It's actually not a combination of all spices. 
Credit: Photo: marianna armata/Getty

There are some spices the average person can trace exactly to the source. For example, I think most people can say they've sprinkled ground cinnamon into mashed sweet potatoes, or used a whole cinnamon stick to mix hot apple cider. Other spices like turmeric, garlic, and ginger are all roots you can find fresh at the supermarket. But, what's the deal with allspice? Is it literally a blend of all spices in one compact, delicious container? 

Allspice originates from the evergreen pimento tree, native to the West Indies and South America. The pea-sized berry grows alongside the pimento pepper we know and love, and is dried into a dark brown bulb and sold whole or ground. Allspice can be used in both sweet and savory dishes and has a flavor profile similar to a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. This complex flavor profile is what sparked the name "allspice". 

When cooking with allspice, keep in mind that a little goes a very long way, so you usually only need 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon. Allspice pairs well in dishes with other warm spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin, and is often used with fall ingredients like sweet potatoes, squash, and apples. If you don’t have allspice on hand, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of allspice for 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, and a pinch of ground nutmeg. 

How to use allspice in some of our favorite recipes:

    All information on allspice in this article is provided by The New Food Lover's Companion 4th Edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst unless otherwise noted.