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All You Need to Know About Allspice

Use this guide to answer all your questions about this amazing spice.

You have probably heard of allspice, but there is a good chance that you don’t actually know what it is. As its name suggests, allspice is a type of spice, and it is created using dried berries from the tropical Pimenta dioica tree. This spice has existed for a long time, and because of this, it is widely used in lots of different dishes. 

allspice berries and a bowl of ground allspice

While it is sourced from a tropical tree and found in Central America and the West Indies, allspice really gained its popularity in Europe. In the 17th century, it was first imported to Europe, and this is when it started to be known as allspice. But, this still doesn’t really explain what allspice is. In this guide, we’ll be telling you exactly what allspice is. So, to find out more, keep on reading. 


What is All Spice?

So, first things first, let’s take a look at what allspice is. As we have said, allspice is a spice that is often used in cooking, and it is created using dried berries from the Pimento dioica tree. This is a tropical tree that was first found in the West Indies and Central America. 

pimento dioica berries on a tree

In the 17th century, when importation became very popular, these berries were shipped across to Central Europe. It is here where allspice as a spice was developed. It was also here where allspice gained its name. In Europe, a lot of people recognized that allspice berries tasted a lot like clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. These spices are some of the most common and popular spices that exist, this is why these berries, and the spice created from the dry version of them, became known as allspice. 

Traditionally, allspice would have been found in Jamaica, and because of this, it is also sometimes known as new spice and Jamaica pepper. Allspice today is available in whole and ground form, so you can use it in lots of different dishes. But, let’s find out a little more about this plant. 


Where Does Allspice Come From?

As we have said, traditionally, the berries that are now known as allspice would have come from Jamaica. This is why there are some other names connected with these berries. We know that these berries were originally found in Jamaica because it was documented by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World.

During this time, he visited various Caribbean islands, but he did not name the berries. Instead, these berries were named by Dr. Diego Chanca, but they gained the name ‘allspice’ when they were first imported to Europe. 

As well as being found in Jamaica, allspice berries are also found in other areas of Southern America, and the Caribbean. This is partly why there are so many different names associated with this one plant. Despite these different names existing, in the Western world, allspice has become the accepted name. Even if it was given to the plant a long way away from where it was first discovered. So, now that we know where they come from, let’s find out what allspice is made of. 


What is Allspice Made of?

Due to the various different flavors included in allspice, a lot of people think that allspice is made with different spices. After all, this is what its name and flavor would suggest. But, this isn’t actually the case. Like we have said, allspice is made using berries from the Pimenta dioica tree, and these berries are now known as allspice berries. 

allspice berries

The main reason why people expect allspice berries to be made up of different spices is because of their flavor. Allspice has hints of flavors such as nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and lots more. This leads a lot of people to believe that allspice is made by mixing a variety of spices together. Its name further supports this theory because it implies that all the spices are used together to create this spice. 

But as we have said, this isn’t the case. Allspice is solely made using allspice berries, no matter what flavors you might identify when you try it. These flavors are simply achieved because the allspice berry is very flavorful and diverse. We’ve covered some of the things that allspice can taste like, but we haven’t looked at exactly what it tastes like. So, let’s take a look. 


What Does it Taste Like?

The name allspice suggests that it is a blend of other spices, but it is not. Allspice comes from a single dried berry, but it is full of flavor. When you try allspice, you will probably identify at least 3 flavors. These flavors stand at the forefront of this spice, and they are cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. As we have said, the fact that these flavors are so obvious is what makes people think that allspice is a blend. 

But it isn’t. If you really think about the flavor, you will recognize that none of these flavors are exact in this spice. They all taste similar to these spices, but none of them are exactly the same. This is because the allspice berries have similar properties to the properties found in these spices, but they are not the same, and that is what makes allspice different. But, this isn’t the only flavor you might identify when you try allspice. 

Allspice also has a peppery aspect to its flavor. The pepper flavor in this spice gives it a real kick and completely transforms the flavor of this spice. If you have whole allspice, then the flavor is a lot stronger. But, if you use it in ground form, the flavor is a little weaker. However, due to the strong flavor of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove in allspice, it makes allspice a suitable substitute for these ingredients, which is why it is so great. 


The Best Substitutes for Allspice

Due to the complexity of allspice, and the excellent diversity of flavors that it offers, allspice is used in a lot of different dishes. From sweet to savory dishes, allspice is used in a lot of different ways, and so it is always handy to have a bottle of it in the cupboard. 

But, if you do not have allspice at home, there is no need to panic. Thankfully, because of the diverse flavor of this spice, there are lots of different substitutes that can be used in place of this. So, let’s take a look at some of the best substitutions for this flavoring. 

different ground spices

By far, the best substitute for allspice is a mixture of its main flavors. So, if you have cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon at home, you should get these out of the cupboard. To create the most accurate substitute for allspice, you should mix half a teaspoon of ground cloves, half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg together.

Stir these ingredients together, and they can be used as a substitute for a single teaspoon of allspice. Adjust the quantities accordingly to fit the number of teaspoons that you require. 

If you do not have these spices at hand, then you can use mixed spice as a substitute for this. But, be warned, the flavors of mixed spice are a lot weaker than that of allspice, so you will not get the same effect. This is why it is always best to use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves if possible. 


Final Thoughts

In short, allspice is a spice that is made using the berries of the Pimento dioica tree. It was first found in Jamaica but was given the name allspice when it was imported to Europe in the 17th century.

What’s your favorite way to use allspice? Leave a comment letting us know down below!

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Written by Rocco Smith

Rocco is from Sanibel Island, Florida, and a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Editing, Writing, and Media. With seven years’ experience in the restaurant industry as a cook, server, bartender, and more, he is deeply passionate about intertwining his fondness for food with his love of language.