If you’re wondering what “allspice” is, you’ve hit the jackpot. Below is a complete article all about this delicious spice that can be used in everything from appetizers to desserts. It can be used as a substitute for other warm spices and even spice blends that are commonly used in desserts, like pumpkin and apple pies, and pumpkin bread. If you haven’t tried allspice, please do. It’s worth it!
Allspice 101 – The Basics
Allspice is made from the dried berries of the allspice tree, known as Pimenta dioica. The tree is native to Jamaica and is in the myrtle family. The tree is also known as Jamaican pepper and new spice. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus during one of his trips to the New World.
The allspice berries are harvested when they are green (unripe), briefly fermented, then dried, which makes them turn reddish-brown. The spice is sold as whole, dried berries, and also ground. Allspice has a sweet aroma and tastes like a blend of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper. The flavor has been described as sweet, with hot, pungent, and/or spicy notes of black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, mace and/or nutmeg.
Allspice can be used in any dish or recipe as a substitute that calls for the warm spices it resembles. It is often used in desserts, but also in side dishes, main courses, and beverages including mulled wine and hot cider. Allspice is used largely in Caribbean (especially Jamaican), Middle Eastern, and Latin American cuisines. Allspice is a key ingredient in the popular Jamaican Jerk Chicken.
Because we don’t eat a lot of allspice at any one time, the nutritional aspects aren’t worth noting. However, allspice contains an array of compounds that gives the spice some special health benefits that have been used in traditional, natural remedies for many years. Even though scientific studies have not been conducted examining the health benefits of allspice, traditional folk medicine in the Caribbean and Central America has used allspice for a variety of ailments. The main compounds in allspice that appear to have medicinal properties include:
Eugenol. Allspice contains eugenol, a compound that may explain many of its healthful benefits. Eugenol, which is also found in clove oil, has been found have antiseptic properties and has been used to relieve toothache. Natural healers have used allspice for relieving tooth pain and topically for other pain issues including gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Allspice is also said to have antimicrobial properties and has been used to alleviate infections. Some dentists use eugenol to kill germs on teeth and gums.
Quercetin. Quercetin is a flavonoid that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that quercetin may help to reduce inflammation, kill cancer cells, control blood sugar, and help to prevent heart disease.
Gallic Acid. Gallic acid is a phenolic acid compound with anti-viral and anti-cancer properties. It is being studies as a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
Ericifolin. Ericifolin is a polyphenolic compound with antioxidant properties. It is being studied as a possible treatment for prostate cancer.
Specific ailments treated with allspice include:
Gas, Bloating, and Upset Stomach. Allspice can relieve gas, bloating, and stomach upset. This is believed to be due to the spice’s many antioxidants. Many cultures use allspice tea to relieve stomach upset. Simply steep ½ teaspoon of ground allspice in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes; strain and sip. It is best to drink the tea between meals because compounds in allspice may interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals. Limit yourself to one cup daily until you observe how your digestive tract reacts to the allspice.
Aches and Pains (Including Headache and Sinus Pain). Ground allspice and allspice essential oil have been used in a natural poultice (paste) to help relieve aches and pains. To make a poultice with ground allspice, mix the ground spice with enough water to make a thick paste. Apply it to the painful area, cover it with a thin piece of gauze or cloth (to prevent a mess), and leave it on for about 20 minutes.
When using allspice essential oil, mix 2 to 3 drops of the oil with at least 3 tablespoons of carrier oil (such as grapeseed, coconut, or olive oil) and massage into the painful area. Wash hands afterwards and be especially careful not to get the mixture in your eyes or mucous membranes.
Allspice essential oil may also be diffused in the air to help ease a headache or sinus pain.
Note of Caution. It is important to note that allspice, especially its essential oil, may cause allergic skin reactions in individuals who are sensitive to it. If you’re not sure, test a small area or use a small amount at first.
How to Select Allspice
Allspice is available as whole berries and ground. The whole berries will have a much longer shelf life than the ground form, which loses its flavor quickly. Whole allspice berries are usually used in soups and stews, whereas the ground berries are often used in desserts, such as cakes, pies, and quick breads.
How to Store Allspice
Allspice should be stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry pantry, away from sunlight. It does not need to be refrigerated nor frozen. Allspice should last for years, although the ground version will lose its flavor quickly.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Allspice
* Allspice is usually added at the beginning of cooking time when adding it to meats, soups, stews, or similar dishes. This allows time for its flavor to be infused in the other ingredients.
* If you want to reduce the flavor of allspice berries, cook them before using them as seasoning. Bake them in advance for about 10 minutes, or toast them in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop.
