Cloves are tiny nail-shaped spices that are renowned for a strong flavor and aromatic essence.
Cloves are a distinctive spice in both shape and flavor. Indonesian in origin, their French definition is “clou,” or nail. Cloves are very strong on their own, but are often added to garam masala, ras el hanout, and Chinese five-spice powder.

As the unopened buds of a flowering evergreen, cloves are used as decorative studs for a ham. They are often tucked under the skin – sparingly – for extra flavor. A favorite holiday tradition is to embed them in oranges for an explosive scent or enjoy a warming glass of mulled wine.


For cooking, whole and ground cloves are used most often. Clove oils are sometimes added to commercial products including Worcestershire and barbecue sauces. The oil has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and is also used as a numbing agent in throat sprays.

Buying and Storage Tips

Whole cloves are best and will keep for at least twelve months. Spikes should contain some oiliness when pressed and have plump heads (the best flavor is in the bud). Ground cloves are more readily available, but have a shorter shelf life – about six months.

Usage Tips

• Embed one or two cloves in an onion for court-bouillon.

• Add cloves sparingly and remember that they may be already included in other spice blends.

• Clove intensifies the longer it stands in warming foods.

• Include whole cloves in bean soups and stews. Remove before serving.

• Grind and mix with cinnamon and sprinkle over applesauce or sliced, baked apples. (Use a grinder dedicated to spices, as oils left behind will be difficult to remove.)

• One cup = three ounces clove spikes.

• One teaspoon whole will reduce to almost three-quarters ground.

Try one of our favorite clove recipes:
Oven Apple Butter
Ham with Cider Glaze
Applesauce Cookies