The nutmeg spice has a warm, nutty flavor and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Its taste is unique, but if you don’t have any on hand when you’re cooking up a storm, don’t fret: A few other spices can act as a whole or ground nutmeg substitute, depending on the dish and the flavor profile you need. 

What can you substitute for nutmeg? Read on to find out.

Source: Pexels
What is a substitute for nutmeg? Lots of other spices, depending on what you’re cooking. 

6 Substitutes for Nutmeg

Unless otherwise mentioned, the following nutmeg substitutes can be used as a 1:1 ratio.

1. Mace

If you were to ask, “what does nutmeg taste like?” the closest answer would be mace. Mace comes from the same plant: while nutmeg comes from the seeds of the Myristica fragrans plant, mace comes from the outer covering of the seed. It can be directly substituted for nutmeg in both savory and sweet dishes.

2. Garam Masala

What is a good substitute for nutmeg in dishes like curry? Garam masala is an Indian spice blend that means “hot mix/blend” in Hindi and is very common in savory Indian and other South Asian dishes. It usually contains nutmeg as well as other spices, including cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, cumin, and fenugreek. Based on that flavor profile, it’s best used as a substitute for nutmeg in savory dishes. 

3. Allspice

Despite its name, allspice is not a blend of all spices, or even several (like garam masala). It’s a single spice that’s also called pimento or Jamaican pepper. It tastes as if nutmeg was combined with cinnamon, cloves, and pepper, hence its name, and can be a good substitute for nutmeg in both sweet and savory dishes.

4. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a warm, somewhat sweet spice that comes both as a powder and as dried, curled pieces of bark. Recipes sometimes call for nutmeg and cinnamon, and if that’s the case, there’s no need to add extra cinnamon to make up for the lack of nutmeg. Otherwise, you can add about half as much as you’d need for nutmeg as a substitute in sweet dishes.

5. Ginger 

Ginger is a root spice, although it also comes in powdered form. It doesn’t taste much like nutmeg, but it can be used as a nutmeg substitute in savory dishes as its pungency and spiciness add a kick.

6. Cloves

Cloves are a strong spice that come in powder or whole form (they look like tiny giants’ clubs!). They have a bit of a spicy kick and taste similar to nutmeg. When replacing nutmeg with cloves, use about half the quantity because cloves can easily overpower the taste of a dish.

Learn More About Spices

Complete Guide to Spices and Spice Blending

Nutmeg Frequently Asked Questions

What is nutmeg?

It’s a spice that comes from the Myristica fragrans tree. You can buy it in powdered form, or as the whole seed pod. The latter is very hard and should be grated to get a powder or shavings for cooking.

Can I leave nutmeg out of a recipe?

If you’re making a dish that calls for many different spices—such as nutmeg and cinnamon and cloves—you can probably leave nutmeg out entirely without substituting it for something else. However, if it’s the only spice in the recipe, it’s best to substitute nutmeg with another spice to avoid a bland-tasting dish.

Are allspice and nutmeg the same?

No. Nutmeg comes from the seed pod of the Myristica fragrans tree, while allspice comes from the Pimenta diocia tree. They do taste similar, though.

Are cinnamon and nutmeg the same?

No. Cinnamon is the dried bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree. It doesn’t taste much like nutmeg, but the two spices are often used together to flavor sweet baking or savory dishes.

Is nutmeg similar to cloves?

Cloves have a more powerful taste and fragrance. (Fun fact: clove oil is often used in dentistry as a numbing agent!) But they’re similar enough that you can substitute nutmeg for a small amount of cloves.

What are some nutmeg recipes?

Some recipes that use nutmeg are:

Get Creative with Spices

Spice Blends + More: Elevate Your Everyday Chicken Dish