Allspice is aptly named because its flavor brings to mind a blend of other warm baking spices. It’s no wonder that most people naturally assume it is a kind of spice blend, like Chinese 5-spice powder or pumpkin pie spice. You can even find “recipes” for allspice, usually featuring a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and black pepper.
But while those combinations may approximate the flavor, they are no true substitute for the allspice berry, the small dried berries of Pimenta dioica, a species of evergreen tree native to the Caribbean and Central America. Resembling peppercorns, they have an aroma so pleasing and intense that it’s a favorite of the perfume industry. Allspice also has a rich history in folk medicine and many of its traditional uses are being supported by modern research.
What Are the Health Benefits of Allspice?
In Jamaica, where the spice is thought to have originated, allspice tea is commonly administered for colds, menstrual cramps and upset stomach. One of the key compounds in allspice is quercetin, a potent antioxidant that’s also found in onions and garlic and is known to have antiviral and anti-inflammatory benefits. Allspice is rife with healthful compounds and makes a great addition to a nutritious diet in moderate amounts.
How To Use Allspice in the Kitchen
Allspice can be purchased in most supermarkets either in its whole form (the small, hard dried berries) or pre-ground as a reddish-brown powder. Buying whole berries tends to be more versatile, as you can add them to soups, stews, sauces, pickling liquids and brines, as well as grind them yourself for baking mixes and other dishes. A mortar and pestle or coffee or spice grinder will do the job, giving you a fresher, more aromatic flavor, especially if you toast the berries in a hot pan first.
Allspice goes well in just about any dish where you’d use other warm baking spices, savory or sweet, from cake to oatmeal. It’s a great way to tamp down the sugar in a recipe and may potentially even help manage blood sugar levels.
As versatile as allspice is, it has two main culinary claims to fame, and both harken back to its Caribbean heritage: jerk seasoning and tiki drinks. The former is a fiery spice blend used as a rub for grilled meats, for which allspice adds its authentic aromatics. The latter is a bit more subtle: Allspice dram, a liqueur made from white rum, allspice berries and a brown sugar simple syrup. The result is the signature ingredient in many tiki drinks (and other cocktails) that adds complexity, warmth and balances the sweetness of rum. However you use it, allspice adds an extra element to recipes that you may not have known you were missing until you try it. Here are two ways to start.
Yields around 3 cups
Elevate your cocktail game with this simple liqueur. The hardest part of the recipe is waiting!
3 tablespoons allspice berries
1/2 cinnamon stick
¾ cup white or light rum
1 cup demerara or brown sugar
1 cup water
- Gently crush the allspice berries using a mortar and pestle or coffee or spice grinder. You want a coarse grind, not powder.
- Add crushed allspice to a pan over medium-high heat and toast, stirring, until they are aromatic. Remove from heat and cool.
- In a glass jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid, combine allspice, cinnamon stick, and rum. Seal and store in a dark cool spot for a week, shaking or stirring daily.
- Using a coffee filter, strain the mixture and discard cinnamon stick and allspice berry pieces. Reserve the infused rum.
- In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from the heat and cool before adding to infused rum. Seal and let rest at least three more days before using.
Apple-Allspice Baked Oatmeal
Yields 2 servings
Oatmeal is a super-healthy way to start your day, but when you’re bored of the same old bowl, try baking it. Doing so makes it easy to add in spices and nuts — and served with a dollop of Greek yogurt, you’re also getting some protein. Not bad for something that tastes this much like dessert. These are also great to make ahead and reheat.
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, lightly toasted, divided
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp ground allspice
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large egg
½ cup oat milk or other milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, cooled
½ apple, diced (I used Honeycrisp)
Greek yogurt (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray two 5-inch ramekins with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, combine oats, nuts, baking powder, allspice, salt, and brown sugar and mix well.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla, and coconut oil.
- Divide the apple pieces between the two ramekins, keeping in a single layer. Sprinkle half the oat mixture over top of each, then pour half the egg mixture over top of each.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve warm, with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.