How to turn whole cloves to ground?

whole cloves to ground
To turn whole cloves into ground cloves, you can use a spice grinder, a mortar and pestle, or a coffee grinder. First, remove any stems or debris from the cloves, then grind them into a fine powder. Ground cloves have a more concentrated flavor than whole cloves, so you may use less in your recipes.

Why would you ground cloves?

Whole cloves
Whole cloves

Both ground and whole cloves are an absolute misty on your spice rack. They have an intense flavor and numerous health benefits.

Essentially, whole cloves are the dried flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum plant – an evergreen tree found in Indonesia (especially in the Spice Islands) and Madagascar.

Ground cloves are often used in cooking and baking to flavor dishes, particularly sweet dishes, savory Indian recipes, and garam masala. Grinding cloves releases their essential oils, making their flavor more intense and evenly distributed throughout the dish.

Turning whole cloves to ground – the process

You can grind this warm spice using different methods:

  • A mortar and pestle to crush the cloves into smaller pieces until they are finely ground

If a grinder is not available:

  • Use the back of a spoon to crush the cloves with 
  • Use a coffee mug 
  • Put the cloves in a bag and use a rolling pin to crush them
  • Cut the cloves by using a knife (not recommended because it’s time-consuming)
  • Use a coffee grinder – an excellent option as it is much easier. Just add the cloves and give them a whirl.
  • You can use a blender or food processor to grind whole cloves.
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Remember that grinding the cloves in small batches ensures they don’t lose flavor. You can also soak the cloves in water if they are too dry.

When to use whole cloves?

Use whole cloves when you want a strong and distinct flavor. They are common in slow-cooked dishes like stews, soups, and curries. You can also use whole cloves in marinades and spice blends. Some recipes that use entire cloves include:

Mulled cider or wineWhole cloves are often used in mulled drinks to add a warm and spicy flavor. Add them to apple cider, red wine, or fruit juice.
Baked hamWhole cloves act as a decoration for baked ham. Insert them into the ham in a decorative pattern for a sweet and spicy flavor to the meat.
Rice puddingWhole cloves can also flavor rice pudding. They are added to the milk or cream mixture while simmering and removed before serving.

When to use ground cloves?

Ground cloves are used when you want a more subtle flavor. They are often used in baking, where their warm and sweet flavor pairs well with other spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Some recipes that use ground cloves include:

Pumpkin pieGround cloves are one of the critical ingredients in pumpkin pie. They add a warm and spicy flavor to the filling and complement the sweetness of the pumpkin.
Gingerbread cookiesGround cloves are often used in gingerbread cookies. They add a spicy and aromatic flavor that pairs well with the ginger and cinnamon in the recipe.
Chai teaGround cloves are a vital ingredient in chai tea. They add a warm and spicy flavor to the tea – along with other spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger.

Substitute ratio for whole to ground cloves

If you prefer to use ground cloves rather than whole cloves, use 3/4 teaspoon of ground cloves for every teaspoon of whole cloves required in the recipe.

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The best whole clove substitutes

Here are some possible substitutes for whole cloves:

  • Allspice berries
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Star anise

Allspice berries have a flavor profile similar to a blend of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Use one-half the amount of allspice berries called for in a recipe to replace whole cloves.

Cinnamon sticks have a warm, sweet flavor similar to cloves but a bit sweeter. Use one to two cinnamon sticks to replace one teaspoon of whole cloves.

Star anise has a strong licorice flavor with a hint of clove-like spiciness. The recipe calls for one to two-star anise pods for every teaspoon of whole cloves.

Top replacements for ground cloves

  • Ground allspice
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ginger

Allspice powder is a blend of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, making it an excellent substitute for ground cloves. The substitution ratio of cloves to allspice powder is 1:1 (1 teaspoon of ground cloves = 1 teaspoon of allspice powder).

Cinnamon powder has a sweet, warm taste similar to the flavor of cloves. You can use cinnamon as a substitute for ground cloves in a ratio of 1:1.

This ground spice has a sweet, warm flavor with a slightly nutty undertone. Use one-half to one teaspoon of grated nutmeg to replace one teaspoon of ground cloves (1:1).

Ground ginger has a warm, spicy flavor that can be used as a substitute for ground cloves. Use one teaspoon of ground ginger to replace one teaspoon of ground cloves.


Alexandra is a passionate writer with a deep appreciation for food - not just as nourishment but as an expression of culture, a reflection of history, and a celebration of life. She knows that everything in life requires a little spice - and gets a kick (get it?) every time she achieves the perfect combination of heat and depth.

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