Allspice and Nutmeg are both harvested from evergreen trees. They are similar in taste, but have varying uses in the kitchen.
Allspice, also known as Jamaica Pepper, is a single spice with a spicy flavor profile with subtle earthy and fruity flavors. Nutmeg has a similar taste to allspice, with warm earthy tones to it.
Both allspice and nutmeg are common spices that can be found with other spices and herbs in the grocery store. They are especially prevalent in the fall since the ground spices are used in a lot of fall baking recipes.
Originally Published On: April 28, 2023
Herb: Pimenta dioica
Herb: Myristica fragrans
Contrary to popular belief, allspice is not made from a blend of spices. It comes from the dried berries of a plant called Pimenta dioica in the Myrtle family. The tree is an evergreen tree native to the Caribbean and Central America.
Nutmeg also comes from an evergreen tree, but the spice is from the seed of the tree. The tree that produces nutmeg is native to Indonesia but the spice is used all over the world. In its whole form, the shell of the nutmeg seed is actually what is used to grind into the spice mace. Then the seed inside is crushed into ground nutmeg.
Allspice is typically used in the Caribbean and has a combination of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper flavors. Allspice is versatile and can be added to everything from savory dishes such as Jamaican jerk seasoning to sweet recipes such as spice cakes and gingerbread. It’s often used in baking, especially during Autumn, since it is similar in taste to pumpkin pie spice which seems to be in everything that time of the year.
Just like allspice, nutmeg has a warm, earthy flavor. Unlike allspice, though, nutmeg does not have the fruity taste of allspice, it is a bit sweeter.
Whole cloves of allspice berries are perfect to pair with other whole berries to flavor meals such as soups, stews, and braised meat. You can also use whole allspice berries to add to lamb or beef to spice up the flavor. Allspice is often used in Caribbean cuisine since it is native to the area.
Nutmeg, being from Indonesia, shows up in many of their recipes. Some popular uses include adding ground nutmeg to soups, stews, and meat gravy. Worldwide, nutmeg is used in a large variety of savory and sweet dishes. It is a key ingredient in a lot of European dishes that center around potatoes and spinach. You’ll also find ground nutmeg is a popular spice to garnish many drinks, especially in the Caribbean.
Even though Allspice is its own unique spice, there are a few things you can use as a good allspice substitute in a pinch. It’s not easy to replace the allspice berry if you need it whole, but ground allspice can be substituted with a mixture of common spices. Combine ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and ground cloves, and then use that mixture in a 1:1 ratio for the allspice in your dish. While it isn’t perfect, this will be the best substitute to still get the warm flavor of allspice in your recipe. I like to keep this spice blend on hand since I don’t use allspice enough to keep a container in the pantry.
The best nutmeg substitute is mace. Since they both come from the same tree, the flavors are very similar. Another good substitute for nutmeg is garam masala followed by allspice. All of these can be used in a ratio of 1:1 in recipes. Although they have a different flavor, they are close enough to replace nutmeg in small amounts. If you still don’t have any of those, opt for cinnamon, pumpkin spice, apple pie spice, or ginger.
As you can see by my list of recipes, we don’t use allspice in our kitchen very often. But we do use a lot of nutmeg.
One recipe that uses both is my delicious Triple Chocolate Coconut Bars which have become one of my favorite recipes for a dessert to share!
- Sweet Baked Plantains
- Banana Bread Pancakes
- Vegan Eggnog
- Candied Yams
- Vegetable Pastitsio
- Fall Pumpkin Roll
As with all things we consume, it helps to be aware of the nutritional information in our food. While most herbs and spices don’t add a lot of nutrition to a meal, it can be significant in a large amount.
Allspice: A single teaspoon of allspice contains:
- Calories: 5
- Protein: Less than 1 gram
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: Less than 1 gram
- Fiber: Less than 1 gram
- Sugar: Less than 1 gram
Allspice is also an excellent source of:
- Vitamin B5
- Gallic acid
Nutmeg: A single teaspoon of nutmeg contains:
- Calories: 12
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 1 gram
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: .066 grams
Nutmeg is also a source of:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Herbs have been used in medicine for thousands of years. You can find a plethora of information about how each has been used for various ailments and medicinal uses worldwide.
Allspice is believed to reduce inflammation, treat nausea, prevent infections, relieve pain, ease menstrual cramps, and slow the growth of cancer. While you may not get these benefits from enjoying allspice in your savory recipes and sweet recipes because it isn’t enough, you can boil allspice into tea or use it as an essential oil since it’s more concentrated.
Nutmeg is rich in antioxidants so it can help to reduce aging and protect against conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and liver disease. Nutmeg may also aid in dental health, better sleep quality, and improved mood. However, nutmeg in high quantities can cause hallucinations and can be toxic or fatal. You should never consume more than you would use in a regular recipe.
Grow Your Own
As both allspice and nutmeg are grown on trees, they aren’t quick and easy to grow yourself. They will take years to be ready to harvest, but it can be done if you live in the correct climate.
One thing to keep in mind with allspice trees is that there are two varieties. You will need to grow a male and female tree near each other for cross-pollination to happen.
Since the allspice trees are native to Jamaica, they will thrive in warm tropical conditions.
Nutmeg trees like similar conditions to allspice trees. They grow best in USDA zones 10 & 11. They like it hot, mostly sunny, and low chance of huge wind gusts. Nutmeg trees can grow up to 30-60 feet tall, so make sure they have plenty of room.
Even though the allspice trees are tropical trees, they don’t need a lot of sunlight. As saplings, the trees will want a bit more light, but overall they need light for only part of the day.
Nutmeg trees do well in mostly sunny areas. Just make sure they aren’t in a place that allows them to get dried out.
The allspice tree will grow in well-draining soil. It does well with tropical plant fertilizer and food every few weeks until mature.
Nutmeg trees need well-draining, organic, rich soil with low salinity. They have deep roots, so need to be in a place that allows the roots to spread far. Nutmeg seeds and saplings should be planted about 4 feet deep into the soil.
Allspice trees will want water whenever the soil starts to feel dry.
Don’t let nutmeg trees get too dried out or it will stress the plant. They like a damp, humid area even though they need soil that drains. You can use mulch around the base to help with water retention.
Allspice trees will start to bear fruit after about 3 years. You want to pull the berries off the trees and lay them in the sun to ripen.
Nutmeg trees take longer to mature. You’ll likely be able to start harvesting nutmeg after about 5-7 years and they will produce anywhere from 30-70 years. Look for the tree to flower, then for the fruit to grow. Once the fruit starts to crack it’s time to harvest.
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