If you ever wonder what nutmeg substitutes you can use when you run out of this ingredient, this article will be your lifesaver. And these alternatives might take you by surprise because maybe some of them are already sitting in your cabinet.
Nutmeg is, indeed, a distinctive ingredient that brings festive vibes into your kitchen, from savory to sweet dishes. But in case you cannot buy them at the store for any reason, you can still find many qualified substitutes to replace nutmeg.
So wait no more. Let me show you what you can use when there is no nutmeg.
Several Convenient Ingredients That Can Replace Nutmeg
After years of trying (and failing as well), I finally can come up with a list of the best and suitable nutmeg substitutes. There are 16 ingredients that you can use when you are out of nutmeg.
I also classify them into 2 groups. One group is the best alternatives with particular ratios, and one group is potential replacements that can work in a pinch. And they are:
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8 Closest-flavor Substitutes For Nutmeg
- Garam Masala
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
- Apple Pie Spice
8 Acceptable Substitutes For Nutmeg
- Cajun Spice
- Black Pepper
- Bay Leaf
What You Need To Know About Nutmeg
Before learning what nutmeg substitutes are, it would be better to know about this spice’s origin and taste. So, let’s begin with the general information about nutmeg in the following parts.
What Is Nutmeg?
Many of you might be familiar with nutmeg as a wonderful spice to create various tasty foods. But have you known that nutmeg is a seed of a tree called evergreen?
The other names of this tree are Myristica fragrans or nutmeg tree. This tree’s origin is from Indonesia and is cultivated to get 2 types of spices: nutmeg (from the seed) and mace (from the seed’s skin).
Normally, the nutmeg seed will take around 6 to 8 weeks to dry inside the shell. Dried nutmeg has a brown-gray color with an oval and wrinkled appearance.
The regular dried nutmeg’s size is around 0.81 to 1.18 inches in length, 0.59 to 0.71 in width, and 0.18 to 0.35 ounces in weight (1).
Nutmeg has a nutty, earthy, woody, and bittersweet taste with a light clove note. You can also feel its warmth and aroma, which makes them perfect to pair in any cooking recipe.
You can either buy nutmeg in whole and ground form. So if you buy the whole nutmeg, you need a grating tool to grind them before using.
You will need special tools to grate nutmeg, and this short instruction will show you how to do it.
Nutmeg Uses (Not Only For Cooking)
Besides the main uses in cooking, nutmeg is the ingredient to produce various valuable products in human lives. Let’s find out how you can use nutmeg in 4 main points as below.
- Nutmeg Spice: This is the most famous use of nutmeg. Have you ever tried nutmeg spice before? If not, you definitely should know how versatile they are.
You can add nutmeg to soups, stews, sauces, meaty dishes, sweets, like pumpkin pies, or drinks, to enhance the flavor.
- Other Culinary Uses: The pericarp surrounding the seed can be used to make jam, candy, or juice. In India, they use nutmeg rind to make chutney, pickles, and drink.
- Nutmeg Essential Oil: The applications for this oil are for flavoring, medicinal, and perfumery purposes. You can also add nutmeg oil to your foods as they have the same smell and taste as nutmeg.
Besides, this oil is used to produce cough syrup and toothpaste.
- Nutmeg Butter: You can make nutmeg butter from them. Nutmeg butter is famous for easing skin irritations. People also add this ingredient to fragrance products like soaps, creams, lip balm, body butter, or hair-care items.
