The Top Nutmeg Substitutes for Sweet and Savory Dishes

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Nutmeg, which is considered to be one of the most popular spices, is often used in meat dishes, sausages, and soups, in addition to savory sweets like puddings, pumpkin and apple pies, and other baked goods. It is often used in cuisines from the Middle East and Morocco because it is tasty when combined with tomatoes and black beans. Because its taste goes well with creamy and cheese-based foods, nutmeg may also be used as a delicious topping for desserts like custard, eggnog, and cream.

There is no need to freak out if you find that the jar of nutmeg hiding in the back of the cabinet has long since passed its expiration date or if you find that the nutmeg you had intended to use in the pie has expired, as there are quite a few alternatives that may be used in its place. In this article, we discuss a number of other spices that may be used in place of nutmeg, and we also go into the fascinating history of one of the most widely used spices.

The evergreen Myristica fragrans tree, from which nutmeg is harvested, is endemic to the Molucca (or ‘Spice’) Islands in Indonesia. These islands are also known as the Spice Islands. The West Indies are also responsible for the cultivation of nutmeg, and what makes this tree so unique is the fact that it is not only the origin of nutmeg but also of mace. Nutmeg and mace both come from the same tree.

The Myristica fragrans tree produces fruit that tastes and looks a lot like apricots. Nutmeg refers to the seed kernel that may be found within the mature fruit, while mace refers to the crimson-colored aril that surrounds the kernel of the seed. The fruit splits in two as it reaches maturity. The remainder of the fruits are consumed regionally, and the aril-covered seeds (also known as nutmegs) are gathered. The aril is then removed, flattened, and dried before being used. After then, it is bottled and sold as mace.

Over the course of six to eight weeks, the seeds or nutmegs are exposed to the sun where they are allowed to gradually dry out while being rotated on a regular basis. The nutmeg loses some of its hard covering as it dries, and after the nutmegs have shrunken to the point where they can be heard rattling about within their shells, the shells are cracked apart and the nutmegs are removed. Nutmegs that are still in their whole have an oval form and measure about an inch in length. Their exterior is dark brown and faintly wrinkled.

Although the warming and somewhat nutty aromas of nutmeg and mace are quite similar to one another, nutmeg is often thought of as being the more spicy and warming of the two.

Nutmeg in the Moluccas, its Monopolies and More

Nutmeg and mace were brought to Southern Europe for the first time by merchants from the Middle East in the sixth century. From there, their usage expanded to other regions of Europe. The Dutch eventually acquired control of the nutmeg trade after the Portuguese made the first discovery of nutmeg trees in the Molucca Islands and controlled it until the early 1600s.

At this time, nutmeg was becoming an increasingly valuable commodity in the Western world. As a result, the Dutch were hatching plans to artificially inflate its price, while other nations were hatching plans to obtain nutmeg seeds in order to cultivate the spice. At the same time, the Dutch were soaking whole nutmegs in lime in order to prevent the seeds from being planted. Sadly, birds were able to transport the fruit to other islands, which led to the spread of the Myristica fragrans plant to these new locations.

However, this did not deter the Dutch from their mission; rather, they sent teams to search for planted nutmeg trees and cut them down. They also destroyed any extra nutmeg after a particularly successful harvest in order to maintain a healthy balance between supply and demand. The French were able to sneak some nutmeg out of the country at one time and sow the seeds on the island of Mauritius.

After the British acquired control of the Molucca Islands in the late 1700s, they started growing nutmeg on other islands in the East Indies and, later, in the Caribbean. Nutmeg is native to the Molucca Islands. Grenada is currently often referred to as the Nutmeg Island, and its flag continues to include a nutmeg on the left-hand side of the flag. This is due to the island’s historically prosperous nutmeg industry.

It was often believed that nutmeg could ward off evil, and amulets made of real or wooden nutmegs were frequently worn for this purpose. Nutmeg was also thought to treat a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, boils, and even fractures at one point in time.

Buying and Using Nutmeg

Both ground and whole nutmeg may be purchased. Because it may lose its scent and taste more quickly than other ground spices, ground nutmeg is often offered in smaller quantities, despite the fact that it is more convenient to use. Six months out of the year is often when it is at its peak.

A whole nutmeg has a longer shelf life than powdered nutmeg and is roughly the size of an apricot pit. It contains the same amount of nutmeg as around two to three teaspoons of the ground form of the spice. In order to grate out little portions of the seed when using whole nutmeg, you will need a grater specifically designed for nutmeg, or one of a comparable size. Nutmeg, both in its complete form and in its ground form, should be kept in a cold, dark area.

