13 Best Substitutes for Nutmeg

Best Substitutes for Nutmeg
Photo by Mareefe

This is the right blog post to know more about the best substitutes for nutmeg!

Do you love the aromatic, sweet, and delicately warm flavor nutmeg adds to recipes?

Nutmeg is ubiquitous in baking and savory dishes, but it may be hard to come by. Moreover, nutmeg works great with sweet and savory recipes alike.

To ensure our cooking still gets the same flavor notes, let’s look at some of the best substitutes for nutmeg that promise similar results.

1. Mace

Mace starts off this list of the best substitutes for nutmeg as it has a similar flavor and aroma. It is produced from the dried outer covering of nutmeg and can be purchased pre-ground or raw.

Mace also adds a warm, earthy flavor to dishes, using less than one-third the amount of normally used nutmeg. 

When cooking with Mace, it should be added at the very beginning to meld together nicely and avoid a bitter taste.

When substituting Mace with Nutmeg, you should use equal amounts since they have comparable levels of sweetness and intensity.

Like Nutmeg, Mace can be used in sweet or savory dishes; however, its slightly hot characteristic goes especially well with savory meals such as meat dishes, stews, and sauces. 

It pairs beautifully with root vegetables such as potatoes and gives your Thanksgiving feast an extra special touch by adding Mace instead of Nutmeg to your mashed potatoes! It’s also great for baking, such as making cookies or muffins.

All in all, Mace is one of the best substitutes for nutmeg featuring delicate earthy aromas and flavors that will surely add something special to every meal!

2. Chili Powder

Chili powder is an excellent substitute for nutmeg in savory and sweet dishes. Not only does chili powder bring a pleasant warmth and subtle sweetness to recipes, but it also adds amazing color and depth.

When used to replace nutmeg, it infuses the dish with an extra level of flavor intensity that makes it unique rather than simply masking the recipe’s flavors. 

Chili powder is also incredibly versatile and can be used in various dishes, from soups, stews, or tagines to baked goods such as pies, cakes, or muffins. It also works as a meats rub to add flavor before cooking. 

The heat provided by chili powder should be considered while replacing nutmeg so that its spicy undertones don’t overpower other more delicate flavors.

Chili powder is considered one of the best substitutes for nutmeg as it provides complexity, depth of flavor, and delicious heat.

3. Ginger

Ginger is a highly versatile spice with many applications, from culinary to medicinal.

It is often used as an ingredient in Asian dishes and has a unique flavor that was once compared to nutmeg’s; this led to ginger becoming one of the popular best substitutes for nutmeg in many recipes.

The most renowned ginger substitution benefits are due to its various health properties, as it can be used as an effective digestive aid and antacid and to treat nausea, cold, and flu symptoms.

In terms of flavoring, ginger also has a milder taste than nutmeg and won’t overpower other spices like cardamom or cinnamon in the same recipe.

Therefore, it works great when added to dishes where you want the essence of nutmeg but don’t have access to it or aren’t looking for an intense flavor experience typical of nutmeg’s taste. 

For example, ginger adds a subtle nuance to desserts or cocktails like eggnog, making it much more palatable.

Additionally, unlike nutmeg — which should not be consumed excessively — there’s no risk of toxicity when using ginger in recipes with generous proportions due to its lack of volatile oils.

All this makes it one of the best substitutes for nutmeg if you’re running low on it or don’t have access to it.

4. Allspice

Speaking of the best substitutes for nutmeg, allspice is one, and it’s a spice that is essential in many dishes.

Allspice comes from the dried unripe berries of the Pimenta dioica plant, and its flavor has been described as “warm and aromatic” with notes of cloves, cinnamon, and ginger.

It can be used to add flavor to baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and muffins and can also be added to custards, pies, oatmeal, smoothies, and syrups. 

Furthermore, Allspice can be added to savory dishes such as beef stews and roasted vegetables to give them a deliciously complex flavor. 

Unlike nutmeg, which is slightly sweet with hints of pepper, allspice is more pungent with nuanced flavors.

It has also been said that allspice generally works better than nutmeg when adding flavor complexity to sweet recipes.

This is due to its unique combination of flavors that are much milder than an abundance of individual spices such as cinnamon or cardamom would provide. 

Additionally, because allspice leaves much less residue or particles on the tongue due to its powdered form, it makes a great choice for baked goods where texture is important, like streusels or doughs that require rolling out or folding.