* To add a little spice to vegetables, try adding about 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice to carrots, cabbage, string beans or mushrooms while they are cooking.
* Try adding just a pinch of ground allspice to chili for a Cincinnati-style chili flavor.
* If a recipe calls for allspice and you don’t have any, make your own substitute by combining two parts of ground cinnamon to one part of cloves and one part of nutmeg. Store in a covered, airtight container in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. No need to refrigerate or freeze it. It should last for years.
* If a recipe calls for ground nutmeg, cloves, or cinnamon, you could substitute allspice instead.
* If you need to substitute ground allspice for berries (or vice versa), the conversion is: 6 whole allspice berries are equivalent to ¼ to ½ teaspoon of ground (depending on the size of the berries).
* If you add whole allspice berries to a recipe, such as a soup, be sure to remove them before serving.
* Freshly ground allspice berries will have a better flavor than purchased already ground allspice. Because of that, many people buy only the berries and grind them as needed in a spice grinder.
* Some people have used allspice and other warm spices (such as cinnamon, ginger and cloves) to help them reduce their sugar intake. They simply add some ground allspice to oatmeal and other breakfast cereals, and other dishes instead of added sugar.
* For something really different, sprinkle just a little ground allspice on a cheesy pasta dish. The allspice will enhance the cheese flavor and give the dish an unexpected warm spiciness.
* Try sprinkling just a little allspice on yogurt for a warm, spicy flavor.
* Sprinkling just a little ground allspice into your favorite coffee will enhance its aroma and flavor.
* For an easy way to season pumpkin pie or roasted pumpkin, season it with ground allspice instead of the array of spices usually called for (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves).
* Easily flavor mulled wine or apple cider with a few allspice berries.
* Simplify your apple pie recipe by using allspice instead of the mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
* Try adding a pinch of ground allspice to roasted vegetables for a warm, spicy flavor.
Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Allspice
Cinnamon, cloves, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, pepper (black)
Foods That Go Well with Allspice
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (including baked beans), beef, chicken, lamb, nuts (in general), pecans, pork, sausage
Vegetables: Beets, cabbage, carrots, chiles, cucumbers, ginger, onions, root vegetables (in general), squash (winter), sweet potatoes
Fruits: Apples, bananas, coconut, fruit (in general), cranberries, mangoes, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, pumpkin, tamarind
Grains and Grain Products: Grains (in general), oats, quinoa
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Ice cream, yogurt
Other Foods: Chocolate, rum, sugar, vinegar (i.e. apple cider, red wine)
Allspice has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (cakes, cookies, etc.), beverages (i.e. chai, cocoa), Caribbean cuisine (esp. jerk seasoning), fruit compotes, curry powder, desserts, English cuisine, Ethiopian cuisine, gravies, ice cream, Indian cuisine, Jamaican cuisine, ketchup, marinades, Mexican cuisine, Moroccan cuisine, pickled vegetables (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, green beans), pies, pilafs, puddings, punch, salad dressings, sauces, soups (i.e. fruit, tomato), stews, teas, wine (mulled)
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning https://www.thespruceeats.com/jerk-seasoning-spice-from-the-caribbean-912883
Jamaican Jerk Sauce https://www.thespruceeats.com/jamaican-jerk-sauce-recipe-1806844
Cabbage Tabbouleh https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/cabbage-tabbouleh
Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Cinnamon https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/cranberry-sauce-with-orange-and-cinnamon
Embrace Cozy Sweater Weather by Using Allspice in these 9 Recipes https://www.brit.co/allspice-recipes/
Allspice Spice Cake https://www.mccormick.com/recipes/dessert/allspice-spice-cake
Spiced Cider https://www.thedailymeal.com/spiced-cider-recipe
Roasted Pumpkin and Acorn Squash https://www.thedailymeal.com/recipes/roasted-pumpkin-and-acorn-squash-recipe
Amazing Apple Pie https://www.thedailymeal.com/amazing-apple-pie-recipe
Cranberry-Orange Salsa Recipe https://www.thedailymeal.com/cranberry-orange-salsa-recipe
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s Dino Jerk Sauce https://www.thedailymeal.com/recipes/dinosaur-bar-b-ques-dino-jerk-sauce-recipe
Peach Coffee Cake https://www.thedailymeal.com/peach-coffee-cake-0-recipe
Caribbean Turkey Burgers with Fiery Mango Salsa https://www.thedailymeal.com/best-recipes/caribbean-turkey-burgers-fiery-mango-salsa
Molasses Spice Cookies https://www.thedailymeal.com/recipes/molasses-spice-cookies-recipe-0
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.