A list of my very best nutmeg substitute ideas, most of which are super common and can easily work when you run out of nutmeg! Nutmeg's warm, sweet, and spicy notes may seem difficult to duplicate, but you will be surprised to see just how many substitute options you have!
Substitutes For Nutmeg
Certain flavors become more prominent in the kitchen at certain times of the year. Nutmeg is one of those.
When the leaves start to fall and days become cooler, the warm notes of nutmeg begin to pop up in favorite fall treats. This warm, sweet, and spicy flavor continues throughout the winter, in holiday favorites like eggnog and gingerbread.
As the seed of an evergreen tree, it is fitting that nutmeg is prominent this time of year. Just like the evergreen that stays green all year long, nutmeg can be used to flavor food all year long!
Check for Freshness
Before you jump into using it in a new recipe in spring or summer though, check the expiration date.
Nutmeg expires quickly. So, if you only use it during the holidays (and have used the same bottle for more than a year) it may be time for a new jar.
If you aren’t ready to purchase the smell of winter when it’s still warm outside though, try a substitute first!
The Best Ground Nutmeg Substitute
Nutmeg is a versatile spice that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Many of the substitutes below are just as versatile as nutmeg.
Therefore, you can use them easily in any recipe – whether savory or sweet. However, some substitutes will pair better with certain recipes.
When looking for the best substitute for your recipe, consider how the nutmeg is being used. Is it to elevate a sweet or savory flavor profile? Keeping this in mind will help you choose the best flavor-alternative for your dish.
1. Ground Mace
If you need a substitute in a pinch, then ground mace may not be the answer. However, if you are at the store and they are out of ground nutmeg then look on the shelf for ground mace.
Ground mace is made from the outer shell that protects the nutmeg seed. Therefore, it is the closest flavor match for nutmeg.
This close flavor substitute can be used in a simple 1:1 exchange for ground nutmeg in any recipe.
For the times when you are mid-recipe and need a quick substitute, cinnamon is a great go-to. This versatile spice can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Much like nutmeg.
The warm earthy taste of cinnamon is more potent than nutmeg though. Therefore, it can quickly overpower the other flavors in a dish.
Whether using it in a savory or sweet recipe, begin by using ½ the amount of cinnamon. You can add more to taste if needed. Moreover, cinnamon can be paired with other nutmeg substitutes (ginger, allspice, cloves) to enrich the overall flavor.
3. Garam Masala
Spice blends are great substitutes when they include the missing ingredient. When you are missing nutmeg, Garam Masala can take its place.
Garam Masala is a common spice in Indian and Asian cuisine. Alongside the nutmeg, it typically includes cinnamon, cloves, and mace. It also often has savory spices like pepper, bay leaves, and cumin.
If you want to explore a new savory flavor in your cooking, then consider trying Garam Masala. Use it in a 1:1 substitution for nutmeg.
4. Pumpkin Pie Spice
When you need a nutmeg substitute for a sweet treat, another spice blend can get the job done. Pumpkin pie spice.
A combination of nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon, this spice blend gets revived every holiday season. However, it can be used all year long.
Peek in your cupboard and see if you have a jar of this from the last round of pumpkin pies. If you find some, give it a go as a substitute for nutmeg in your other sweet recipes.
Pumpkin pie spice can be used in a 1:1 swap for nutmeg.
5. Apple Pie Spice
Apple pie spice is less popular than pumpkin pie spice, but also a good substitute (if you already have some in the cupboard). It is a similar blend to pumpkin pie spice but has larger amounts of cinnamon and less nutmeg.
In addition to the other spices found in pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice also includes a touch of cardamon. This blend makes it best for breads, pastries, and other baked items.
Due to the heavy base of cinnamon in this blend, it is best to start with half the amount the recipe calls for. As always, you can add more if needed. You don’t want to overpower the other flavors though.
While it sounds like another spice blend, allspice is just one single spice. However, it got its name because it resembled the flavors of several spices.
Allspice shares the same warm notes of nutmeg. Plus, the other flavor profiles of cinnamon and cloves. Therefore, as a substitute, it will offer a similar flavor as nutmeg.