Summarized Table Of Nutmeg Substitutes
Take a quick peek at this table to see the top 8 components in place for nutmeg and the other 9 cooking components which can provide a nutmeg hint in a pinch.
|Mace||1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1 teaspoon of mace||Savory and sweet dishes|
|Garam Masala||1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1 teaspoon of garam masala||Savory dishes (especially in Indian and Asian cuisines)|
|Allspice||1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1 teaspoon of allspice||Savory and sweet dishes|
|Cinnamon||1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon||Savory, sweet dishes (more popular), and drinks|
|Apple Pie Spice||1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1/2 teaspoon of apple pie spice||Savory and sweet dishes (particular in apple-based desserts)|
|Pumpkin Pie Spice||1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice||Savory and sweet dishes|
|Cloves||1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1 teaspoon of ground cloves||Savory, sweet dishes, and drinks|
|Cloves||Or 1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves||Savory, sweet dishes, and drinks|
|Ginger||1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1 teaspoon of ginger||Savory dishes (meaty or veggie recipes, especially in Asian cuisine)|
|Ginger||Or 1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 1/2 teaspoon of ginger||Savory dishes (meaty or veggie recipes, especially in Asian cuisine)|
|Cardamom||Add a little amount at a time and regulate until satisfied||Chai tea lattes, Indian cuisine|
|Aniseed||Add a little amount at a time and regulate until satisfied||Savory and sweet dishes|
|Cajun Spice||Add a little amount at a time and regulate until satisfied||Savory dishes|
|Turmeric||Add a little amount at a time and regulate until satisfied||Savory and sweet dishes|
|Mustard||Add a little amount at a time and regulate until satisfied||Savory dishes|
|Black Pepper||Add a little amount at a time and regulate until satisfied||Savory dishes|
|Chili||Add a little amount at a time and regulate until satisfied||Savory dishes (e.g., Bolognese sauce )|
|Bay Leaf||Add a little amount at a time and regulate until satisfied||Savory, sweet dishes, and drinks (e.g., bechamel sauce, egg custards, and milk)|
16 Handy Alternatives For Nutmeg That You Might Have It At Home
The bottom line in this article is that you can swap for nutmeg when you do not have them on hand. Here is the list of a total of 16 brilliant ideas to swap nutmeg with other ingredients that will be set in 2 groups.
Let’s begin with the alternative group of the most popular and closest flavor of nutmeg.
Top Best 8 Nutmeg Replacements With Specific Ratios
If you want to exchange nutmeg with other spices with a similar flavor profile, the following 8 substitutions will make you happy.
Mace should be the best choice to replace nutmeg because mace is the cover of the nutmeg seed. So basically, they are from the same tree, which means they share the same flavor profile.
In fact, mace is less aromatic but more spicy and pungent than nutmeg, but their overall flavor is the closest to nutmeg. And similar to nutmeg, you can use them to make numerous delicious savories and sweets.
As mace has the closest flavor profile to nutmeg, you can use a 1:1 ratio to substitute. But you can add 1 extra portion of mace to your dish and taste until the final taste satisfies you.
Do you want to learn more about the difference between mace and nutmeg? This demonstration is what you need.
2) Garam Masala
If you have been to India or are a big fan of Indian cuisine, you would have known about this spice. Garam masala is a commonly used spice in Indian and Asian areas.
Garam masala is made from many ingredients, but the regular components are mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and black pepper. And as nutmeg is 1 of their ingredients in garam masala, they become another good option to swap for nutmeg.
This spice is perfect for savory recipes but not for sweets, as some garam masala versions have cumin, bay leaves, and black pepper. And these ingredients are not really ideal for your desserts. But overall, you can swap 1 teaspoon of garam masala for 1 teaspoon of nutmeg.
But as this spice also contains other flavors from different ingredients, you should add a little bit at a time and taste for the best result.
Allspice sounds like another spice mixture, but no, allspice is ground dried berries from an evergreen tree named Pimenta dioica.
This spice’s flavor crosses between pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, although the authentic allspice is made from berries only. That’s why they have this name, allspice.
You can easily find allspice in the supermarket, so they would be a handy alternative to nutmeg. Use the same amount to swap nutmeg, so 1 teaspoon of allspice equals 1 teaspoon of nutmeg for any sweets or savory treats.
If you say that you do not know this spice, I highly doubt it. Indeed, cinnamon is a super famous spice for cooking. And I think most of you have them at home already.
