What Is Mace?
Hearing mace most likely brings two things to mind: Tear gas and nutmeg. Let’s go ahead and get the first one out of the way—mace the spice has nothing to do with mace the defensive spray. As for the other, it’s completely understandable if you’ve ever confused mace and nutmeg, given that they come from the same plant and share flavor notes.
So, What’s Mace?
Both mace and nutmeg come from plants belonging to the genus Myristica. While nutmeg is the plant’s seeds, mace is found in the arils, or membrane that surrounds the seed. Before it’s harvested, mace is bright red, but once that membrane is removed and dried, it becomes a yellow-orange color, according to The Food Lover’s Companion.
In terms of taste, mace is like a more pronounced nutmeg. It’s pungent, but at the same time, it’s sweeter, and carries cinnamon notes. You can find it ground or whole, in “blades,” which are far more flavorful. Like nutmeg, mace is a multitasker, and can work in an array of sweet and savory dishes, ranging from cobblers and pies to soups and rice dishes. It’s often included in the spice blend garam masala and is a key flavoring element in Indian cuisine.
Can I Substitute Nutmeg for Mace?
Mace isn’t as popular or as commonly called for in recipes as it once was, making it harder to find and pricier than other more quintessential spices. You can definitely substitute nutmeg for mace (or mace for nutmeg) in a one-for-one ratio, but your dish’s flavor won’t come out exactly the same since the spices don’t have identical tastes. You can also use ground allspice as a substitute for ground mace.
Like its relative, nutmeg, mace is often used to add complexity to desserts or ground savory dishes. It pairs especially well with chocolate and cherries, but it’s also good with apples, cruciferous vegetables, grains, and meat dishes. Try adding it to a pumpkin or apple pie, or mixing it into cookies that also contain molasses, like the viral murder cookies.