What is Nutmeg?

The Editors at Food Fanatic | Food Fanatic

It appears in lots of different recipes and adds great flavor to dishes. But just what is nutmeg? Find out here and discover some great new ways to use it.

You may have seen nutmeg used in coffees, desserts and curries but have you ever wondered what nutmeg actually is?

Nutmeg is a beautifully versatile spice that originates in Indonesia. The native Indonesian evergreen tree actually produces two spices, both mace and nutmeg. Nutmeg is the seed, whereas mace is the what covers the seed and has a lace-like appearance.

Pots de Creme Photo

Nutmeg can be sold whole or ground, but requires drying prior to be sold in stores. Nutmeg seeds are dried out in the sun over a period of about six to eight weeks, which causes the nutmeg to come apart from the hard coating of the seed.

To tell when nutmeg is ready, the seed is shaken. If the kernels can be heard rattling around, then the nutmeg is ready. The mace and nutmeg are then separated and packaged separately for sale. 

When looking for nutmeg, you will find both ground and whole seed options.

Eggnog Cookies Picture

Both are great for use, however, whole nutmeg lasts much longer and provides much more depth of flavor when grated into whatever dish you are whipping up.

Nutmeg has a lovely nutty flavor with hints of sweetness, although it's quite powerful and may taste slightly spicy for those who don't like too much heat.

Mace is much more similar to cinnamon, but has an almost peppery touch to it. 

Mashed Potato Doughnuts Picture

Nutmeg can be used in both sweet and savory recipes and is frequently used to decorate frothy coffee drinks.

It has some significant health benefits associated with it, too; nutmeg contains antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties and antibacterial properties - it's even shown to have improved libido!

While nutmeg has some great benefits, it should only be consumed in small amounts. When consumed in high doses, it actually has hallucinogenic properties and can be toxic!

Of course, the amounts you use in cooking are not at all hazardous and it's perfectly safe to include in your recipes.

Gluten Free Blueberry Crisp Pic

Nutmeg can be found in the spice section of the grocery store.

Ground nutmeg should be kept in an air-tight container, free from moisture, heat and light - so preferably a cupboard that is not above your oven. When storing ground nutmeg correctly, it will keep its fresh flavor for about six months.

Whole nutmeg, on the other hand, will keep indefinitely when kept away from heat and moisture.

Substitutes for nutmeg:

If you are unable to find nutmeg, there are a few spices you can use in its place. These are ‘spicier’ than nutmeg, so we recommend using slightly less than  the recipe calls for:

  • Garam masala
  • Ground cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Allspice
  • Ginger
  • Pumpkin pie spice

Now that you know all about nutmeg, why not give some of these recipes a try:

Pots de Creme

Eggnog Cookies

Mashed Potato Doughnuts

Gluten Free Blueberry Crisp

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