When adding nutmeg to a meal, you may want to start with a tiny quantity since it imparts flavor readily; for example, an eight of a teaspoon per four servings of the dish would be a good starting point.

Benefits of Nutmeg in Our Diet

Nutmeg is an excellent source of antioxidants, which are substances that may help protect our systems from the harm that can be caused by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been related to a variety of diseases and disorders, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Additionally, nutmeg includes monoterpenes as well as other chemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties. One research conducted on animals found that rats given nutmeg oil had significantly reduced levels of inflammation, joint swelling, and the discomfort associated with inflammation.

It was formerly believed that nutmeg might enhance a person’s beauty. A monk living in the sixteenth century offered the following piece of advice to young men: Carry nutmeg oil with you at all times and massage it into your skin to boost your virility. It was also recommended that, before to entering a social event, one tuck a whole nutmeg under their left armpit in order to increase their appeal to those of the opposite sex. Some forms of traditional medicine still make use of nutmeg for the treatment of sexual issues, and it is noteworthy to note that more recent research from scientists shows that nutmeg extract may greatly stimulate sexual activity in rats. Therefore, some of the ancient applications of nutmeg may not have been as far off the mark as they may have first seemed to be!

In spite of its name, nutmeg is neither a nut nor a tree nut; thus, those who are allergic to nuts or tree nuts should not have any adverse reactions as a result of consuming nutmeg. Because it contains myristic, which is toxic in high doses (and also hallucinogenic), nutmeg may be dangerous in big quantities; nevertheless, the quantity of nutmeg that is often called for in culinary preparations is in no way comparable to the amount that is necessary to produce negative effects. If a young kid accidentally consumes a significant amount of nutmeg, there is a greater potential for adverse effects.

Substituting Nutmeg

There are many other spices that may be used in place of nutmeg. The one that you choose to use will not only be determined by whether or not you have any nutmeg on hand, but also by whether or not you are preparing a savory or sweet meal.

Continue reading to learn more about some of our most straightforward alternatives, such as allspice and pumpkin pie spice, as well as a couple possibilities that you may already have the good fortune to have stashed away in your spice cabinet.

1. Pumpkin Pie Spice

If you substitute pumpkin pie spice or pumpkin spice for this, you will almost certainly wind up with some nutmeg in the recipe. This is because nutmeg is one of the spices that is included in this blend, along with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and allspice. You may use pumpkin pie spice in savory meals like soups, stews, pastas, roasted vegetables and meat dishes. You can also use it in sweet recipes like apple pie, cookies, cakes, and more.

If the recipe asked for a quarter of a teaspoon of nutmeg, you may use the same amount of pumpkin pie spice instead.

The use of pumpkin pie spice, sometimes known simply as pumpkin spice, dates back farther than you may expect. Pumpkin spice in its current form became popular after the Second World War when many changes were occurring in American homes as a result of post-war economizing and also the drive for convenience. The American Cookery cookbook, which was published in 1796, contained a mixture of spices that was very similar to the one that is found in the modern-day pumpkin spice.

When fall-themed coffees became popular in the early part of this century, pumpkin spice saw yet another surge in its already considerable popularity. It is believed that pumpkin spice lattes bring in something in the neighborhood of $500 million yearly for the multinational coffee corporation Starbucks. As a result of this, the demand for pumpkin spice has continued to increase, and an increasing number of manufacturers are including pumpkin spice taste in their offerings.

2. Allspice

Allspice, which is often found in many people’s kitchen cabinets, may be used in lieu of nutmeg in proportions that are equivalent. It was believed that allspice tasted like a combination of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, which is why it was given the name “allspice,” despite the fact that allspice is a fruit and not a spice mix. This indicates that although while its taste is not exactly the same as nutmeg, it has enough indications of nutmeg to make it an acceptable alternative in meals that are either sweet or savory.

3. Mace

Because mace and nutmeg come from the same tree, they do have certain characteristics, however mace is more pungent than nutmeg. The flavor of mace is frequently characterized as having a mix of cinnamon and pepper. It’s possible that you’ve heard mace characterized as having a more robust taste than nutmeg.

Mace is used most often in baked goods such as cakes, puddings, donuts, and custards; nevertheless, this spice may also be utilized in savory preparations such as fish, chicken, and cheese dishes in addition to soups and sauces.

The two most popular ways to purchase mace are either in its ground form or in its blades, which are the whole components. The hue of the mace may also be used to determine where it came from. Mace that has an orange-red hue is often sourced from Indonesia, whilst mace with an orange-yellow hue originates in Grenada.

