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What Is Mace?
Mace (Myristica fragrans of the family Myristicaceae) is the lacy outer layer encircling a whole nutmeg seed. Also called the aril, this outer layer can be removed, dried, and used as a spice in its own right. Ground mace is sold in powdered form, or you can find it in dried, whole pieces called mace blades. You can also find mace added to warming spice blends like garam masala. Learn more about cooking with nutmeg here.
What Does Mace Taste Like?
Flavor-wise, mace spice is often described as a less intensely concentrated version of nutmeg, though it also has notes of cinnamon and black pepper. Like nutmeg, mace is typically used in baking—where those warm notes bridge the savory and sweet in rich foods like donuts, cakes, and sweet potato or pumpkin pie. Mace also adds creative complexity to meaty braises and stews.
When harvested, the bright red aril fades as it dries, to either an orange-yellow color, or paler tan hue.
How to Cook With Mace
Like most spices, pre-ground options are always easier to find, but not always better to use. The essential oils contained in a spice like mace or nutmeg lose their potency and turn stale as soon as they’re ground. Invest in a spice grinder if you can, and buy mace in full, dried blade form—it will give you the purest benefits of its flavor profile when it’s fresh ground.
Quick tip: Mace is on the delicate side, and it can turn bitter when cooked too long, so it’s best used as a finishing touch, as a seasoning before serving, or incorporated into doughs that cook at lower temperatures.
5 Ideas for Cooking with Mace
- Mace pairs particularly well with tart berries and honey-sweet stone fruit. Add a teaspoon of freshly-ground mace into a crumble or crisp topping to give a bit of an edge to the cinnamon and brown sugar.
- Incorporate a teaspoon of freshly ground mace into your next carrot cake batter, quickbread dough, or pie filling, choosing flavors that come alive with a little extra lift—like sweet potatoes, root vegetables, and squash.
- Finish a slow-and-low braise with a teaspoon of ground mace and simmer to incorporate.
- Use a pinch to garnish a creamy pasta like fettuccine alfredo.
- Use a pinch to garnish an Old Fashioned cocktail.
How to Substitute Mace
Allspice, anise, or even regular nutmeg—which all share mace’s warm heat—are the closest substitutes for evoking its particular aromatics. Like any substitutes, nothing is an exact match, and each of these spices will tweak the overall flavor profile slightly. Experiment with just a pinch before adding a full measure like a teaspoon.
How to Store Mace
As with any spice, you can extend the life of dried mace by storing in an airtight jar or container in a cool, dry place out of the sun.
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