While whole cloves and ground cloves come from the same plant, they have many different uses in the kitchen.

Whole Cloves and Ground Cloves: Uses, Substitute, and More

While whole cloves and ground cloves come from the same plant, they have many different uses in the kitchen.

Cloves come from an aromatic tree native to Indonesia called Syzygium aromaticum. The clove tree produces fragrant flower buds that we call cloves. Cloves are widely cultivated throughout parts of Asia as well as South America and Africa. They are part of the spice trade for thousands of years. 

Cloves are used in various dishes, from baking (such as in pumpkin pie spice) to savory dishes (such as meat dishes and pot roasts) to chai tea and mulled wine. 

Originally Published On: May 12, 2023

What Are Cloves?

Cloves are the dried unopened buds of the evergreen trees of the same name in the Myrtle family. When using whole cloves, it is the dried bud from immature flowers. About 15-20% of the clove is essential oil. Essential oils from cloves have been used medicinally for thousands of years as well. 

Whole cloves are mostly round in shape and have a reddish-brown color to the spike on them. They look like a small nail made out of wood. 

Cloves in their ground form come from grinding the whole cloves in a spice grinder. You can find ground cloves in other spice blends and are used in fall sweet dishes because of their earthy warm spice. 

​Flavor Differences Between Whole Cloves and Ground Cloves

The flavor of whole cloves is the same as ground cloves. The difference is how they are used in cooking. The flavor of cloves is a warm, earthy flavor, pungent, and slightly sweet but at the same time also bitter. 

Cloves used in their whole form need more time to infuse their flavors into a dish. When a recipe calls for whole cloves add them early in the process. 

Ground cloves tend to have a strong flavor when compared with whole cloves. Because they have been ground, they are able to infuse their flavor quicker into a dish. You’ll also find that ground cloves will sometimes change the color of food when the whole cloves wouldn’t. 

How to Substitute Whole Cloves For Ground Cloves

While it isn’t perfect, the best substitute for cloves would be cloves in their other form. If you need whole cloves for a recipe, you can substitute them with ground cloves. One teaspoon of whole cloves would be equivalent to about 3/4 teaspoon of ground cloves. This will only work in dishes that they are added for subtle flavor, though. If you have a recipe that calls for poking the whole cloves into something, such as studding a ham, there’s not much that can be used in place of whole cloves. 

While ground cloves are the best substitute for whole cloves, there are other options. If you need ground cloves and don’t have any in the spice cabinet, the following will make a great substitute:

Just remember that even the best clove substitutes do not have the exact same flavor profile as ground cloves. As a rule of thumb, start small. For a recipe that calls for one teaspoon ground cloves, I would start with 1/2 teaspoon of the substitute spice. While they are all a similar spice, you want to make sure the new taste doesn’t overpower your recipe. 

Where to Purchase Cloves

In my experience, I can find both types of cloves in the spice aisle of my local grocery stores. Another option is to look in your store’s ethnic cuisine area since cloves are prominent in Indian cuisine.

How to Store Cloves

As with all pre-ground spices, you’ll want to store cloves in a cool, dry location in your home. For the best flavor, make sure to check the expiration date of your cloves. 

Nutritional Information

Ground cloves have a high amount of manganese in them and also contain trace amounts of vitamin K, vitamin C, and fiber. 

While cloves add great flavor to so many dishes, the only thing to consider is the health threat of too much ground cloves and clove oil. It can lead to liver failure, acute respiratory distress, and central nervous system depression. 

Medicinal Information

Cloves have been used medicinally for years. The most recent use is in dentistry as the cloves have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in toothaches. You may be able to find clove oil in the tooth care section at your local drugstore. Just keep in mind it needs to be used in small amounts and can be toxic to children. Read all instruction labels and consult a physician before use. 


Whole Clove Recipes

Ground Clove Recipes


12 thoughts on “Whole Cloves and Ground Cloves: Uses, Substitute, and More”

  1. I’ve heard that cloves have some great medicinal uses. It’s wonderful that it can be used for dental pain, but I had no idea it could be toxic to children. Thank you for highlighting that important information.

  2. Thank you for the informative article on whole cloves and ground cloves. It’s helpful to learn about their uses, how to substitute one for the other, and the proper storage methods. The clear explanations and practical tips make it easy to understand. Great job!

  3. I love the smell of cloves. It’s amazing that you can cook with it and use it for aromas in the house as well as for medicinal purposes.

  4. Aaaahhhhh….thank you for this elaboration on cloves! I always thought they are one and the same and can do whatever purpose you need them for. I’ve gotten the distinction now.

  5. Faith Stephenson

    I have never heard about anything like this before! It was helpful to have the information you provided. Your sharing of it is greatly appreciated.

    1. Same here I just didn’t know all the benefits of drinking it at night, I been wondering what I could use or mix the easiest and boom lookau here, just hot water and sprinkle some in already grounded for and gonna put some with olive oil and rub knees and shoulders, I am blown away. I love all you all that share homemade tips.
      You’re A Blessing 🌹😘

  6. I wasn’t familiar with cloves and their potential advantages. I’ve heard that cloves have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It’s interesting to learn that they are now used in dentistry to reduce toothache pain and inflammation. If someone is looking for clove oil for tooth care, they may be able to find it in the tooth care section at their local drugstore. However, it’s important to remember that it should be used in small amounts and can be toxic to children. It’s always best to read all instruction labels and consult a physician before using any new product.

  7. Catherine Shane Cabuhat

    Oh this sounds interesting! To be honest I don’t usually put cloves in my dishes but I think I would start now to give the dish different aroma and taste. Thanks for sharing this!

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