Cinnamon is a bark of cinnamon tree that comes in a whole-stick or powdered form. Most cinnamon you can get at stores is powder, and this one is perfect to swap for nutmeg.
This spice is not only suitable to substitute nutmeg but also carries a very low price. Cinnamon has a woody and warm nutmeg flavor, but its flavor is brighter and more potent than nutmeg. Therefore, 1/2:1 is the ideal ratio in this case.
So 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon can work in place of 1 teaspoon of nutmeg. Cinnamon can pair well in many dishes, especially desserts.
5) Apple Pie Spice
Similar to pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice contains various spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, and ginger. You can feel the warm and hot flavor of apple pie spice right from the list of their components.
As cinnamon is the key ingredient in apple pie spice, its taste is stronger than nutmeg. So the recipe calls for 1 portion of nutmeg; you can use 1/2 portion of apple pie spice instead. Then you can taste and regulate the flavor based on your preference.
This spice can shine best in both sweet and savory apple ideas, especially apple-based desserts.
If you want to save more money from buying apple pie spice, you can make them at home after checking this instruction.
6) Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pumpkin pie spice is truly a spice for autumn. Though they are called pumpkin spice, their taste is nothing like pumpkin. Because the ingredients to make this spice is a mixture of powdered cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves.
And now you may understand why pumpkin spice can be a great alternative for nutmeg, right? Yes, nutmeg is in this spice. With an equal amount, you can substitute pumpkin spice for nutmeg in various delicacies, regardless of savory or sweet.
So for the best result, 1 teaspoon of pumpkin spice can exchange for 1 teaspoon of nutmeg.
Clove is another Indonesian-original spice. You can see them in a whole form or ground form. But for substituting nutmeg spice, ground cloves are way better.
Ground cloves have sweet, earthy, peppery, and spicy hints similar to nutmeg. Therefore, ground cloves are good in place of ground nutmeg. And they work fine in many dishes, from savory to sweet, or even drinks.
There are 2 ratios for this substitution. You can either swap these 2 for a ratio of 1:1 or 1/2:1. So 1 teaspoon of nutmeg might be replaced by 1 teaspoon or 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves.
However, you will see many recipes call for both ground cloves and nutmeg as these 2 are an excellent combo for flavoring. If your dish already has cloves, you should not use this spice to exchange nutmeg. Just use another option instead, like 1 of these spices introduced in this post.
Ginger is another potential replacement for nutmeg. You can find ginger in the root or powdered form. But as nutmeg is ground spice, I prefer ground ginger in this case.
Ginger’s taste is more pungent, spicy, and less sweet than nutmeg, making them more suitable for savory treats, like veggie or meaty dishes. The ratio to swap ginger for nutmeg is 1:1.
So you can start with 1 teaspoon of ground ginger to substitute, or if you are afraid ginger’s spiciness might overpower other ingredients, you can go with a 1/2:1 ratio, then taste and regulate the level until it meets your expectation.
Not-too-ideal Substitutes For Nutmeg But Still Work In A Pinch
And here are the other 8 components that you can use to create nutmeg hints in a pinch. Though they might not taste like nutmeg, these substitutions can still make your meal flavorful and yummy.
Cardamom is a well-known component in chai tea lattes and other Indian foods. They belong to the ginger family; that’s why cardamom has spicy, strong, and woody hints, which is also similar to nutmeg.
So if you want something to replace nutmeg just in a pinch, ground cardamom can be counted in this list. However, as their unique flavor, there is no fixed ratio for cardamom in exchanging. So just start with a little amount of ground cardamom and taste.
What is cardamom, by the way? This is your answer.
Aniseed and their licorice flavor might not be too ideal for swapping for nutmeg’s sweetness, but you can give them a shot to see how it tastes in replacing nutmeg.
This ingredient can be used in both sweet foods (like how Europeans usually use) and savory dishes (like Middle East people use). As aniseed and nutmeg’s tastes are not really similar, just add a tiny amount first and add more if needed.