All in all, it’s no wonder allspice is often used as an alternative for nutmeg in sweet and savory recipes!

5. Cloves

Cloves are often used as the best substitutes for nutmeg. The most obvious difference between the two spices is their flavor profile.

Cloves are stronger and pungent than nutmeg, with a far more intense aroma and flavor.

While nutmeg has an earthy sweetness, cloves have a strong spicy, pungent flavor that can quickly overpower dishes if not used carefully. 

Cloves have many potential health benefits due to their high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory compounds.

They contain compounds such as eugenol, which has been studied for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation in the body. 

Cloves are believed to help boost digestion and relieve gas or bloating due to their carminative properties.

This makes them a great alternative for those who want to experience the same health benefits of nutmeg but with a different flavor profile.

6. Garam Masala

Garam Masala is a popular spice mix used in Indian cuisine. It is often regarded as one of the best substitutes for nutmeg due to similar volumes of warming spices like pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom in the mix.

The components of Garam Masala differ slightly depending on the region it’s made in or which family produces it.

In North India specifically, however, Garam Masala usually consists of equal proportions of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chilies, cinnamon bark, and cardamom pods. 

On the other hand, in South India, it consists of black pepper and no red chilies (cayenne).

When using Garam Masala as one of the best substitutes for nutmeg, remember that Garam Masala has an overall spicier flavor profile than nutmeg, so you must adjust accordingly when using it as a substitute. 

One way to adjust for this will be to reduce other spices present if you are using both together, like ginger or cumin, that might overpower it if used together with garam masala.

Additionally, since there will be other warming spices in Garam Masala, they can be used elsewhere, like star anise in soup or cinnamon powder sprinkled over oatmeal to compensate for lost flavor when replacing nutmeg with garam masala.

7. Star Anise

Star anise is also included in this list of the best substitutes for nutmeg in both sweet and savory dishes. It has a licorice-like and milder aroma than nutmeg but still provides a hint of sweetness.

Star anise can also be ground into powder if needed, which makes it easier to use as a substitution for nutmeg.

Meanwhile, it is important to note that Star Anise should be used sparingly compared to nutmeg as it has a stronger flavor that could overpower the taste of other ingredients.

Star Anise can add a depth of flavor to dishes such as cornbread or pumpkin pie that Nutmeg can’t replicate.

Star Anise is an excellent alternative to Nutmeg if you want more complex flavor notes in your recipes.

8. Turmeric

Turmeric is one of those spices that can be used as the best substitutes for nutmeg in many recipes.

It has a bright yellow color and earthy flavor, making it a great addition to savory dishes like curry and baked goods or desserts.

Turmeric also offers numerous health benefits. Its main ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, making it an ideal source of natural medicine for its ability to reduce inflammation and help the body fight disease.

It’s also rich in dietary fiber, which helps with digestion and may help lower cholesterol levels, making it an excellent choice for those trying to improve their health through diet.

Additionally, turmeric helps ease menstrual cramps and treat joint pain due to its pain-relieving properties.

As such, turmeric can be an effective alternative to nutmeg when baking or cooking savory dishes due to its more potent flavor profile that packs a punch of nutrition and deliciousness!

9. Cardamom

Cardamom is often cited as one of the best substitutes for nutmeg due to its similarity in flavor and versatility.

The flavor of cardamom shares many similarities to that of nutmeg, allowing you to use it as an alternative without compromising on taste. You can also add a pinch of cloves or cinnamon for more depth. 

Cardamom has a more prominent woody aroma, which some people may find preferable to the almost metallic-like quality of nutmeg.

Because of its strong flavor, using cardamom as a substitute requires careful consideration to ensure it complements the dish instead of overpowering it.

In most cases, half the amount suggested above should be used if substituting with cardamom compared to regular recipes that call for nutmeg. 

Furthermore, cardamom tends to work best in sweet dishes such as cookies, puddings, and pies rather than savory entrees that require nutmeg as part of the recipe’s signature combination.

These include onions and garlic vegetables like cauliflower or Brussels sprouts being sautéed with butter and spices.

Nevertheless, you can still experiment with small amounts, especially when grating on desserts, soups, or stews!

10. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the best substitutes for nutmeg in cooking and baking. It has a distinctly warm, sweet flavor often used to season savory dishes, desserts, and pastries.

