Cloves are the brown, dried, unopened buds of a medium-sized tree that is native to India and Indonesia. The spice is used whole or ground to a fine powder in cooking and baking, and as a food preservative. In recipes that call for powdered cloves, substitutes include allspice, or a combination of allspice, nutmeg and ginger.
Powdered cloves is used in a wide variety of baked goods including cakes, cookies, apple and pumpkin pies. Due to its intense flavor, cloves is often used minimally in recipes calling for larger amounts of other spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and is usually added along with the dry ingredients. In cooking, whole cloves are most often inserted into the outside of a baked ham or roast pork, a process called studding.
Allspice is an acceptable substitute in baked goods and other dishes as its flavor is very similar to that of ground cloves. Grown on large evergreens native to the Caribbean area, the allspice trees' dried unripe berries are ground into a fine powder. Purdue University researchers state that the oil contained in both the pulp and seeds of allspice is similar to clove oil.
Other Uses for Cloves
Cloves are also often used in pickling and can be found in spice and herb blends created for that purpose or you can make your own by incorporating more of the spices you like and less of those you don't. Cloves also plays an important role in other blends such as garam masala, used in curries and other Indonesian dishes, French quatre epices used to flavor sausages and other meat dishes, and Chinese five-spice powder used in Asian dishes.
Because allspice incorporates other flavors besides cloves, use a 1-to-1 ratio when substituting it in a recipe that calls for powdered cloves. Conversely, replacing allspice with cloves requires the addition of other spices that offset the intense flavor of the spice, including cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. It's important to remember that, once a container of powdered cloves or other spice is opened, both the quality and flavor deteriorate rapidly due to the evaporation of oils.