  • Coriander—substitute ground caraway seed or cumin
  • Cumin—substitute chili powder
  • Fennel seeds—substitute anise seed (but use less) combined with some finely chopped celery, or cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or dill
  • Garlic—for 1 clove substitute with 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon jarred minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon garlic flakes (dehydrated garlic), or 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (which adds 3/8 teaspoon salt so adjust accordingly)
  • Ginger—substitute allspice, cinnamon, mace, or nutmeg
  • Mace—substitute allspice, cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg
  • Mustard—substitute wasabi powder (using only 1/4 to 1/2 as much as the recipe calls for since it is hotter), horseradish powder, or dry mustard powder using 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder for every 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • Nutmeg—substitute cinnamon, ginger, or mace
  • Poultry seasoning—substitute sage plus a dash of marjoram, thyme, and black pepper
  • Pumpkin pie spice—for 1 tablespoon substitute with a combination of 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Saffron—substitute a dash of turmeric or annatto powder for color
  • Sage—substitute poultry seasoning, savory, marjoram, or rosemary
  • Turmeric—substitute a dash of saffron for color plus ground mustard powder using a 1-to-1 ratio, or use annatto powder
  • Vanilla—substitute maple syrup, vanilla almond or soy milk, seeds from half of a vanilla bean (for 1 teaspoon extract), or half the amount of almond extract