What can I substitute for ginger

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “What can I substitute for ginger?” and discuss the possible alternatives to be used in the place of ginger as well as the benefits of each alternative.

What can I substitute for ginger?

You can substitute other spices for ginger, which are commonly used in both sweet and salty dishes. The most common culinary alternatives are nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and clove (1).

Each spice has its individual aroma profile and property, however, they all have essential oils which are related to health benefits and preservation effects in the food. Essential oils of spices are able to act as natural antimicrobial ingredients and antioxidants, in addition to improving the sensory characteristics of the food (2).

What are the benefits and drawbacks of substituting ginger?

The benefit of substituting ginger exists in the case where allergy to ginger is present. Although rare, some individuals can experience allergic reactions to ginger, which is manifested by skin rashes, eruptions, digestive bleeding and even anaphylaxis.

In such cases, immediate medical assistance is necessary, as this allergic reaction to ginger can lead to death (7).

A drawback of substituting ginger is that ginger has an unique aroma, characterized by its fruity, nutty, refreshing and woody, and composed of 39 different chemicals (6).

What are common alternatives to ginger?

The common alternatives to ginger are spices that can be ground and added to both sweets and salty dishes. Some examples are the following:


Nutmeg can be used in the culinary, added to meats and vegetables as well as in the confectionery. 

It is composed mostly of lipids, from which a great amount are the essential oils that characterize the aroma of nutmeg: terpenes (α-pinene, p-cymene, sabinene, camphene, myrcene and γ-terpinene) and derivatives (terpineol, geraniol, and linalool) and phenylpropanoids (myristicin, safrole, and elemicin) and phenolics, including carvacrol, which is a potent antimicrobial compound (2).

Nutmeg has antioxidant properties and its effect on health is related to the improvement of digestion and to be carminative. It has been used also to treat pain.


Cinnamon can be obtained from the bark, seeds and leaves from trees of the genus Cinnamonun. The most important compounds found in this spice are phenolics, including vanillic, caffeic, gallic, protocatechuic, p-coumaric, and ferulic acids, which possess important properties, including antimicrobial activity.

The effects of cinnamon on health are related to the treatment of diabetes, the treatment of skin infections, including acne. Cinnamon is a natural antioxidant and preservative in the food industry and can be used to improve the shelf life of meat and cheese (3).  


Cardamom is a seed commonly used in Indian preparations, such as curry. It has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and therefore can be used as natural preservatives in foods (4).

The main compounds that characterize cardamom are cineole, limonene, α-terpinyl acetate, α-terpineol, borneol, camphor and α-pinene, in addition to many phenolic compounds. 

The use of cardamom is related to positive health effects, such as relief in gastric disorders, treatment and prevention of respiratory diseases, and prevention of inflammatory diseases, due to the high antioxidant effect of the phenolic compounds present in cardamom.


Cloves are used for culinary and pharmaceutical purposes due to its aroma. The main compounds characterizing the aroma of clove are terpenes, flavonols, tannins, phenolics and sterols. The essential oil contains eugenol and its derivatives in higher concentrations (5).

Clove can be used in food as a natural preservative due to its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. For medical applications, it can be used to improve digestion, to help treat cavities and in inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatism. In addition, cloves prevent liver injury.

Other FAQs about Ginger which you may be interested in.

Does fresh ginger need to be peeled?

How long can ginger last in the fridge?


In this brief guide, we answered the question “What can I substitute for ginger?” and discuss the possible alternatives to be used in the place of ginger as well as the benefits of each alternative.


  1. Recipe substitutions. Dartmouth University.
  2. Naeem, Namra, et al. Nutmeg: A review on uses and biological properties. Int. J. Chem. Biochem. Sci, 2016, 9, 107-110. 
  3. Nabavi, S.F.; Di Lorenzo, A.; Izadi, M.; Sobarzo-Sánchez, E.; Daglia, M.; Nabavi, S.M. Antibacterial Effects of Cinnamon: From Farm to Food, Cosmetic and Pharmaceutical Industries. Nutrients 2015, 7, 7729-7748.
  4. Singh, Ravinder, R. Kaushik, and V. Jaglan. Antibacterial and antioxidant activity of green cardamom and rosemary extract in food products: A brief review. Pharma Innov., 2018, J 7, 568-573.
  5. Milind, Parle, and Khanna Deepa. Clove: a champion spice. Int J Res Ayurveda Pharm, 2011, 2, 47-54.
  6. Zhang, Lulu, et al. Characterization of aroma volatiles in xilin fire ginger oils by HS-SPME-GC-MS. Int J Food Prop, 2022, 25, 53-64.
  7. Okuhira, Hisako, et al. Anaphylaxis to ginger induced by herbal medicine. Allergology Int, 2020, 69, 159-160.

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