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Global Spices

allspice = toute-epice = Jamaica pepper = myrtle pepper = pimiento = pimento = clove pepper = newspice  Notes: Allspice comes from a single tree, but it tastes like a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  You can buy it already ground, but for better flavor and a longer shelf life, buy the berries and grind them yourself.  Equivalents: 5 whole berries yield 1 teaspoon ground   Substitutes:  equal parts cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, all ground OR equal parts cinnamon and cloves, all ground OR equal parts cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper, all ground

anise  See anise seed or star anise

anise seed = aniseed = anis   Pronunciation:  ANN-us  Notes:   Cooks use anise seed to impart a licorice flavor to baked goods, liqueurs, and candies.  Substitutes:  fennel seed (This has a milder flavor and is sweeter than anise.) OR star anise (stronger flavor; 1 crushed star anise = 1/2 teaspoon crushed anise seed) OR caraway seed OR tarragon

benne seed  See sesame seed.

black pepper = black peppercorns  See pepper.

canela  See cinnamon.

cardamom = cardamon = green cardamom   Notes:    Cardamom figures prominently into the cuisines of India, the Middle East, North Africa, and Scandinavia.  It best to buy cardamom seeds still encased in their natural flavor-protecting pods, which you discard after you remove the seeds.  You can also buy cardamom without the pods, called cardamom seeds = decorticated cardamom, but the unprotected seeds lose flavor quickly.  Ground cardamom seeds are even less flavorful.  Recipes that call for cardamom usually intend for you to use green cardamom, named for the green pods that encase the seeds.  Some producers bleach the green hulls to a pale tan, but this makes them less aromatic.  Brown cardamom is a similar spice that Indians use in savory dishes.  Equivalents:  One pod yields 1/6 teaspoon cardamom.   Substitutes:  brown cardamom OR equal parts ground nutmeg and cinnamon OR equal parts ground cloves and cinnamon OR nutmeg OR cinnamon

cardamon  See cardamom



cassia cinnamon = cassia = Chinese cinnamon = Chinese cassia = false cinnamon   Notes:   Most of the cinnamon that's sold in America is cassia, which is cheaper and more bitter than the choice Ceylon cinnamon.  Substitutes:  cinnamon OR nutmeg OR allspice


cinnamon   Equivalents:    One cinnamon stick yields 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.    Notes:   With its warm, sweet flavor, cinnamon is one of the biggest workhorses on the spice shelf.  Cooks often use it to flavor baked goods and drinks, but cinnamon also works wonders in stews and sauces.  The best cinnamon is Ceylon cinnamon = canela = Sri Lanka cinnamon = true cinnamonIndonesian cinnamon has a similar taste, but larger quills.  Much of the cinnamon sold in the United States is cassia cinnamon, which isn't as well regarded.   Substitutes:   nutmeg OR allspice

clove pepper  See allspice

clove  Notes:   Cloves are nail-shaped dried flower buds that have a sweet, penetrating flavor.  They can be ground and used to flavor baked goods or sauces, or left whole and poked into roasted hams or pork.  Use cloves sparingly--a little goes a long way.   Substitutes:  allspice (as a substitute for ground cloves)

comino  See cumin

coriander seeds  Pronunciation:   CORE-ee-an-dehr  Notes: Coriander seeds are a common ingredient in the cuisines of India, the Middle East, Latin America, North Africa, and Southeast Asia.  The popular herb cilantro comes from the same plant, but it's not a good substitute for the seeds.  You can buy the seeds already ground, but for better flavor and shelf life, buy coriander seeds and grind them yourself.  To enhance the flavor, toast the seeds in a pan for a few minutes first.   Substitutes:  caraway seeds OR cumin


cumin = comino = cummin = jeera    Pronunciation:  KUH-min or KYOO-min or KOO-min  Equivalents:   1 oz. = 4 tablespoons ground = 4 1/2 tablespoons whole seed.  Notes:  Cumin is a key ingredient in Southwestern chili recipes, but it's also widely used in Latin America, North Africa, and India. Freshly roasted and ground cumin seeds are far superior to packaged ground cumin.   Substitutes:   caraway seeds (use half as much) OR black cumin seeds (smaller and sweeter) OR caraway seeds + anise seeds OR chili powder

cummin  See cumin

dill seed = dillseed   Notes:  Dill seed tastes like dill leaves, but it's much stronger.  It's a common ingredient in pickles, dips, and potato salad.   Substitutes:  dill leaves OR caraway seed OR celery seed

fennel seed = fennel = sweet cumin   Pronunciation:  FEN-uhl Notes:   This is similar to anise seed, but sweeter and milder.  It pairs well with fish, but Italians also like to add it to sauces, meat balls,  and sausages.   Both the seeds and the stalks from the plant are sometimes called fennel.  If a recipe calls for a large amount, it probably intends for you to use the stalks.   Substitutes:  anise seed OR cumin OR caraway seeds OR dill 

green cardamom  See cardamom.

green pepper= green peppercorns    See pepper.  

