Spice Substitutes to Save Your Recipes in a Pinch

Whether you're making an emergency substitution or simply experimenting with new flavors, follow our spice substitute suggestions. It'll save you a trip to the store while still adding flavor to your recipe.

It's a major bummer when you're midway through making a pot of chili or whipping up a pumpkin spice cake only to realize you don't have all the spices on hand to finish the job. Before you head to the store, there's probably a chili powder substitute and an allspice substitute already in your pantry. Using these spice substitutes will allow you to finish the recipe while still providing it with a similar, super tasty result. So next time you're in a pinch, use this spice alternative guide to find a good swap for warm spices, herbs, and spice blends.

herbs and spices
Kritsada Panichgul

Spice Substitutes

When changing up spices and herbs, start with half the amount the recipe calls for (unless directed otherwise), and add it until it suits your taste. So if you're looking for a quick cinnamon substitute, you should only use ½ tsp. of allspice or nutmeg instead of 1 tsp. to start since they are stronger in flavor.

Allspice: ground cinnamon, dash ground nutmeg, or dash ground cloves

Anise seed: fennel seed or a few drops anise extract

Apple pie spice: Get our tips on what's in apple pie spice and how to make it.

Cajun seasoning: for 1 tsp., substitute ½ tsp. white pepper plus ½ tsp. garlic powder, ½ tsp. onion powder, ½ tsp. cayenne pepper, ½ tsp. paprika, and ½ tsp. black pepper

Cardamom: ground ginger

Cinnamon: nutmeg or allspice (use only ¼ of the amount)

Chili powder: dash bottled hot pepper sauce plus a combination of dried oregano and ground cumin

Cloves: allspice, cinnamon, or nutmeg

Cream of Tartar: for ½ tsp. of cream of tartar, substitute 1 tsp. lemon juice or white vinegar.

Cumin: chili powder

Curry powder: Mix ground turmeric, ground ginger, ground black pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin, and chili powder.

Fajita seasoning: for 1 tsp. fajita seasoning, substitute 1½ tsp. ground cumin plus ½ tsp. dried oregano, crushed; ¼ tsp. salt; ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper; ¼ tsp. black pepper; ⅛ tsp. garlic powder; and ⅛ tsp. onion powder

Garlic powder: 1 clove fresh garlic or ½ tsp. bottled minced garlic

Ginger, ground: ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground mace, or ground nutmeg. (Get more ideas for ginger substitutes.)

Ginger, fresh: for 1 tsp., substitute ¼ tsp. ground ginger

Italian seasoning: blend of any of these: basil, oregano, rosemary, and ground red pepper

Mace, ground: ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, or ground nutmeg

Marjoram: basil; thyme; or savory

Mustard, dry: for 1 tsp., substitute 1 Tbsp. prepared yellow mustard (for use in cooked mixtures)

Nutmeg, ground: ground cinnamon, ground ginger, or ground mace

Oregano: thyme or basil

Poultry seasoning: For 1 Tbsp., substitute 1 tsp. dried sage, crushed plus 1 tsp. dried thyme, crushed; 1 tsp. dried marjoram, crushed; ½ tsp. dried rosemary crushed; and a pinch each black pepper and celery salt

Pumpkin pie spice: For 1 tsp., substitute ½ tsp. ground cinnamon plus ¼ tsp. ground ginger, ¼ tsp. ground allspice, and ⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg.

Red pepper: dash bottled hot pepper sauce or black pepper

Rosemary: thyme; tarragon; or savory

Saffron, ground: dash ground turmeric (for color)

Sage: poultry seasoning; savory; marjoram; or rosemary

Savory: thyme; marjoram; or sage

Seasoning salt: equal amount of snipped fresh herbs or equal amount of salt-free seasoning blend

Tarragon: chervil; dash fennel seed; or dash aniseed

Thai seasoning: For 1 tablespoon, mix 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1 tsp. crushed red pepper, ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. ground ginger, ¼ tsp. garlic powder, and ¼ tsp. onion powder.

Thyme: basil; marjoram; oregano; or savory

Is your ingredient missing from the list? Hop over to our herb substitutes page and spice blends page to check for your substitution there.

Basic Spice Information

Here are a few more tips from our Test Kitchen regarding selecting, storing, and purchasing spices.

Selecting Spices

To guarantee that you are using fresh spices, you should buy them in small quantities and date them. Replace old spices once a year. You can tell if a spice is fresh by its color and aroma. When fresh, most spices have a bright color and a strong aroma when you open the container. If either the color or the aroma seems weak, replace the spice.

Storing Spices

Your spices will keep their flavor longer if stored in a cool, dry place. Keep in an air-tight container. Avoid storing in racks or cabinets over the range where they'll be exposed to heat and humidity. Whole spices stay fresh for up to 2 years, and ground spices for about 6 months.

Purchasing Spices

You may prefer to replace all of your ground spices once a year. Due to supermarket sales for holiday baking, November and December are excellent times to replace spices.

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