I personally taste-tested a variety of mace substitutes to find the best ones for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitute for mace is nutmeg. Did you know they come from the same fruit? In a pinch, you can use a mixture of allspice, ginger, and cinnamon. Cardamom and pumpkin spice can also work if you’re making a sweet dish, while cloves and cumin are options for a savory dish.
I made a batch of mace sugar cookies to test out several different mace substitutes.
Mace is a spice that comes from the same fruit as nutmeg. In fact, it’s the red-orange lacy membrane covering the nutmeg seed. It’s typically sold ground, although you can find it whole in specialty stores.
It boasts a delicate nutty, earthy flavor with a hint of sweetness, making it versatile enough for sweet and savory dishes. Mace’s flavor is one of a kind, so there’s no perfect substitute, but I did find a couple of decent alternatives.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Nutmeg||Closest substitute flavor-wise||9/10|
|Allspice, Ginger & Cinnamon Blend||Or use the individual spices||8/10|
|Cumin||Best for savory dishes||7/10|
|Cardamom||Best for desserts or baked goods||7/10|
|Ground Cloves||Mix with cinnamon for sweetness||7/10|
|Pumpkin Pie Spice||Best for sweet dishes||7/10|
|Garam Masala||A complex substitute||6/10|
Nutmeg is more common than mace, cheaper, and by far the best substitute I tested. Because both spices come from the same fruit, they share a very similar warm, nutty, flavor. I found nutmeg to be slightly sweeter than mace, but nothing too drastic.
Mace is generally considered the more pungent spice, but I was using freshly ground nutmeg and thought both had a similar potency (some sources even say nutmeg is more potent than mace). If you’re using pre-ground nutmeg, you might want to use a tad more to get a similar flavor level. I’d say 1 1/4 the amount would be a good place to start.
How to Substitute: Start with a 1:1 swap, and add more nutmeg as needed.
Allspice, Ginger & Cinnamon Blend
If you already have a well-stocked spice cupboard, you might not want to splash out on mace for a one-time use. In this case, you can use a mixture of classic spices like allspice, ginger, and cinnamon to imitate the flavor.
The ginger brings the same warmth you’d get from mace, while the allspice has similar nutty, earthy notes. And to tie everything together, you have cinnamon for that subtle sweet kick. It’s not an exact match, but it tasted delicious!
I mixed the spices in a 1:1 ratio, but you can mess around with the ratios to get the perfect flavor for you. You can also just use two or even one of these spices in a pinch, but be careful not to overwhelm your dish because these spices are all stronger than mace.
How to Substitute: Start with ½ the amount of the blend, and add more as needed.
Cumin may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about mace substitutes, but it’s a decent substitute for savory dishes. And you probably already have it on hand.
Like mace, it’s got a warm flavor, with a very subtle sweetness and a nutty element. The catch with using cumin is it’s earthier than mace, which is why I only recommend using it in savory dishes or in spice rubs. It definitely wasn’t a favorite in my sugar cookies.
Pro-tip: For the best flavor, go with cumin seeds and grind them up yourself.
How to Substitute: Start with ¼ the amount of cumin, add more as needed.
I know cardamom isn’t the cheapest spice out there, but it’s another option you can try if you’re out of mace. It doesn’t have the warmth that mace has, but it boasts an intense, sweet flavor that brings depth and complexity to your dishes in the same way mace would.
I LOVED my cardamom cookies (although admittedly, they were pretty different from the mace ones).
Cardamom comes in two varieties, with green cardamom being more common. Green cardamom has notes of citrus and pine, making it great for desserts and baked goods. The less common black cardamom has more smokey notes, which means it’s not such a good mace substitute. But you can still use it in savory dishes.
How to Substitute: Start with ½ the amount of cardamom, add more as needed.
Cloves are known for their warm, sweet, and slightly bitter flavor profile. They offer a different flavor to mace, but it will complement a lot of recipes you’d normally find mace in. Because of the bitterness, I’d save clove for savory recipes.
But you can also use it in sweet recipes if you mix it with a sweeter spice like cinnamon.
Cloves have a very potent flavor, so definitely don’t go with a 1:1 ratio. Start by adding half, or even less, than the amount of mace called for and scale up from there.
Psst… A fun fact about cloves: they’re actually dried, unopened flowers of the Syzygium aromaticum tree, which is native to Indonesia.
How to Substitute: Start with ½ the amount of ground cloves, add more as needed.
Pumpkin Pie Spice (or apple pie spice)
If you’re making something sweet, you can use pumpkin spice instead of mace. It’s generally made from cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, giving it warmth and lots of depth. If you can find a blend with allspice in it too – go for that!
The reason I only recommend this option for sweet dishes is because its sweet notes are far more prominent than with mace. Some store-bought blends will even have added sugar, which I would avoid if you can.
Psst… got apple pie spice instead of pumpkin? This can also work, but it’s normally heavier on the cinnamon and also includes cardamom.
How to Substitute: Start with 1/2 the amount of pumpkin pie spice.
Garam masala is probably one of my favorite spice blends and it normally includes mace or nutmeg on its ingredients list, so will provide some of the same flavor. Problem is it also includes a lot of other spices like cinnamon, coriander, and pepper.
This gives it a completely different flavor to mace, but if you enjoy the flavor of it like I do, then you won’t be mad about using it instead of mace.
Different blends will have slightly different flavors. Some are more suited for savory dishes, while others will be good for sweet dishes. Taste your blend before adding it to your dish!
How to Substitute: Start with 1/2 the amount of garam masala.
Substitutes To Avoid
I came across plenty of substitute suggestions while I was researching, but not all of them worked out. Here are two I would avoid:
- Ras el hanout: This spice blend has warm notes like mace, but it also includes a lot of other spices which give it a bitter edge. And no blend is the same. For example, some can be spicy, which would be a big no-no for a mace replacement.
- Black Pepper: Mace is sometimes described as peppery, but this doesn’t mean you can use black pepper in its place! Black pepper is far too spicy and there’s zero nuttiness or sweetness there.
Best Mace Substitutes + 2 To Avoid
- ½ tbsp nutmeg
- ½ tbsp Allspice, Ginger & Cinnamon Blend
- ½ tbsp cumin
- ¼ tbsp cardamom
- ½ tbsp ground cloves
- ¼ tbsp pumpkin pie spice
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen mace substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.