Clove as a spice

Cloves as a spice in cooking

What is Clove?

Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum. They are native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, and are commonly used as a spice. They are also grown in India and Madagascar.

Clove flower buds are harvested in their immature state and then dried to be used as a spice. They are available whole and in the ground form to be used as a spice in cooking.

In a essential oil form they are used widely in aromatherapy for stress relief and traditional non- western medicine.

Cloves as a spice

What do cloves taste like?

Cloves are a pungent warm spice with an intense flavor and aroma. The eugenol in the clove is responsible for its flavor.When you taste them, they have a sweet, astringent (creates dryness in the mouth) and bitter taste with a noticeable amount of heat.

The spices used in Indian cooking like cinnamon, star anise & nutmeg also generate heat, but tepid when you compare it with cloves. Hence it is wise to use less cloves in a recipe.

How do you use cloves in a recipe?

  • Whole and ground cloves are used in flavoring soups, meat curries and festive rice dishes in Indian cooking.It is one of the basic ingredients in garam masala.
  • Ground cloves feature in a number of desserts around the holidays , especially during fall and winter. Pumpkin spice is a hot favorite in the Fall season, that uses ground cloves. During the winter holidays, it is paired with nutmeg in egg-nog and also used in drinks like mulled wine, cider and chai/tea. Ground cloves are also used in cakes and biscuits where you want the flavor of cloves to be subtle without being overpowering.

Clove’s aromatic flavor adds a spicy warmth to both sweet and savory dishes. However, it should be used sparingly, as its potent flavor can overwhelm a dish.

  Depending on what recipe, one plans to use them in, it is best to grind whole cloves when needed. The flavor and the potency of the spice remain when they are freshly ground instead of buying store bought ones, which have been sitting in the spice aisle for long.

One can use a spice grinder, a coffee grinder or simple mortar and pestle to grind cloves. Remember to clean the grinder well after use, since the aroma of the spice is strong and will linger.


Cloves and all other spices are best stored in an airtight container, preferably in a cool and dark place. The Indian Spice Dabba is a perfect fit for all kinds of spices used in Indian cooking.

Whole cloves will retain their potency longer than the ground spice, remaining fresh for about a year compared to three months for the ground spice.

Health Benefits of Cloves

  • Manganese is a mineral that, along with calcium, is key for bone formation and density.Its packed with the essential bone-building nutrient manganese. Just one teaspoon of clove contains over 50% of the daily adequate intake levels recommended by the FDA.
  • Play an important role in enzyme activation, which supports the metabolism, wound healing, and neurotransmitter production.
  • Has been effectively used for toothaches.Eugenol, a compound specific to clove, is a potent analgesic. 
  • Rich source of anti-oxidants.
  • As an essential it used in aromatherapy for stress relief.
  • Indian Ayurveda and Chinese medicine use it as a warm stimulant in their potions.

I hope this post on Cloves, the spice used in Indian cooking was helpful to you in getting to know more about using them in a recipe. Now that you understand how they taste like and how much to add in a recipe, I really hope you incorporate them in your cooking. They come with so many health benefits !

Have you tried using cloves in your recipes?

Do you use them whole or in a a ground form?

What are some of the recipes you have used them in ?

Share below in the comments section, would love to hear them.

Comments are closed.