ground mace: uses & substitutes

ground mace
Ground mace or powdered mace is a yellowish-brown spice from the apricot-colored aril of the nutmeg seed. It has a similar flavor to its sister spice, the nutmeg, and gives desserts, stews, and other savory dishes that sweet and warm taste.

What is ground mace?

Ground mace
Ground mace

Ground mace is an aromatic and versatile spice made from the dried lacy covering or aril that hugs the nutmeg kernel.

Ground mace delivers nutmeg-like flavors and pairs well with other spices such as ground clove, cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon to liven up soups, stews, curries, puddings, pumpkin pie, and other savory dishes.

OriginNative to the Spice Islands of Indonesia
AppearanceA fine-textured powder from the dried aril of the nutmeg seed
Flavor profileSweet, spicy warm flavors similar to nutmeg

Origin

Mace spice comes from the same tropical tree, Myristica fragrans which also gives you the well-loved nutmeg spice. While the nutmeg comes from the fruit’s seed, mace comes from the web-like and leathery coating of the nutmeg seed.

The evergreen tree Myristica fragrans is native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia, but just like black pepper and other spice blends, mace has been around for centuries. Ground mace is common in recipes from Asia, America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East.

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Appearance

Ground mace is a fine-textured powder from the dried aril of the nutmeg seed. The color of this spice may range from light yellow, golden, or reddish-brown, depending on its origin and processing. 

Ground mace from Indonesia or India comes with a bright yellow tint. Meanwhile, those sourced from Africa or Sri Lanka tend to have a reddish-brown shade.

Flavor profile

Ground mace injects sweet, spicy warm flavors that remind you of nutmeg. It may also provide some citric and floral notes to give the dish additional depth.

However, its sweetness may have a dose of slight bitterness in the end. That’s why chefs and cooks temper its flavor with some sugar or other spice blends. 

While all mace varieties come packed with rich flavors and aromas, the intensity of flavors may vary depending on where it is from. For example, the ground mace from Indonesia has a stronger aroma than the variant from India.

Nutritional Benefits of ground mace

Ground mace may help people with urinary incontinence, gingivitis, diarrhea, and menstrual cramps. Experts say it may also help relieve pain, stomach problems, and vomiting.

However, note that more evidence is needed to establish the effectiveness of the spice for these uses.

Can mace be toxic?

When consumed in high quantities, ground mace may cause hallucinations and other mental side effects.

This is primarily attributed to myristicin, a naturally occurring chemical that may also trigger dizziness, agitation, and dry mouth, among other neurological symptoms.

What is the difference between ground mace and nutmeg?

Ground maceComes from the nutmeg tree, ground mace is from the net-like sheath surrounding the hard seed, has a more delicate flavor profile
NutmegComes from the nutmeg tree, has a a more robust, nutty, warm flavor

Ground mace and ground nutmeg come from the nutmeg tree. The ground mace is from the net-like sheath surrounding the hard seed of its fruit, from which ground nutmeg comes.

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Ground mace offers a more delicate flavor profile that renders dishes delicate with sweet, citrusy, floral, and peppery notes. On the other hand, nutmeg gives food a more robust, nutty, warm flavor with a hint of sweetness and clove-like flavors.

It is best to add ground mace to your dishes at the start of the cooking process to ensure its full flavor will come out.

What is the best way to use ground mace?

Ground mace is a versatile spice with a long shelf life that’s a great addition to your spice rack. Use mace to flavor:

  • Bread
  • Donuts
  • Pound cakes
  • Pumpkin pies

It’s also perfect for giving your custards, soups, stews, and other savory dishes that extra dimension of flavor. Likewise, you can use it when making sauces, ketchup, or pickling.

What is the closest substitute for a ground mace?

You can use ground mace instead of ground nutmeg and vice versa, following a 1:1 ratio. Mace is often the top choice if ground nutmeg, which has a darker color, may ruin the appearance of a dish.

It can also work in omelets, clear broths, mashed potatoes, and light-colored sauces. Ground mace is also a good substitute for ground allspice.

Randell

Randell loves experimenting in the kitchen (with his family and friends as willing victims). He sees cooking as a great adventure. To enjoy that, he believes this is the recipe: a tad of creativity, a dash of courage, a pinch of humility, and a ton of love.

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