11) Cajun Spice
Cajun spice can only work well to substitute nutmeg in savory recipes. Cajun spice becomes one of the nutmeg’s alternative options because they have a slightly sweet, nutty, and warm flavor.
So they can add a little hint of nutmeg to your dishes with a small amount of cajun spice, then you can taste and decide to add more or not.
Homemade cajun spice cannot get easier.
Turmeric will not only make your dish more flavorful but also more colorful with its iconic yellow-orange color. So if you do not care about the final color of your food, you can try some turmeric powder to exchange nutmeg in any kind of dish.
But as turmeric has a woody, earthy flavor, they, somehow, can bring a little note of nutmeg into your treat. Turmeric is also a healthy alternative, so if you want to improve your health, try this ingredient. Using ground turmeric is better to swap for nutmeg. And do not add too much at first.
Mustard can provide a warm, earthy, and more pungent flavor, making them fit better in savories. They can still replace nutmeg to increase the refreshing taste in your mouth. But remember to taste a small bite first before you want to add more mustard to your food.
14) Black Pepper
Here is another substitution you might consider, and I guarantee you all have this one in your pantry.
This is black pepper. You can use black pepper to exchange for nutmeg in savory dishes only and enhance the overall flavor of this food.
Can Chili be a nutmeg alternative? I know, it sounds pretty strange, right? But if you are making bolognese sauce but do not have nutmeg on hand, this ingredient might save your sauce by its pungent and hot taste.
16) Bay Leaf
Do you know you can use bay leaves the same way as nutmeg in milk, egg custards, and bechamel sauce? They have a warm aroma and light bitter, so they can work as a nutmeg substitute in a pinch.
How Nutmeg Can Support Your Health
Though the main topic is nutmeg replacements, it would not cost anything to know about nutmeg’s health benefits. Do you know nutmeg is a rich source of fiber and various nutrients that can improve your health? Let’s take a look at nutmeg’s nutrient elements and their level.
|Elements||Value (Per 100 Grams of Ground Nutmeg)|
|Total Fat||36 g|
|Total Carbohydrate||49 g|
|Dietary Fiber||21 g|
- Rich In Dietary Fiber: Fiber plays an important role in helping your digestive function.
- High In Antioxidant: This compound can prevent some cardiovascular, liver diseases, and even cancer as it can protect your cell from damaging
- High In Anti-inflammatory compounds: A compound named monoterpenes found in nutmeg essential oil can help you avoid inflammation (2).
- Contain Antibacterial Compounds: Nutmeg can protect your body from dangerous bacteria like Streptococcus mutans and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans associated with dental diseases, or E. coli bacteria can harm your health.
There is other research about the health benefits of nutmeg; however, it has just been proven on the animal body. They claim that nutmeg might also boost your heart health, control blood sugar, and improve mood.
Why can nutmeg make you healthier? Yes, because they are packed with various beneficial compounds.
Here are 5 more quick and related questions with their answers about nutmeg in general and nutmeg substitutes. Do not ignore this part as they will provide more information about this topic in the shortest and memorable ways.
The Alternatives Of Nutmeg Are So Accessible!
See, I bet some of you have at least 1 nutmeg substitute ingredient in your kitchen currently. So do not freak out or feel discouraged when you realize you forget to buy nutmeg.
With 16 ideas here, you can have various options to make your dish more flavorful. Maybe some of the alternatives will be your new favorite ingredient.
Finally, do not hesitate to try one of them at home, then come back here to share your experience. I’d love to hear what you think about these replacements. And if you love this post, please rate it in the below section. Thank you for your time.
- En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Nutmeg – wikipedia. [Online]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutmeg.
- Zhang, W. K. et al. 2016. ‘Nutmeg Oil Alleviates Chronic Inflammatory Pain Through Inhibition Of COX-2 Expression And Substance P Release In Vivo’. Food and Nutrition Research, vol.60, pp.30849. https://doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v60.30849.