This alternative can be used in a 1:1 ratio for nutmeg in both sweet and savory recipes.
7. Ground cloves
Cloves have a warmth and sweetness that resemble elements of nutmeg. In addition, cloves also have a spicy and peppery element to them.
The spicy elements of cloves compliment the warmth of nutmeg. Therefore, these two spices are often used alongside one another. When nutmeg is not available though, cloves can be used on their own.
If a recipe does not call for cloves, you can use them as a substitute for nutmeg. They will pair well with the flavors of most recipes that call for nutmeg.
Cloves have a very strong flavor. You only want to use half the amount the recipe calls for.
Moreover, if a recipe calls for both cloves and nutmeg - do not add more cloves to replace the nutmeg. Instead, choose another substitute from above to compliment the cloves.
Ginger has a rich, spicy flavor profile that adds warmth to savory dishes. While its spicy notes are a good substitute for the warmth of nutmeg, it does not have the same sweet elements of nutmeg.
If looking to replace nutmeg in a savory dish, especially one with meat and veggies, ginger is a good choice.
Ginger can be used in a 1:1 ratio. However, if you have never used ginger before, start with half and then add more to get your desired taste.
Cardamon has a very distinct taste. If you’ve never tasted it (or think you haven’t), imagine the smell or taste of chai tea.
Although it has a flavor quite different than nutmeg, it can still be a good substitute. The lovely warm and rich flavor of cardamon compliments many dishes in the same way nutmeg does.
If your recipe calls for a small amount of nutmeg, then consider cardamon. It works best for sweet recipes. Try it sprinkled on top of eggnog and other similar drinks/desserts for a new flavor twist.
Use to taste as a topping. If adding to a recipe, begin with about a ¼ of the amount the recipe calls for. Taste and add more slowly as needed.
When you open the jar of cumin you are probably reminded of your favorite Mexican food. This familiar spice has a rich, warm flavor that elevates the taste of many savory dishes.
Like cardamon though, the flavor of cumin is quite different than nutmeg. However, its rich, warm, spiciness pairs well with many of the same foods nutmeg works with.
If you want to explore a new flavor with a savory dish, then consider trying cumin in place of nutmeg.
Begin with half the amount to keep from overpowering your dish with too much of a different flavor. Add more if needed or desired.
What About Fresh Nutmeg?
While many of us are familiar with fresh herbs, not many of us think about using fresh spices. However, the more you start exploring new recipes the more likely it is you will see recipes that use freshly ground spices.
Most recipes though will call for ground nutmeg. This is because ground nutmeg is easier to find in the stores and to keep in your home. Moreover, these recipes have been created around the flavor of ground nutmeg.
In the case that you come across a recipe that calls for fresh nutmeg, try to find fresh nutmeg. The difference in taste between fresh nutmeg and ground nutmeg is distinctly different.
Therefore, a recipe that calls for fresh nutmeg has been built around that unique flavor. *Bonus, anytime you have ground nutmeg called for in a recipe, using freshly ground nutmeg is a HUGE flavor enhancement that you simply WILL NOT regret!
How To Use Fresh Nutmeg
Once you find it, fresh nutmeg is easy to use. Whole nutmeg is usually sold as a stone nutmeg, meaning it looks like a nut.
Simply grab a fine grater or zester to grate the nutmeg seed. Then measure and use as directed in the recipe.
Many spices would make a great nutmeg substitute in a pinch! Tell us which nutmeg substitute you chose to use and how your recipe turned out by leaving us a message below!
Best Nutmeg Substitute (for Ground Nutmeg): Ground Mace, Cinnamon (+More Great Alternatives!)
Option 1 (Best Flavor Match) - Ground Mace
- 1 teaspoon ground mace
Option 2 (Most Readily Available) - Ground Cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Option 1 (Best Flavor Match) - Ground Mace
- Use ground mace in an an equal 1:1 ration as any nutmeg called for in your recipe.1 teaspoon ground mace
Option 2 (Most Readily Available) - Ground Cinnamon
- Use a bit less ground cinnamon when substituting for ground nutmeg. Start with half the amount called for, so ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon for each 1 teaspoon nutmeg.½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!