There are few food ingredients that can claim to be as versatile as allspice. Making gingerbread or apple pie? You can add allspice to it to give it a punch of flavour. Want to add a bit of depth to your curries or stews? Just add allspice. Making a cocktail and want to add a spicy tingle on the tongue? Yes, just add allspice infused rum. That is one tough act to follow! However, allspice substitutes can be found out there depending on where you intend to use the allspice substitute.
What is Allspice?
Despite its rather misleading allspice is not a compound of all spices or any number of spices. Allspice is the product of a single plant. The berries of the Pimenta dioica a medium-sized tree are what are called allspice berries. Allspice can also be found under the names Jamaica pepper, pimento, pimenta, or myrtle pepper. These berries are picked while still green and unripe and dried usually in the sun. Allspice was given its name because of the versatility of the products made from the berries. It doesn’t have one distinct flavour that can be pinned down but tastes like many other popular spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, juniper, ginger and pepper depending on the dish it’s employed in.
Ground cloves make a very good allspice substitute. They have a sharp flavour that works very well with your savoury dishes. You can use ground cloves as an allspice substitute in your stews, casseroles and curries. Ground cloves also work in beverages such as mulled wine in place of allspice. The great thing about ground cloves is how well they blend with other spices despite the sharpness of their flavour. Ground cloves are very widely available and can be found in your regular supermarket in the spices and condiments section.
Nutmeg and its outer shell known as mace both make good allspice substitutes. Mace is what comes from the outer shell of the nut while nutmeg is the product of the nut. If we were awarding points nutmeg would score double points because it is a versatile spice in its own right. So versatile is nutmeg that it can rival allspice in terms of the spread of applications and dishes it fits in to. Nutmeg has a warm spicy aromatic flavour and works well as an allspice substitute in sweet and savoury dishes. Nutmeg combines well with cinnamon or apple spice in sweet recipes. If the recipes are savoury you can combine with ground cloves.
Star anise is a spice that has managed to spread from Asian cuisine to become a very popular ingredient around the world. The “star” is the seed pod of the Illicium verum tree. The seed pods are harvested whilst still green and dried just as with allspice berries. Star anise possesses a very strong flavour and is best used as an allspice substitute in marinades, stews and curries. Star anise can also substitute allspice in beverages such as allspice dram. Star anise is a little harder to find than allspice and most of the other substitutes listed here.
Five-spice powder thankfully is named quite appropriately as it is a combination of five spices. Star anise, Cloves, Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia), Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds are the five spices in five-spice powder. It originates from China and is very popular in Asian dishes. It is very strong because of the presence of fennel and can only be used as an allspice substitute in curry dishes and savoury meals. It, unfortunately, will not work in any sweet dishes or beverages because of the mix of flavours. Even in savoury dishes you will be better served by using five-spice powder sparingly.
Apple Pie Spice
Apple pie spice will only be useful as an allspice substitute if you are working on sweet or dessert dishes. It is made specifically for dessert dishes so you will not have much luck in savoury dishes. It is made with a mixture of allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Some variations may contain cardamom in place of the cinnamon. The good news is you can use it freely without worrying about it changing the recipe for the worse. You can find this in most retailers and speciality baking shops.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Another substitute for allspice that was specifically made for sweet desserts is pumpkin pie spice. Just like apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice contains allspice, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. It does make a great substitute for allspice in sweet recipes and desserts but is stronger in flavour than apple spice. It is therefore probably wise to use it sparingly. Pumpkin pie spice is widely available in supermarkets and speciality ingredient retailers.
Mixed spice is sold under that name because it is simply a mix of a few spices. It typically contains allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. It is very similar to pumpkin spice and has a strong flavour. It is widely available in many supermarkets and spice shops so it is very easy to find. Just like pumpkin spice, it will serve you well as a substitute for allspice in sweet dishes but not necessarily in savoury dishes. The presence of nutmeg makes it a very powerful spice mix so you may want to use this with a light hand.
All in all, there are many substitutes for allspice even though its versatility is a tough act to follow. You will find most of these just about anywhere. It’s important to note the ingredients and applications so as not to ruin your recipe. Pay close attention to which ones work best for sweet recipes, savoury recipes and beverages.