Substutions for Mace

If you don't have any mace on hand, will nutmeg work instead?

If you don't have any mace on hand, will nutmeg work instead?

Mace and nutmeg are both harvested from the fruit of the Indonesian nutmeg tree; whole nutmeg is the fruit’s pitlike seed, and mace is found in the red, waxy layer that separates the seed from the fruit’s flesh. The flavors of the two spices are similar, but mace is much stronger than nutmeg. While sizing up several brands of mace, we noticed that the recommended substitution of mace for 1 teaspoon of nutmeg ranged from ¼ teaspoon to nearly 7/8 teaspoon. That’s quite a spread.

To nail down the proper exchange, we started with a Bundt cake recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon of nutmeg and baked it with four different measures of mace, from ¼ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon. One teaspoon of mace, not surprisingly, had too much kick. Three-quarters teaspoon was still too sharp, and ¼ teaspoon too mild, but ½ teaspoon hit the nail on the head. That ratio held in a bare-bones béchamel seasoned at the last minute with nutmeg, although a few tasters described the sauce made with nutmeg as “slightly more peppery.”

THE BOTTOM LINE  Nutmeg and mace have similar flavor. If a recipe calls for mace and you have only nutmeg, use it, but double the amount.

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