Inside the Spice Cabinet: Cloves

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

Considered one of the strongest and more distinctive spices in the cabinet, cloves are a tropical spice that have a welcome place in everything from cool-weather baked goods to spice blends, and savory recipes alike.

What Are Cloves?

Taste: Sweet
Most Popular Use: Spice blends, meat, baked goods

Cloves are the unopened flower buds of the tropical evergreen clove tree, native to Indonesia. This reddish-brown and nail-shaped spice can be purchased and used whole or ground. Sweet, pungent, and warming, this is an intense spice, and a little goes a long way.

How To Use Cloves

Though we often associate cloves with baked goods and sweets, this distinctive spice can also add depth to savory dishes, meats, and pickles, and is widely used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisine. Cloves pair nicely with the flavors of apples, oranges, ham, pork, and chocolate, and other aromatic spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom.

Cloves are also a common ingredient in many spice blends, like baharat, Chinese five-spice powder, dukkah, garam masala, pickling spice, pumpkin pie spice, and ras el hanout.

Recipes for Cooking with Cloves