Pimento Spice (Allspice): Uses & Recipes

Pimento spice
Pimento (Jamaican or myrtle pepper) is a staple in Caribbean, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is common in dishes such as mole or Jamaican jerk chicken. Also known as allspice, pimento is an evergreen tropical tree's dried, unripe brown berry that injects flavors similar to the combination of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper.

What is pimento spice?

Pimento
Pimento

Pimento, or Jamaican allspice, is a spice that is a berry. The brown pimento berries come from the evergreen tropical bush Pimenta dioica, which is closely related to cloves and native to the West Indies and Central America.

OriginGrown in most regions in Central and South America
AppearanceReddish-brown berries
Flavor profileWarm, woody, fresh

Origin

Christopher Columbus brought Pimento (allspice) to Europe during the 17th century.

The resemblance of the Jamaica pepper to peppercorns initially disappointed traders who were hoping to find a new route to import the much-beloved spice. 

Pimento is grown in most regions in Central and South America, but the best allspice is said to come from Jamaica, where it acts as jerk seasoning.

Appearance

The berries of the warm spice are harvested while they are still unripe and olive green in color.

The whole allspice berries are then dried and packed, where they turn reddish-brown, the color that the spice is more commonly known for. The pimento berries are slightly bigger than peppercorns.

See Also:  meet the vibrant Sichuan peppercorn powder

Flavor profile

The taste of pimento or allspice is warm, primarily because of the compound eugenol, also found in cloves. The hints of woody flavor are due to the caryophyllene. The fresh notes are from cineole.

Experts describe the flavor of Jamaica pepper as a combo of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper, for which pimento can be a good substitute.

Nutritional Benefits of pimento spice

Experts are looking into pimento’s antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins as a potential treatment for nausea, inflammation, pain, menopause symptoms, and possibly cancer.

Some studies also look into how allspice may help manage weight and lower blood sugar levels.

Why is allspice called pimento?

Allspice
Allspice

The crew of Christopher Columbus initially called the spice “pimenta,” which is the Spanish for pepper. The name allspice was only used by Europeans later on after taking note of the warm flavor that seemed to combine the flavor profiles of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and black pepper.

This is also the reason for pimento’s botanical name and some of its common names across the globe.

What is pimento seasoning used for?

Pimento is a versatile spice that you can use for various cooking techniques, dishes, and favorite recipes. 

You can combine pimento with other spices when pickling fish or vegetables. Allspice can also be used as a marinade or rubbed on meats such as chicken in combination with:

  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Sugar
  • Paprika
  • Thyme
  • Black pepper

Ground allspice is perfect for pumpkin desserts, apple pie, gingerbread, or warming beverages served during winter.

Whole Allspice vs. Ground Allspice

Whole and ground allspice
Whole and ground allspice

Pimento is often in stock as whole allspice or ground allspice at your favorite grocery stores or online retailers. The gluten-free, non-GMO allspice gives the strongest flavors when you grind them before use.

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You can also buy whole allspice and prepare small batches using a spice grinder or your mortar and pestle. Just like other spices, pimento can lose its flavor more quickly when ground, which is why the sale price of pre-ground allspice is lower than dried berries.

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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