Culinary Arts

What Is Allspice? How to Cook With Allspice And Homemade Allspice Substitute Recipe

Written by MasterClass

May 15, 2019 • 2 min read

Contrary to what its name suggests, allspice isn’t a blend of other spices—it’s a unique ingredient that lends its distinctive flavor to fall desserts and savory dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken and Swedish meatballs.

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What Is Allspice?

Allspice is the dried brown berry of the tropical Pimenta dioica tree, a clove relative native to the West Indies and Central America. It got its name in the 17th century, when allspice berries were first imported to Europe, since it’s said to taste like a combination of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Allspice berries are harvested when green (unripe) and briefly fermented, then sun dried (or machine dried), during which they turn a reddish-brown.

What Does Allspice Taste Like?

Allspice is a warm-tasting spice whose primary aromatic compound is eugenol, also found in clove. It also contains cineole (fresh and sharp) and caryophyllene (woody). Although it's often compared to cinnamon, allspice doesn’t actually contain the same volatile compounds found in cinnamon.

What Are the Health Benefits of Allspice?

Like other spices, the quantity of allspice used in cooking isn’t usually enough to be nutritionally significant, but it has been used as an essential oil and medicinally due to its high concentration of antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory eugenol as a remedy for colds, menstrual cramps, and upset stomach.

What’s the Difference Between Ground Allspice and Whole Allspice?

Whole allspice is a brown berry that looks sort of like an extra-large peppercorn. Like other spices, allspice will lose its flavor more quickly in its ground state, which exposes more surface to the air. For the strongest flavor, buy whole-berry allspice and grind small quantities with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor as needed. You can also put the whole berries in a sachet to infuse spiced wine or cider, or leave them whole in a pickling brine.

Recipe Ideas Featuring Allspice

  • Allspice is often featured in brines for pickled fish (such as herring) and vegetables, often alongside whole cloves, mustard seed, black peppercorns, bay leaves, or other aromatics.
  • Mincemeat pie filling is typically made with dried fruit seasoned with allspice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
  • Jamaican jerk seasoning, rubbed on chicken and all manner of other meats (and vegetables!), is typically made from a blend of allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, paprika, sugar, salt, garlic, and ginger.
  • Use allspice in pumpkin desserts such as pumpkin pie, bread, cake, or muffins.
  • Warming winter beverages such as mulled wine and spiced apple cider is a great use for whole allspice berries.
  • Apple pie is often seasoned with a combination of allspice and cinnamon. Find our apple pie recipe here.
  • Swedish meatballs are typically made with ground beef and pork, breadcrumbs, black pepper, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

How to Substitute Allspice at Home

Although there’s no true substitute for real allspice, if you’re in a pinch you can approximate its flavor by blending together the three spices it tastes it tastes most like: cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Since many recipes call for a small amount of ground allspice alongside other spices, you probably won’t notice the substitution. Another option for when you’re out of allspice is to just up the amounts of the other spices in a recipe.

Homemade Allspice Recipe

Ingredient Checklist

Total Time 5 min | Prep Time 5 min | Serves 1

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a small jar, combine cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and shake until blended.