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What Is Allspice?

Allspice is a single spice, not a blend or mix. It can be purchased as whole berries or as a ground spice. Allspice is not like “everything bagel” seasoning, where it’s a bunch of seasonings rolled into one.

It is, in fact, the name for one happy little dried, whole berry that can be used as is, or ground up. 

Allspice is one of those seasonings that always seems to be rolled into the idea of fall cooking and baking. 

It’s front and center, though in Caribbean cuisine, and if you’re making jerk chicken, you’re using those peppery, whole allspice berries. 

Imbuing dishes with warmth and depth of flavor, count on this little “pepper” berry with an interesting history.

What is allspice?

Contents

Considered a staple in the Caribbean and Middle Eastern cuisines, allspice is a popular spice made from dried brown berries of Pimenta dioica, an evergreen tree from the Myrtle family. 

The allspice tree grows seven to ten meters tall with a bole that reaches up to 30 centimeters in diameter. 

It’s native to the West Indies and Central America but now spreads throughout tropical regions of the world. 

The berries are harvested before they mature, fermented, and then undergo a drying process (either sun or machine method), eventually giving the berries a reddish-brown hue.

The aromatic spice was first mentioned by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World and he mistakenly thought it was a type of pepper as the ingredient resembles its look.  

When he returned to Spain, Diego Álvarez Chanca named it “pimienta,” which translates to pepper in Spanish. 

Allspice gets its name from the idea that the flavor profile of the dried berries resembles a blend of several spices such as black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. 

It’s also dubbed as Jamaican pepper, pimento, Jamaica pimento, or myrtle pepper.

Due to its distinct flavor and texture, allspice is often used in sweet and savory dishes such as apple pie, spice cakes, gingerbread cookies, spiced apple cider, mulled wine, curries, Jamaican jerk chicken, and Swedish meatballs.

The ground spices are even used to create spice blends like pumpkin pie spice and Jamaican jerk seasoning.

What does allspice taste like?

The flavor of allspice features a flavor profile similar to a mixture of spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper—this is where allspice gets its name. 

It also has warm floral notes with a nice, peppery bite. 

This super versatile “fall flavor”  spice works well with bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, paprika, turmeric, mustard seed, and juniper. 

How is allspice used?

Allspice is a versatile spice that can be used in savory and sweet dishes. It’s either used as whole or in ground form.

Whole allspice berries are often used in vegetables, pickled fish, fruit pickles, and meat-based dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken and Swedish meatballs.

You can utilize your ground allspice by including them in pumpkin desserts like pumpkin pie and muffins or turning the seasonings into a blend of spices such as pumpkin pie spice and Jamaican jerk seasoning.

Ground vs whole

As mentioned, you can use the spice as whole or ground. 

Keep in mind that ground allspice loses its potency as time passes, so that’s why it’s advisable to buy whole spices and grind them as you need them in your recipes. 

Also, you need to keep your spices in a cool, dark place, preferably away from direct sunlight. Store spices in an airtight container to avoid any moisture and it works fine!

Ground allspice can be used in your sweet treats like puddings, cookies, and spice cakes while you can use allspice (whole version) in stews, soups, fruit pickles, and meat dishes. 

We like allspice in this frosting recipe that has a nice balance of cream cheese and warm pepper notes. With just ¾ teaspoon of ground allspice, It goes great on almost any boxed cake mix!

Tips on storing allspice

Your allspice will lose its flavor and shorten its shelf life if exposed to heat and light. So to avoid this, be sure to follow these essential storage tips on the spice.

  1. Store the spice in an airtight container, preferably made of glass. 
  2. Keep them in a cool, dark place like the spice cupboard in your kitchen. 
  3. Make sure to keep your spice away from any moisture. (Don’t reach into the jar with wet fingers, for example.)
  4. It’s best to store in glass containers because plastic and metal containers may transfer their smell to the spice (and vice versa). 
  5. If your kitchen is humid, use silica packets to help absorb moisture.

The bottom line

We love allspice as part of a “fall flavors” profile. We’ve used it in aged eggnog, mulled cider, cakes, cookies, and more. 

While it is not a blend, it certainly is versatile all by itself. What have you made with allspice lately?

Have you run out of allspice? Here’s our list of allspice substitutes that can help you make it through most recipes!

Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting

Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: Frosts one 2-layer cake
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Use this Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting for a yummy pop of flavor on almost any flavor box cake mix!

Ingredients

  • 4 oz of cream cheese, softened
  • ½ c butter, softened
  • ¾ t ground allspice
  • ¼ t table salt
  • 3.5 c confectioners' sugar
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 T milk

Instructions

  1. Bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature (do not soften or melt in the microwave).
  2. Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Add allspice, salt, cream cheese and butter to a medium bowl. Blend until smooth.
  4. Gradually add the sifted powdered sugar to the bowl with cream cheese. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
  5. Add vanilla and milk and continue blending until smooth.
  6. Frost cake only after it’s fully cooled.

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