Nutmeg and Mace

Myristica fragrans

Family: Myristicaceae
Common Names: Nutmeg tree, Muscadier (French), Muskatnussbaum (German).
Native of several Indonesian Islands.

Photo by Slashme (Own work) [CC-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Please note that both nutmeg and mace come from the fruit of the same tree species. Nutmeg is the seed (hidden inside mace) and mace is the brightly coloured red aril, that surrounds the seed. Also, several inferior, closely species, are used as adulterants.

Part used

The part of the plant used is the seed which has a bright red, fleshy aril surrounding it. This fleshy aril is the spice mace.

Once the aril is removed, the seed is shelled and used as whole nutmeg.

Whole nutmeg is best grated and used as desired but it can also be ground into powder. It’s an expensive spice so is usually packed in small containers. Use sparingly.

Flavour of nutmeg

It has a warm, spicy aroma and flavour.

Nutritional Value

Both spices are used in very small quantities for flavour only, so have no significance, nutritionally.


  • Nutmeg has a warm spicy flavour and mace, a more delicate flavour. Mace is often preferred in light dishes.
  • Nutmeg is used in both savoury and sweet cooking, in grated form or as a ground spice. It’s best grated fresh as this imparts more flavour and aroma.
  • The grated spice is used to flavour potato dishes, soups, omelettes, soufflés, cakes, puddings and custards.
  • The ground spice should be used sparingly because nutmeg has a very strong aroma and can be overpowering.
  • Nutmeg is popular in French cooking in, snail dishes, mince meat (ground beef), onion soup and is a component of the classic béchamel sauce.
  • It’s also used to flavour fortified wines and other alcoholic drinks.


Mace is used in spice mixtures and in the same way nutmeg is used in sauces, fish and meat dishes especially pork. It has a more delicate flavour.


Evergreen tree up to 20m high. Leaves simple, leathery. Flowers small and white. Fruit a yellowish brown, fleshy fruit called a drupe with a large single seed which is surrounded by a bright red, fleshy aril. This plant has male and Female trees like the paw paw (Carica papaya).


The following species are used as substitutes for nutmeg.

  • Bombay nutmeg: (Myristica beddomii, Myristica malabarica),
  • Brazilian nutmeg: (Cryptocarya moschato).;
  • Madagascar nutmeg: (Ravensara aromatica).

Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

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