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Allspice (Pimenta dioica)

Plant family

Myrtaceae (myrtle family).

Botanical synonyms

Pimenta officinalis


Jamaica, which is also the main exporter. Several other Central American states (e.g, México, Honduras) produce this spice, but their quality is considered inferior. The fruits of P. racemosa, a closely related species, are sometimes used to adulterate allspice.

Used plant part

Unripe and dried fruits. In the countries of origin, the fresh leaves are also much used for cooking or smoking meat ("West Indian bay-leaf"). Some books, though, state that West Indian bay-leaves stem from the closely related P. racemosa. The Mediterranean bay leaves are an inappropriate substitute.
The essential oil from the leaves (West Indian Bay Oil) is of importance in the industrial production of sausages.

Sensoric quality

Strongly aromatic, like cloves with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg; the taste is similar, but with some peppery heat.

Main constituents

The fruits contain 2 to 5% essential oil (the exact content depends much on the time of harvest). Main component is eugenol (65 to 85%), but also eugenol methyl ether, 1,8-cineol and a-phellandrene are reported.

Allspice flowers (Source)


In Caribbean cuisine, allspice with its pleasing clove-like aroma is the most important spice and used extensively. Meat is often stuffed with allspice leaves and barbecued over a fire of allspice wood, similar to the use of myrtle around the Mediterranean Sea.

Allspice is also grown in México, albeit in lesser quality. It is used there for the famous mole sauces.

In Europe, England consumes most of it. The British like it for stews and sauces and for flavouring pickled vegetables (together with white mustard seeds). Allspice is also quite popular in the US, where cooks use it for quite similar purposes.

On the European continent, allspice is less appreciated; it is, however, contained in commercial spice mixtures for sausages and much loved by Scandinavians for fine meat pastries, as are used in the Danish speciality smørrebrød (white bread topped with a selection of sausages, pastries, fish, cheese and vegetables). Other spices popular in Scandinavia are dill and cardamom seeds.

Source :

European Masters Degree in Food Studies - an Educational Journey

Master in Food Safety Law is an initiative of Wageningen University, The Netherlands