The 9 Best Nutmeg Substitute For Sweet And Savory Dishes 

 Last Update March 6, 2024

By Jenny Zhang

While you probably have plenty of nutmeg around during the holiday season, you may not always have it on hand during other times of the year. Thankfully, a handful of other spices and spice blends can be used to replace nutmeg in your favorite baked goods and savory recipes.

To help you nail your next recipe, we're highlighting the best whole and ground nutmeg substitute options. Whether you're whipping up delectable baked goods, simmering savory stews, or crafting sensational beverages, these nutmeg substitutes will ensure your flavors shine bright.

What Is Nutmeg?

Nutmeg is a fragrant spice made from the seed of the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans), an evergreen tree native to Indonesia. The tree is actually the source of not one but two spices: nutmeg and mace. While nutmeg is found in the inner seed of the tree, mace is found in the red, lacy substance that covers the nutmeg seed. Though sourced from the same trees, the two are rarely used together in recipes.

Thanks to its versatility, nutmeg is one of the most popular spices in the world. While its sweet flavor and warm, nutty aroma are most commonly associated with autumnal and Christmastime treats, they can be utilized year-round for both sweet and savory dishes. It's used to deepen the flavors of everything from beverages like eggnog, chai lattes, and mulled wine to baked goods like cakes, cookies, and pies to scrumptious dishes like soups, cheesy casseroles, vegetable gratins, and roasted meat.

What Does Nutmeg Taste Like?

Nutmeg boasts a flavor profile that is truly one-of-a-kind. It emanates warmth, earthiness, and a gentle sweetness, accompanied by delicate notes of spice and a subtle hint of nuttiness. The taste of nutmeg is a captivating blend of richness, aromatic allure, and a touch of pungency. It exudes a multi-dimensional flavor that seamlessly harmonizes the realms of sweet and savory.

Nutmeg adds a warm and comforting note to dishes when used in moderation. It is often associated with holiday flavors and is a common spice used in fall and winter recipes. Nutmeg can enhance the taste of both sweet and savory dishes, including baked goods, custards, creamy sauces, soups, and stews.

Whole Nutmeg vs. Ground Nutmeg

Nutmeg can be found in most grocery stores in both whole and ground forms. The whole nutmeg looks like a small pit, such as that of a plum or apricot, and is typically sold in packs of six to eight seeds. To use the whole nutmeg, simply grate the seeds using a microplane grater, zester, or spice grinder. While ground nutmeg is certainly easier to use and more convenient, whole nutmeg seeds provide a fresher, full-bodied flavor and a longer shelf life.

The Best Whole and Ground Nutmeg Substitutes to Spice Things Up

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice is a popular spice blend commonly associated with fall flavors and is typically a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and sometimes cloves. Since pumpkin pie spice contains nutmeg as one of its components, it can be a suitable substitute for nutmeg in recipes that call for nutmeg as a standalone spice.

Pumpkin pie spice is an excellent ground nutmeg substitute in recipes that feature pumpkin as the main ingredient. Pumpkin pie spice pairs particularly well with pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and other pumpkin desserts.

Pumpkin pie spice is also a great addition to spiced beverages like pumpkin spice lattes, hot apple cider, or spiced teas, and it contributes to the overall warm and comforting flavor profile of these drinks.

When substituting pumpkin pie spice for nutmeg, you can use a 1 to 1 ratio, though you may need to adjust other spices to achieve the perfect balance of flavors.

Apple Pie Spice

Apple pie spice is similar to pumpkin pie spice in that it features a blend of fall-friendly spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger, with the unique addition of cardamom. Its warm flavor makes it a good nutmeg substitute for drinks, desserts, cookies, and other holiday recipes.

Apple pie spice can be a delightful addition to spiced beverages, such as apple cider, mulled wine, or spiced teas, and it imparts a comforting and seasonal flavor that complements warm drinks.

Because of its flavorful components, it's best to stick to small amounts of apple pie spice to avoid possibly overpowering the other flavors in the dish. Start with half the amount of nutmeg and taste test before adding more.

Ground Mace

Because mace comes from the same Myristica Fragrans tree as nutmeg, it makes for an obvious nutmeg substitute. Compared to nutmeg, mace offers a more spicy flavor with notes of pepper and cinnamon. When using the spice as a nutmeg replacement, use an equal amount of mace as the recipe calls for nutmeg.

Mace serves as a versatile substitute for nutmeg in a delightful array of baked goods. Whether it's cakes, pies, cookies, or bread, mace can step in to infuse these treats with its warm and aromatic essence. It provides a warm and slightly sweet flavor that is reminiscent of nutmeg. Mace can work well in creamy dishes like custards, puddings, and creamy sauces like alfredo sauce, and it adds a subtle and aromatic touch that enhances the overall flavor.

Mace can also be used as a substitute for nutmeg in certain savory dishes, particularly those with rich flavors like meat stews, soups, or spice rubs. Its warm and slightly sweet taste can contribute to the dish's complexity.

Cinnamon (Ground cinnamon and Cinnamon Stick)

Both ground cinnamon and cinnamon stick is undoubtedly one of the most popular ingredients for baking and is a pantry staple in most kitchens. Thanks to its strong, spicy flavor and pungent aroma, cinnamon is one of the best nutmeg substitutes in sweet and savory recipes.

