Learn About Cloves

Author: Chef Sydney

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What are Cloves?

Cloves are a tree-grown spice originating from Indonesia but are now grown around the world.  They come from the flower buds of the clove tree.  Fresh cloves are dark reddish-brown, bulb-shaped, with a long tube at one end of the bulb.  After they are picked from the flowers, cloves are dried.  They are sold as whole cloves, which will have to be ground by hand or used whole, or as ground cloves.  Cloves have a warm, spicy smell.

What Do Cloves Taste Like?

Cloves have a strong, warm, somewhat spicy taste.  Because of its strong flavor, smaller amounts of cloves are used in recipes.  Cloves have a similar, but stronger taste than nutmeg. Ground cloves usually lose their flavor faster than freshly ground cloves.

Learn About Cloves
Whole cloves tumbling out of a spice jar and onto a spoon.

How Do You Eat Cloves?

Cloves can be used whole or ground.  The spice is used in sweet and savory dishes.  Cloves are a key spice in pumpkin pie spice blends, five-spice, and eggnog.  Clove works well with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.  Cookies, poaching liquid, and cakes use cloves.  Cloves pair with glazes on hams, flavor chicken and curry dishes, and even work in pasta dishes.  Cloves are brewed into tea, thickened into syrup, and simmered into ciders.  They enhance the flavor of otherwise milder dishes, such as banana smoothies, madeleines, and vanilla cakes.

Where Can You Buy Cloves?

Find whole and ground cloves in the spice aisle of the grocery store year-round.

How Do You Store Cloves?

Store whole and ground cloves in a sealed airtight container, such as their original spice jar, in a cool, dry place.

Fun Facts About Cloves

Clove oil is sometimes used for some minor medical purposes.  Cloves are sometimes refined into a mouthwash to help kill bacteria growing in the mouth.

Did You Know?

Cloves grow on an evergreen tree.

Recipes Using Cloves

Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

Make your own pumpkin spice at home. Combine ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Store in an airtight container.

Spiced Simple Syrup

Create a syrup to use for desserts, teas, and topped over pancakes. Boil water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, and whole cloves in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup thickens. Pour liquid through a sieve to remove the cinnamon and cloves.

Spice Cake

Spice cakes taste warm and delicious. Mix together cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, brown sugar, and flour. Stir in milk, eggs, and molasses. Transfer cake batter to cake pans and bake until fully cooked. Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Chinese Five-Spice Blend

Make your own flavorful Chinese five-spice mix. Combine star anise, ground cloves, fennel, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Store in an airtight container.

Spiced White Hot Chocolate

Add more warmth and flavor to your white hot chocolate. Prepare white hot chocolate as normal, but add whole cloves and cardamom pods. Separate the cloves and cardamom from the mixture before pouring into mugs. Serve with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick.


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