Last updated: August 13, 2021

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Welcome to our big nutmeg test 2021. Here we present all the nutmeg spices we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the internet. We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best nutmeg for you. You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should be aware of when buying nutmeg.




Summary

  • Nutmeg is a popular kitchen spice that you can buy both ground and whole.
  • Nutmeg not only tastes good, but also has various positive effects on health.
  • The unique flavour of nutmeg comes out particularly well when you use a grater and grate it fresh into your food.

The Best Nutmeg: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying nutmeg

What is nutmeg? Is it a nut or a spice?

Nutmeg is a popular and tasty kitchen spice. You can buy it ready-ground or whole in the shops. In the botanical sense, nutmeg does not belong to the genus of nuts. The nutmeg tree belongs to the nutmeg family.

Here you can see a whole nutmeg. (Image source: 123rf.com / besjunior)

The nutmeg is the seed of this tree and is used, together with or separately from its seed coat, as a spice. Colloquially, the seed is called nutmeg or mace and the seed coat is called mace or mace. However, the names "nut" and "flower" are misleading - both components officially belong to the so-called seed spices. Nutmeg, however, is more common and tastes much more intense than mace. In the following table we have compared the properties of nutmeg and mace.

Nutmeg mace
Kernel of the nutmeg fruit Red seed coat that encloses nutmeg
Strong and spicy taste Fine and mild taste
Whole nut or powder Flower strips or powder
Goes well with light sauces and soups, potato dishes, spinach, kohlrabi, cauliflower and much more Goes well with everything nutmeg goes with, especially delicious in desserts

You can always substitute nutmeg for mace, but mace cannot always be substituted for nutmeg.

They are very similar in taste, but mace is simply milder and therefore cannot always be replaced by the spicy, peppery note of nutmeg.

How does the nutmeg grow and where does it come from?

The nutmeg tree grows in a tropical climate and reaches a height of up to twenty metres. The female flowers form five to eight centimetre large, peach-like fruits. When they are ripe, they are yellow in colour and burst open in the middle. That is why they are also referred to as capsules in botany.

This is what nutmegs look like on the tree. (Image source: 123rf.com / microgen)

The seed and the seed coat are then harvested separately and dried. They are then sold in shops as a kitchen spice. A tree bears up to 1,000 nutmeg fruits a year. The original origin of the nutmeg tree is the Indonesian "Banda Islands". Another export island of nutmeg is the Caribbean island of Grenada. This is also known as the "Spice Island" because of its diverse cultivation of spices besides nutmeg, such as cinnamon and ginger. Other growing countries are other Caribbean and tropical countries like India, Malaysia and New Guinea.

What does nutmeg taste like and where is it used in cooking?

Nutmeg has a very distinct and special taste that is unmistakable in this form. Nutmeg tastes excellent with some dishes and is firmly intended for them, whereas the spice seems completely unsuitable with other dishes. The right dosage is important in any case, as nutmeg has a very intense aroma and even a small amount adds a lot of flavour. Its taste can be described as spicy and aromatic and also has a peppery and thus pungent note. The spice also tastes slightly bitter.

In Germany, nutmeg is a popular spice - it ranks seventh in the import of spices.

Because of its origin, nutmeg goes wonderfully with vegetable and meat dishes in Indian and Indonesian cuisine. There, it is also part of spice mixtures such as tandoori, in which the famous tandoori chicken is marinated. But it is also hard to imagine European cuisine without nutmeg in many dishes. These include potato dishes, such as mashed potatoes, cabbage dishes and white sauces, such as the béchamel sauce for lasagne. Nutmeg also tastes good with eggs, spinach, cheese or asparagus. Nutmeg is also an integral part of gingerbread spice mixtures. Accordingly, nutmeg is also used in the preparation of desserts such as gingerbread, biscuits or some cakes.

What does a nutmeg look like?

Nutmeg looks slightly different when it is dried than when it is ripe on the nutmeg tree. It is shrivelled up and has taken on a brown colour. The appearance of the nutmeg in its shell is a little like that of a small walnut. Before you can grate it, you first have to crack the shell to get to the actual nut.

Nutmeg develops its aroma best when you grate it fresh into your dish during preparation.

Does nutmeg have healthy ingredients or a healing effect?

Nutmeg

Nutmeg contains a lot of healthy ingredients and can therefore also have a healing effect. Among other things, it contains the minerals calcium, iron, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus and zinc, as well as vitamins A, C and B complexes.

Apart from this, however, the essential oils contained in nutmeg are particularly responsible for its health-promoting effect.

In the following table we have summarised the possible effects of nutmeg.

Internal use External use
Sleeping problems Eczema
Indigestion Lichens
Flatulence Herpes
Diarrhoea Toothache
Weakness of the liver Inflammation of the mouth
Weakness of the gall bladder
Rheumatism
Gout
Menstrual problems
Exhaustion and stress
Painkillers

Used regularly in food, nutmeg can optimally develop its internal effect. For external use, it is best to prepare a tincture of water and nutmeg or use essential nutmeg oil. Caution: The correct dosage is extremely important! Nutmeg can have a hallucinogenic effect and lead to poisoning if used in quantities of 3-4 grams or more.

How much does nutmeg cost?