Cinnamon is a beloved spice that finds its way into numerous baked goods, ranging from luscious cakes and mouth watering cookies to delicate pastries and comforting bread recipes. It adds a warm and sweet flavor that can replace the similar qualities of nutmeg. In most cases, you can use cinnamon in the same quantity as the nutmeg called for in the recipe.

Cinnamon also works well in breakfast dishes like oatmeal, pancakes, and French toast. Its sweet and warm taste can provide a delightful flavor profile similar to nutmeg. When using ground cinnamon as a nutmeg substitute, start with half the amount of ground nutmeg called for in the recipe.


While ginger is spicier than nutmeg, it offers one of the best substitutes for nutmeg in savory cooking. It's commonly used in Indian, Thai, and Asian cuisines to flavor curries, stir-fries, meats, vegetables, teas, and countless other tasty recipes.

When it comes to cookies, cakes, muffins, and various baked goods, ginger emerges as a versatile substitute for nutmeg. It adds a zesty and slightly spicy flavor that complements the sweetness of these treats. 

When using the spice as a nutmeg substitute, stick to ground ginger instead of using a freshly grated root, which is far stronger and can easily overpower a dish. For most recipes, you can use a 1 to 1 ratio of ginger to nutmeg.


While it's easy to assume that allspice is created from a blend of spices, it's actually made from one ingredient: ground allspice berries. The versatile allspice tastes like a peppery combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. With its delightful combination of sweetness, spiciness, and a hint of a peppery kick, it comes as no surprise that it stands out as one of the top nutmeg substitutes available. When using allspice as a nutmeg substitute, use the same amount of allspice as the recipe calls for ground nutmeg.

Allspice can be used as a substitute for nutmeg in cakes, cookies, pies, and other baked goods. It provides a warm and slightly sweet flavor that complements many dessert recipes. The spice can also be a great addition to fruit-based dishes, such as fruit pies, compotes, or poached fruits. It effortlessly complements the inherent sweetness of fruits while infusing a comforting and aromatic spiced flavor profile.

Allspice emerges as a worthy substitute for nutmeg in the realm of meat seasonings and rubs. It adds a rich and aromatic flavor to marinades or spice blends for meats like beef, pork, or lamb. It also holds the potential to become a flavorful addition to hearty soups, stews, and chili recipes. It enhances the overall flavor profile and adds a warm, earthy note.

Garam Masala

Garam masala, a beloved spice blend, takes center stage in the realm of Indian cuisine. While it typically contains various spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, bay leaves, and coriander, it doesn't usually contain nutmeg. However, the flavor profile of garam masala can be complex and aromatic, which makes it a viable substitute for nutmeg in certain recipes.

In dishes where nutmeg is used as a background spice to add warmth and depth, garam masala can provide a similar effect. Its exceptional versatility shines brightest in savory recipes, offering a perfect match for curries, stews, and meat dishes. The specific blend of spices in garam masala may vary, so the flavor will depend on your brand or homemade blend.

When incorporating garam masala as a nutmeg substitute, it's advisable, to begin with a modest quantity and fine-tune it according to your desired taste. Keep in mind that garam masala has a stronger and more complex flavor profile than nutmeg, so you may need to use less of it. Additionally, it's worth considering the other spices present in garam masala and how they will contribute to the dish's overall flavor.

Ground Cloves

Ground cloves can be a suitable substitute for nutmeg in certain recipes, particularly in warm and spiced dishes. Cloves have a strong and distinct flavor that shares some similarities with nutmeg, making them a viable alternative. However, it's important to note that cloves have a more intense and pungent taste, so they should be used sparingly.

Ground cloves can be a good substitute for nutmeg in baked goods like cakes, cookies, and bread, and they add a warm and aromatic flavor, similar to nutmeg. Start by using about half the amount of ground cloves as the recipe calls for nutmeg, and adjust according to your taste preferences.

Ground cloves can be used to replace nutmeg in certain savory dishes, particularly those with warm and rich flavors. For example, add a pinch of ground cloves to spice up your meat marinades, roasted vegetables, or hearty stews.

Ground Cumin

Cumin is a versatile spice commonly used in various cuisines, particularly in savory dishes. While it has a distinct flavor profile different from nutmeg, there are a few instances where cumin can work as a substitute for nutmeg. Cumin can be a suitable substitute for nutmeg in certain savory recipes, such as meat stews, chili, or curries, and it adds a warm and earthy flavor that complements the dish. Use cumin sparingly, starting with a smaller amount, as it has a stronger taste than nutmeg.

Cumin is a staple in Middle Eastern and Mexican cooking, and it can be used as a replacement for nutmeg in dishes from these regions. For example, cumin can provide a unique and aromatic flavor in dishes like falafel, hummus, or tacos. Adjust the cumin amount based on your preference and the specific recipe.

Cumin frequently finds its place in various spice blends, including the ever-popular curry powder and the beloved taco seasoning. If a recipe calls for a spice blend that includes nutmeg, you can use the blend without worrying about adding additional nutmeg separately.

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.