Mace is not as often found in spice collections as nutmeg is, and it may be rather expensive to purchase on its own. This is the primary disadvantage of trying to use mace as a substitute for nutmeg.

You may use mace in place of nutmeg in proportions that are equivalent.

4. Cinnamon

Cinnamon, while having a taste that is distinct from that of nutmeg, is sufficiently comparable to nutmeg in terms of sweetness and scent to be used as a replacement for nutmeg in sweet foods. Because cinnamon is stronger and has a more vibrant taste than nutmeg, it is generally advised that just half as much cinnamon be used when using cinnamon in lieu of nutmeg. After adding the cinnamon, you may always do a tasting test and add a little bit more if you feel it’s required.

The inner bark of many different trees that are members of the Cinnamonium genus are where cinnamon is harvested from. Cinnamon is an age-old spice that may be sourced from a number of countries and regions across the world, including the United States. Throughout history, cinnamon has been prized for its aromatic qualities, its flavor, and its medicinal properties.

Even though considerable study has been done on cinnamon, particularly with the regulation of blood sugar in diabetics, a great deal more research has to be done on cinnamon and its potential health benefits.

5. Cloves

Cloves have a taste that is spicy, sweet, and peppery, and they go very well with nutmeg in both savory and sweet recipes. As a result, you’ll often see these two spices combined in the same recipe. If the meal calls for nutmeg and cloves, you shouldn’t increase the amount of cloves you use to compensate for the nutmeg since there is a considerable probability that this would make the dish taste too strong. If, on the other hand, the recipe calls for simply nutmeg, you may use ground cloves instead.

If you choose with this alternative, reduce the quantity of cloves you put in by one-half compared to how much nutmeg you would normally use.

Cloves are derived from the flower buds of the clove tree, also known as Syzygium aromaticum. These flower buds are picked when still young and then allowed to dry out. Cloves may be purchased whole or ground, but if you purchase them whole, you will need to grind them before using them in lieu of nutmeg.

Cloves are cultivated mostly in Indonesia, Madagascar, and India, and have a taste that is both pungent and warming. Cloves have a powerful scent. Because of the high concentration of eugenol in cloves, which is responsible for their robust taste, cloves should be used in much lesser quantities than other spices, such as nutmeg, allspice, or cinnamon.

Cloves have traditionally been used as a popular home remedy for the treatment of toothache, and eugenol is also an anti-inflammatory. However, if you are treating your child’s toothache, you should purchase diluted oil of cloves rather than using cloves themselves, as cloves can be more dangerous for children.

6. Homemade Spice Blend

You may construct a mix of several of these spices to use in lieu of nutmeg, rather than simply using one of the spices described above individually. Why not experiment with a blend of spices that includes allspice, cloves, mace, cinnamon, and ginger? Alternately, if you want to be more specific, you might combine allspice, cloves, and cinnamon with a quarter of the ginger in the recipe.

Despite the fact that ginger has a considerably stronger flavor than nutmeg, it is often used in recipes that call for savory ingredients such as meats and vegetables. You may use ginger in place of its exact equivalent, but some people find it safer to use just half the recommended quantity of ginger, give it a taste, and then add more if it’s needed.

7. Other Options for Nutmeg Substitutes

Since apple pie spice, like pumpkin pie spice, already includes nutmeg in addition to cinnamon and allspice, using it as a replacement for nutmeg is not an unreasonable expectation. Because cinnamon is the primary component of apple pie spice, using it in lieu of nutmeg in savory dishes is not as successful when using the other spice blend. This is the primary distinction between the two spice mixtures.

Because nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cumin, and peppercorns are common components of garam masala, you may use the same quantity of garam masala in lieu of nutmeg if you are preparing a savory meal. Garam masala is an Asian spice combination.

Cardamom is an odd replacement for nutmeg; nevertheless, in order to avoid the possibility of the cardamom overwhelming the meal, you should begin by adding just half as much cardamom as you would nutmeg at the beginning of the recipe and then taste it before adding any more.

Final Comments 

It is helpful to know that nutmeg is one of the spices that is easiest to replace if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are out of it. Other spices such as mace, allspice, or even cinnamon may be used exactly as they are, or even combined together, as a substitute for pumpkin pie spice, which is a suitable all-round alternative for both sweet and savory foods. If pumpkin pie spice cannot be used, other spices such as these can be used.

It is important to exercise caution when using certain nutmeg alternatives since some of them are more pungent and have a stronger taste. Because of this, employing a little bit of caution and a little bit less spice may guarantee that your meal is not overshadowed by the nutmeg substitute.