There are considerable differences in price between ground nutmeg and whole nutmeg. The quality of the product is also decisive for the price. Whole nutmegs are significantly more expensive than the powder. A whole nutmeg usually costs at least one euro. If you buy larger quantities (like the first or second place in our test), you can get a decent quantity discount. Depending on the quality, you can get 100 grams of whole nutmeg for around 5-16 euros. You should bear in mind that you will also need a nutmeg grater to use the nutmeg. You can buy ground nutmeg in powder form for 4 to 9 euros per 100 grams in practical bags or shakers.

Are there alternatives to nutmeg?

Nutmeg definitely has its own unique flavour. There is no other spice that comes close to the taste of nutmeg. Therefore, there is no direct alternative to nutmeg. If you are allergic to nutmeg or don't have the spice at home, you can either omit it altogether or use other spices to make your dish spicier and tastier. To mimic the slightly peppery taste of nutmeg, you could also just pepper your dish a little more than you would otherwise.

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate nutmegs

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate nutmeg. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular nutmeg product is suitable for you or not. In summary, these are:

  • Whole or ground
  • Organic quality
  • Origin
  • Packaging

Whole or ground

Probably the most important distinction and decision you need to make before buying nutmeg is whether you want to buy whole nutmeg or ground nutmeg powder. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Ground nutmeg is not as aromatic as freshly grated nutmeg. This is because the essential oils that are released when grated have already dissipated in powder form. If you grate some nutmeg fresh into your food, it is much more aromatic and you also need less to achieve the same effect. In addition, when you grate nutmeg fresh, you know exactly what is going into your food - namely only the pure nutmeg. Ready-made spice shakers in the supermarket are often stretched and contain only a small percentage (usually 25%) of nutmeg.

Furthermore, whole nutmegs have a much longer shelf life, as they do not clump or stick together, unlike powder.

We have summarised the advantages and disadvantages of preparing whole nutmeg for you.

Advantages
  • Fresh preparation, therefore full aroma
  • Unlimited shelf life
  • You know exactly that only pure nutmeg ends up in your food
Disadvantages
  • More expensive than powder
  • More complicated to handle, as you need a grater
  • More time-consuming to prepare

All in all, the advantage of the stronger aroma and fuller flavour of whole nutmegs is convincing in our eyes. Just give it a try and then decide for yourself!

Organic quality

As with all other foods, organic quality is a quality characteristic of nutmegs. It means that they cannot contain any chemical residues from sprays. Their use is unfortunately common in non-organic certified farms. Furthermore, organic spices are not genetically treated and must not be irradiated to preserve them. And very important: organic spices always consist of 100% spice without separating agents or fillers, flavourings or flavour enhancers. Nutmeg shakers in supermarkets in particular are often stretched to a large extent. So it pays to look for organic quality when buying.

Origin

Due to the tropical climate that the nutmeg tree needs, nutmeg is mainly cultivated in Africa, South America and Asia. This is why nutmeg usually has long transport routes behind it. However, its origin does not say much about the quality of the product. If you are concerned about sustainability, just make sure that the transport route was as short as possible.

Packaging

Nutmeg likes it cool, dry and protected from light. Accordingly, resealable aroma bags are a good choice when it comes to packing nutmegs. This way, the nutmegs are well protected from external influences and retain their aroma. However, it is even better to use an aluminium-free tin can as packaging, as was the case with the first-place product in our nutmeg test. These tins are particularly sustainable because you can either reuse them yourself or they can be easily recycled when disposed of.

Trivia: Facts worth knowing about nutmeg

How do I use and dose nutmeg?

If you use whole nutmegs, you will need a grater to prepare them. If they are sold whole, i.e. with the shell, you must first crack them. You can do this by pressing a plate or knife firmly on the nutmeg. Then you can remove the shell and grind the inside with the grater. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWcGIwu7nC0 Of course, the correct dosage depends on your personal taste. It is best to use the quantity given in the recipe you are using. If you use fresh nutmeg, 3/4 of the indicated amount is sufficient, as it is very aromatic. But be careful never to eat more than four grams of nutmeg at a time. This can cause symptoms of poisoning.

What is the shelf life of nutmeg?

Whole nutmegs can be stored almost indefinitely if stored correctly. Proper storage for both whole nutmegs and nutmeg powder means storing them in a cool, light-protected and dry place.

If the spice is sold in packaging that does not comply with this, it is best to simply decant it into a suitable container.

Without the shell, however, the shelf life of whole nutmegs is reduced to about three years. In general, as long as the product still smells good and has no stains (mould), you can use it without hesitation.

Is nutmeg poisonous? If so, why and in what quantities?

Yes, excessive consumption of nutmeg can be intoxicating and also toxic. As the amount consumed increases, so do the negative effects of consumption. You can recognise poisoning by the following symptoms:

  • Absent-mindedness, drowsiness, tiredness, dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
  • Rapid pulse, anxiety, restlessness
  • Palpable palpitations
  • Delusions, hallucinations

The symptoms appear about 3 to 6 hours after consumption and disappear within one to two days. If you suspect poisoning or accidental overconsumption, you should consult a doctor!

Can I take nutmeg during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

In the correct dosage that is usual in the kitchen, the consumption of nutmeg during pregnancy or breastfeeding does not pose a problem. Only an overdose of four grams or more could have a negative effect on the consumption of nutmeg. The dosage and use during pregnancy and breastfeeding is therefore no different from normal.

Image source: 123rf.com / Cora Müller

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