Top 6 Cloves Substitutes That Are Both Sweet and Savory

I love a good chai tea latte, but I know that to make a great one I will need either fresh or dry cloves. Sometimes though, you may not be able to find any cloves, whether because they’re in high demand, or it isn’t the right season.

Cloves have a distinct aromatic flavor that can be essential in certain cases, but there are some alternatives you can use. 

Depending on the dish you are making, there are some spices that can be used instead. It isn’t hard to find a replacement, it’s just important to know how to incorporate flavors that will create a similar taste for your recipe.

What Are Cloves?

Cloves are a spice made from the evergreen clove tree. The clove flower buds are harvested when they aren’t mature, and then they are dried.

Whole cloves have a red spike shape that is about 1cm long. Cloves can be used whole or dried and ground, but they have a very strong aroma and flavor.

What Are Cloves Used In?

Whole or ground cloves are used in many dishes. Traditionally, they are used in Indian food, but can also be found in Middle Eastern recipes. Some desserts, especially those holiday ones, often call for cloves to be used in, some of these include pumpkin pies or gingerbread cookies. 

It should also be noted that cloves have been used as part of alternative medicine for centuries. They are used as aromatherapy for stress relief, as a relaxant, and as a pain reliever. So next time you consider using this spice, know that it may also be a good way to keep up with your health. 

These are the best substitutes for cloves that you can try next time you make your recipe: 

#1. Allspice

This is the best replacement you could use instead of cloves, and that’s because it is a mix of many spices, including ground cloves. This spice has a strong aroma and will add flavor to your recipe. It can be found in many baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, and teas. 

You can add the same amount of allspice as the recipe calls for cloves, but you may want to add a little extra, just make sure you taste it first. 

#2. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is the most common replacement for cloves, and it is a good choice, as it is both powerful and tasty. This substitute is less sweet, but you can combine it with vanilla to make it more similar to cloves. Cinnamon is common in pastries and cakes, but can also be an additive to sweet drinks.

Like cloves, cinnamon has some added benefits, so it can be a healthy option as well. If you pick this choice, you can fight off inflammation in your body, lower blood sugar, and protect your heart.

#3. Cardamom

Often, this ingredient accompanies cloves in recipes, so it is a nice way to replace it when you run out. Keep in mind though that cardamom is spicier and has a citric kick to it, so it won’t be as sweet as cloves. Cardamom is used in many dishes, especially Indian, Middle Eastern, and even Swedish, cuisine.

If you want to mimic cloves flavor better, consider adding cinnamon mixed in with cardamom. If instead, you’re only using cardamom, then it may be best to add only about ⅓ of what the recipe calls for, because it is much spicier.

#4. Pumpkin Pie Spice

Since this is another mix that includes cloves, it will then be a good substitute. This spice contains pumpkin, which can alter the flavor of your recipe, but you can add more cardamom to mute the taste.

If your recipe is for a sweet good, such as pie or muffin, then this is a great option. You can find pumpkin spice in almost everything made during the fall, as it is the ingredient of choice during this time of the year. 

#5. Nutmeg

Like cloves, nutmeg has a sweet flavor that can also be mixed well with savory ingredients. You can substitute for the same amount that the recipe calls for, but you may want to try it first, as the taste can be an adjustment. Nutmeg, however, is considered less strong than cloves, so it won’t ruin your dish. 

Nutmeg is traditionally used in holiday dishes and can be part of decorating cakes, cookies, or cheesecakes. 

#6. Mace

Mace comes from the red coating covering nutmeg, so the flavor profile is very similar. It is more acidic and savory and can be used in stews, curries, and meat dishes. This spice can become very bitter if cooked for long, so you have to add it at the end of the cooking process. 

Mace is used in desserts like rice pudding, but if you are looking for a sweeter flavor, try mixing it with pumpkin spice – this mix would be a close flavor to cloves.

How Do I Pick The Right Spice?

There is no right or wrong answer, you should guide your decision based on the type of recipe you want to prepare.

When in doubt, you should taste the spice and see if it would go well with the rest of the ingredients. Don’t be afraid to choose one of these options, as more than one could be the right call and bring more deliciousness to your dish. 


Can I substitute nutmeg for cloves?

Yes, just like what we said before, all you need to do is add the same amount that the recipe indicates for cloves. Nutmeg is used in both savory and sweet dishes, so it is a good alternative to cloves.

Are cloves and allspice the same?

No, they are not the same, but allspice does contain cloves in it. Allspice is a mix of many spices, including nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper, so it has a more complex flavor profile. Cloves tend to be sweeter, but can also be used in savory dishes.

What are the benefits of cloves?

Cloves are known best as an aromatic spice, but not many knew that cloves are actually helpful in combatting toothache, sore gums, and even ulcers.


There are many choices if you run out of cloves, but make sure you know exactly what type of flavor it is you are looking for, as some of these options can be very different from one another.

You can also mix them if you feel adventurous or if you need a more similar flavor to cloves. Don’t worry, these substitutes will make you forget you ran out of cloves in the first place!

cloves substitutes

*Photo by akulamatiau/depositphotos

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