It can be used as a replacement in any recipe for nutmeg, but its milder taste means it should be added in smaller quantities. 

Cinnamon is an especially good option when baking sweets like cookies, cakes, and muffins, as the warmth of the spice pairs well with sweet flavors.

Because cinnamon isn’t quite as intense as nutmeg, it doesn’t overpower other flavors in the recipe but still adds complexity and warmth that complements other ingredients nicely.

When substituting cinnamon for nutmeg, you can use about half of the amount called for in the original recipe.

For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, you can substitute ½ teaspoon of cinnamon.

Additionally, because they have slightly different textures, adding cinnamon at the end of your cooking or baking process is best to prevent it from overcooking or becoming bitter. 

Finally, because both spices are related botanically (both come from evergreen trees), you can often combine them to get the most intense flavor out of your dish.

This works especially well with baked goods like bread and pumpkin pies!

11. Cumin

Cumin is among the best substitutes for nutmeg because of its similar flavor profile.

Cumin is a popular spice used for centuries in cooking, ancient medicine, and spiritual practices; it’s considered one of the world’s oldest spices.

The flavor is earthy and slightly sweet, with a little bit of spicy kick to it. The flavor of cumin is quite similar to that of nutmeg, which makes them an ideal alternative. 

Cumin’s versatility makes it one of the best substitutes for nutmeg; it can add subtle warmth to dishes like soups, curries, stews, or tagines.

When used instead of nutmeg, the flavor might not be as sharp; however, cumin brings unique characteristics to any dish. 

Additionally, cumin pairs well with other spices – coriander, turmeric, and chili powder are all common ingredients found in Indian cooking, which go particularly well together with cumin.

This means this spice makes meals even more interesting and flavorful!

12. Pumpkin Pie Spice

When it comes to especially when making all-American desserts such as pumpkin pies and cakes, pumpkin pie spice is considered one of the best substitutes for nutmeg.

Made up of a blend of various spices, including cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, pumpkin pie spice has all the flavor intensity you’d find in nutmeg, making it a great alternative when you are running low on supplies.

The subtle addition of ground allspice gives the blend a happy boost which helps to fry sweet pies and add complexity to savory dishes. 

Depending on your taste, adding cardamom or star anise can personalize the blend for more flavor features.

Using pumpkin pie spice as an alternative to freshly grated nutmeg means you can keep baked goods like muffins, cookies, and scones spontaneous during the fall season without worry. 

The pumpkin spice mix is suitable for sweet and savory recipes, so with this one item in your pantry, you can re-create the craveable flavors associated with light spicy holiday treats year-round.

You can do this by using everyday ingredients like oatmeal or creamy soups. Keep some on hand during winter holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas – one teaspoon should be enough to give any dish that warm cozy feel we love about festive treats this time of year!

13. Apple Pie Spice

Apple pie spice is widely used as one of the best substitutes for nutmeg in recipes.

It is a mixture of cinnamon, allspice, lemon peel, and cloves that can mimic some nutmeg flavors.

Apple pie spice has an aromatic, sweet flavor, making it great for baking recipes like pies, muffins, and other desserts. It also works well with savory dishes such as potatoes, squash, or stuffing. 

While it won’t perfectly replicate the more subtle flavor notes in nutmeg, it does add unique complexity to dishes that can be enjoyed on its own merits.

When substituting apple pie spice for nutmeg in a recipe, add half the amount called for, and adjust from there depending on desired taste.

Since ground spices lose their flavors over time, they should be stored in airtight containers away from direct sunlight and replaced if they have been sitting around too long. 

The spices in the mixed pair well with apples, pears, and other fruits typically used in pies.

So using apple pie spice instead of nutmeg may enhance certain aspects of your dish while providing recognizable warmth and depth associated with these classic ingredients.

Apple pie spice wraps up our list of the best substitutes for nutmeg!


Of all the best substitutes for nutmeg, the most preferred is mace. Mace has a flavor profile similar to nutmeg but is slightly sweeter and spicier.

It is also commonly used as seasonings in savory dishes, desserts, drinks, and baked goods. 

Although both spices are derived from the same tree and share the same chemical compounds, they have different taste profiles, making them perfect substitutes.

Mace can easily be found in most grocery stores or online spice shops and should always be used in moderation to avoid an overpowering flavor.

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