Jamaica pepper  See allspice

jeera  See cumin.

lovage seed   Substitutes: celery seed

mace   Notes:   This is the lacy wrapping that covers nutmeg when it's plucked from the tree.  Its flavor is similar to nutmeg, but slightly more bitter.  It's usually sold already ground, but you can sometimes find blades of mace that you can grind yourself.   Substitutes:  nutmeg (sweeter and milder than mace) OR allspice OR pumpkin pie spice OR cinnamon OR ginger


mustard seeds  Notes:  Mustard seeds have a hot, pungent flavor.  Yellow mustard seeds are the ones you'll most likely find in American and European kitchens.  They're often ground and made into prepared mustard or added to stews and sauces to give them some zip.  Indian cooks usually prefer the smaller and more pungent brown mustard seeds or black mustard seeds.  When recipes call simply for mustard, they may be referring to prepared mustard, the condiment we like to put on hot dogs.  When crushed, mustard seeds are very pungent, but Indian cooks fry them in oil, which makes them sweet and mild.  Substitutes:  wasabi powder OR horseradish

myrtle pepper  See allspice

newspice  See allspice.

pepper   See separate web page for pepper.  

pimento  See allspice

pimiento  See allspice

pink peppercorns    See pepper.

poppy seeds  Pronunciation:   POP-ee  Equivalents:  One cup ground poppy seeds = 2 ounces.  Notes:   These tiny, nutty seeds are typically used in baked goods, but some cuisines also use them in savory dishes.  Europeans prefer black poppy seeds, while Indians prefer white, but the two kinds can be substituted for one another.  Since poppy seeds are high in fat, they tend to go rancid quickly, so buy small amounts and store them in the refrigerator.  Consuming poppy seeds can result in a false positive on a drug test.   Substitutes:  sesame seeds


saffron  Equivalents:   1 teaspoon threads = 1/8 teaspoon powder  Notes:   To make a pound of saffron, over two hundred thousand stigmas from crocus sativus flowers must be harvested by hand.  That's why saffron is the world's most expensive spice, and also why so there are so many fakes on the market.  Fortunately, a little of the good stuff goes a long way--it only takes a few threads to add saffron's distinct yellow color and earthy aroma to a family meal of paella or bouillabaisse.  You can buy saffron either as as unprocessed stigmas (called saffron threads) or powdered.  The threads should be red with orange tips.  Threads lacking orange tips may be dyed, so avoid them.  The quality of powdered saffron is measured by its Minimum Coloring Strength.  The higher the Minimum Coloring Strength, the less saffron you need to use.  A typical level is 180, and a level of 220 or higher is quite good.   Some cooks prefer the threads to the powder, since it's hard to detect if the powder has been adulterated.  Powdered saffron, though, is easier to use, since it can be added directly to a dish, while the threads need to be steeped in hot water first.    Substitutes:  turmeric (for color, not flavor; use 4 times as much) OR safflower (use 8 times as much; less expensive and imparts similar color, but taste is decidedly inferior) OR marigold blossoms (for color, not flavor; use twice as much) OR annatto seeds (Steep 1 teaspoon annatto seeds in 1/4 cup of boiling water for 30 minutes, discard seeds. Reduce liquid in recipe by 1/4 cup.) OR red and yellow food coloring  


sesame seed = benne seed = goma   Notes:   These nutritious seeds have a mild, nutty flavor.  They're commonly used in baked goods, Asian stir-fries, and Middle-Eastern candies.  European recipes for sesame seeds are usually referring to white sesame seeds, but Indian and Asian recipes sometimes intend for you to use the more pungent black sesame seeds.   Substitutes:  pumpkin seeds

sweet cumin  See fennel seed.

toute-epice  See allspice

ground turmeric = powdered turmeric = Indian saffron = eastern saffron.  Pronunciation:  TURR-mer-ick   Notes:   Turmeric has a pleasant enough flavor, but it's prized more for the brilliant yellow color it imparts to whatever it's cooked with.  It's a standard ingredient in curry powders, pickles, and prepared mustards.  Be careful--turmeric can stain your clothes.  Substitutes:  turmeric (1 piece fresh turmeric = 1 teaspoon ground turmeric) OR mustard powder OR mustard powder + pinch of saffron 


vanilla bean = vanilla pod  Notes:   Vanilla is used to flavor everything from baked goods to ice cream.  Most recipes call for vanilla extract, but some argue that vanilla beans lend a more potent flavor.  Select beans that are shiny, moist, and pliable--dried out beans aren't nearly as potent.  If a recipe calls for just for the seeds, split the bean open and scrape the seeds out, and save the outer pod to flavor sugar or hot drinks.  Substitutes:  vanilla extract (One inch of vanilla bean = 1 teaspoon extract)


white pepper = white peppercorns    See pepper.

yellow mustard seeds = white mustard seeds  Notes:   Whole mustard seeds are most commonly used to make pickles or relish.  Most cooks prefer their mustard either ground, called ground mustard = dry mustard = mustard powder, or ready-made as a condiment, called prepared mustard.    Substitutes:  powdered mustard OR brown mustard seeds OR black mustard seeds


Copyright 1996-2005  Lori Alden