When was the last time you looked at your spice rack (or your parents' spice rack, more likely) and were just baffled at the variety of spices you knew nothing about? I often sift through spices, adding random dashes of colourful powder to my foods, not knowing what I'm doing. Allspice is definitely one of those spices I've seen but didn't really know what it was. What is allspice? Do yourself a favour and get to know this crucial spice.

The name may be confusing, but that hasn't stopped allspice from becoming a staple in fall cooking. Allspice, despite its name, is not a mixture of spices. It's actually just one spice, more specifically, a fruit that has been picked before it has ripened. If you're trying to imagine it, think of a peppercorn. It looks like small, round, brown balls.  It's then dried and either sold whole or ground up.


Steven Jackson Photography on Flickr

The allspice berry is part of the pimento family and is used around the world, especially in the Caribbean, Middle Eastern, and Latin American cooking. Think Jerk Chicken, pasta sauces, fish, and stews. But in America it's more commonly used in desserts or even cocktails. 

Christopher Columbus is said to have discovered allspice upon arriving in the Carribean. Thinking it was peppercorn (because they basically look the same), he brought it back home with him.

The origin of this spice might be new information, but the taste is one you'd recognize in an instant. You've definitely used allspice in your cooking, especially if you're a baker. But if you're more of a taster than a creator, you've 100% eaten it even though you might not know it.

Have you ever had a pumpkin spice anything? Yeah, I thought so. Turns out pumpkin spice isn't made from pumpkins. It's actually a mixture of spices that often includes allspice. From pumpkin pie to cookie butter, allspice gives your dishes that extra kick of cozy, fall flavor. You know the one. It tastes like a mix of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Just a whiff has you dreaming of Thanksgiving dinner. 

pumpkin, sweet
Jocelyn Hsu

If you just want your whole dorm room to smell like allspice for the remainder of the season, you can also use allspice berries to make a homemade potpourri. It's the best way to fool your roommates into thinking there's always fresh-baked pie in the oven.

While allspice is often used in baking, it can be used more simply to change up the taste of some other classics. Try mixing some into your oatmeal or sprinkle some in applesauce to make it taste like apple pie.