Working on a recipe that calls for allspice? If you don't have any on hand, you can save money, and cabinet space, with one of these simple substitutes made from common spices that you probably already have in your pantry.
Allspice is easily replaced with other spices, but be sure to taste-test any substitutions for variety, as well as for texture. If you're not sure, a good one-to-one substitute is ground cloves.
What Is Allspice?
Allspice is the dried, unripe berry of an evergreen tree that grows in tropical climates, like Jamaica and southern Mexico.
The berries are typically dried in the sun until they turn dark brown. Allspice berries bear a strong resemblance to dried peppercorns. In fact, Christopher Columbus actually mistook them for peppercorns when he first encountered them during his travels.
One important thing to note when using allspice: it loses its flavor and fragrance quickly, so it's best to store allspice in its whole form until you're ready to use it whenever possible. You can refrigerate it to preserve the flavor a bit longer, but it's best to use it as soon as possible after purchasing it.
Allspice berries are easy to grind with a pepper grinder or a coffee/spice grinder. Just give them a few whirls, and they're ready to use.
Ground Allspice Substitute
Use six whole allspice berries in place of 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of ground allspice. It's best to remove these before serving.
Whole Allspice Berry Substitute
If your recipe calls for whole allspice, use 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of ground allspice, or the previous allspice substitute, in place of six allspice berries.
The ground spices will flavor your dish more than the whole allspice would have, so it's best to start with a small amount of spice and adjust up until the recipe suits your tastes.
Note that using ground spices may alter the color and flavor of the dish slightly. If you'd prefer to stick to whole spices, use an equal amount of whole cloves in place of the whole allspice berries.
Taste of Allspice
Allspice has been described as tasting like a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves (hence the substitution suggested above). In fact, it's actually that complex flavor that earned it its name: When early English explorers tasted allspice and declared that it tasted like many different spices, they went ahead and started calling it allspice.
That name has proven a bit confusing, though. Many people wrongly believe that allspice is a blend of spices, rather than one distinct spice.
While many spices are only significant to one or two cultures, allspice is important worldwide.
It appears in every type of recipe imaginable. It's used in savory dishes and sweet dishes, to flavor meat and seafood, to season vegetables and fruits, to enhance the flavor and aroma of bread and other baked goods, in salad dressings, in pickle brines and even in drinks.