How to Select and Use Nutmeg

Nutmeg [Myristica fragrans] is a sweet-tasting and aromatic spice that has many uses, both savoury and sweet. This article explains some of the ways in which you can make the most of nutmeg in your culinary endeavours.


  1. Image titled Select and Use Nutmeg Step 1
    Understand the makeup of the nutmeg. The nutmeg is the inside part of a yellow fruit from the nutmeg tree, namely the kernel.[1] The ripened fruit splits open to reveal a hard, black nutmeg. This nutmeg is dried for culinary usage. Mace is the inner case of the nutmeg and looks like webbing. Mace has a more delicate taste than nutmeg.
  2. Image titled Select and Use Nutmeg Step 2
    Select your nutmeg. There are two ways to purchase nutmeg.
    • The more common way is to purchase it pre-ground in glass, plastic or cardboard containers for ready sprinkling. Nutmeg purchased in this way should be used quickly to get the best flavour, as the flavour deteriorates over time in contact with the air and aromas of the kitchen.
    • The preferred method for the sake of ensuring excellent aromatic, spicy and nutty flavour is to purchase the nutmeg in its whole state.[2] You will need to own a nutmeg grinder/mill or nutmeg grater in order to be able to grate the nutmeg; some companies sell the nutmeg in a makeshift grinder as part of the supermarket or gourmet store sales package. It is better to spend a little and buy a solid, metal nutmeg grinder that will last you a long time, if not a lifetime. Alternatively, you can use a rasp-style grater (such as a Microplane) to grate your nutmeg. Freshly ground nutmeg can't be beat; its aroma is heady and the taste spectacular. Whole nutmeg will keep for at least one year.
  3. Image titled Select and Use Nutmeg Step 3
    Add nutmeg to savoury dishes. Nutmeg goes well with certain types of savoury dishes:
    • Cheese dishes
    • Pumpkin - pumpkin soup and mashed pumpkin
    • Soups
    • Spinach
    • Ravioli
    • Cannelloni, especially the vegetarian version
    • Add pinch or two to cooked greens such as spinach, chard, kale, etc.
    • Stews, haggis and sausages
    • Middle Eastern curry dishes
    • Porridge
  4. Image titled Select and Use Nutmeg Step 4
    Add nutmeg to sweet dishes. Again, nutmeg goes well with certain types of sweet dishes:
    • Custard, including rhubarb and custard
    • Cake, especially spice cakes
    • Puddings
    • Vanilla pastries
  5. Image titled Select and Use Nutmeg Step 5
    Add nutmeg as a drink topper. Nutmeg is ideal for:
    • Sprinkling over cappucino or latte froth
    • Sprinkling over milkshake froth
    • Sprinkling over chai froth
    • Adding to milk and soy smoothies
    • Adding to eggnog
    • Infusing spiced or mulled wine
    • In Dominican Republic ground nutmeg is often added to the black coffee when brewed in the coffee pot


  • The nutmeg tree is native to the Moluccas (also known as The Spice Islands) and is grown principally in the West Indies.
  • Do not mistake nutmeg for a nut - it is a kernel.
  • One whole nutmeg is the equivalent of 2 - 3 teaspoons of ground nutmeg.[3]
  • To test a nutmeg, prick it with a pin. If it is good quality, the oil will instantly spread around the puncture.[4]


  • Some people are very sensitive to nutmeg and even a small amount may induce nausea and vomiting.
  • Avoid using very large quantities of nutmeg (over 2 tablespoons), as it is a hallucinogen and poisonous in large doses. The usual amount for culinary usage, however, will not produce these effects.

Things You'll Need

  • Nutmeg mill/grinder or a nutmeg grater
  • Nutmeg, whole or pre-ground
  • Recipes using nutmeg

Sources and Citations

  1. Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages, Nutmeg and Mace
  2. A Pinch Of..., All About Nutmeg
  3. The Epicentre, Nutmeg
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