What is the Spice Called Mace?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Mace is a spice made from the waxy red covering that surrounds nutmeg seeds. The flavor is similar to that of nutmeg, with a hint of pepper and a more subtle note which can be overwhelmed by heavy-handed cooks. It is readily available in many cooking supply stores in both whole and ground form, and it has a wide range of uses from desserts to savory roast meats. The versatile flavor can make mace a useful spice to have around, especially since many recipes call for it.

The waxy red covering on nutmeg seeds is used to make the spice mace.
The waxy red covering on nutmeg seeds is used to make the spice mace.

The nutmeg tree is native to tropical Indonesia, in a region known as the Spice Islands, and parts of Southeast Asia, where it has been used to produce spices for centuries. The fruits of the nutmeg tree enclose the richly flavored nutmeg seeds; mace is found between the exterior fruit and the internal seed, and it takes the form of bright waxy red bands which surround the seed. Europeans were introduced to this spice by the Dutch, who at one point held a formidable spice monopoly in much of Southeast Asia.

The nutmeg tree is native to tropical Indonesia, in a region known as the Spice Islands, and parts of Southeast Asia.
The nutmeg tree is native to tropical Indonesia, in a region known as the Spice Islands, and parts of Southeast Asia.

As mace dries, it turns more orange in color; high quality spice retains this orange color, although some varieties are also creamy or brown. Whole dried mace is known as a blade; blades are preferable to ground mace since cooks can grind what they need as they need it, preserving the flavor. Ground mace is sometimes more readily available, depending on the region. Both should be stored in a cool dry place, and they should not be exposed to moisture.

Because the flavor is very delicate, blades and ground mace should be carefully stored and used quickly to maximize the flavor. Many recipes which recommend mace also call for the spice to be added at the end of the cooking process, if possible. This practice is actually very common with a wide range of spices, since cooking changes the flavor profile and tends to make spices bitter. Obviously, in things like baked goods and roast meats, the mace is added at the beginning, along with all the other ingredients.

Mace can be used much like nutmeg would in things like cakes, scones, and spice cookies. It can also be used in curries, soups, cream sauces, roasts, and a range of other ingredients. Some traditional Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian spice blends also call specifically for mace. To refresh spice that has gone stale from long storage, lightly toast it before use.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Our team won the trivia contest last night, thanks to my knowing that mace was also derived from the nutmeg tree.


Thanks a lot. I wanted info about mace but always nutmeg popped up. Thanks again.


Regarding the question about what the fruit is used for, it can be blended into a juice, or dried and coated with sugar to make a candy (two uses for nutmeg fruit in Penang). --Reese and Mark


I note you indicated Indonesia and am puzzled about the omission of Grenada, which until 2004, accounted for 25 percent of the nutmeg supply worldwide. Also, today seems like the perfect time to remind people that Grenada also known as "the Spice Island."


my grandmother came from melton mobray u.k. and her family were pie makers. i have been trying to capture the flavor of her pork pies for 40 years without success. i came across her original recipe handed down for generations and the missing ingredient was mace!


Thanks for the information. I have used mace for years in my rich cake, wedding cake, love cake and curry powder. But i didn't know that bit was called mace. I'm a Sri Lankan and we have grown the nutmeg tree here.We used to call it "wasawasie."


I found Mace in a Swedish meatball mix at a small meat market.

It does have a little bit of a strong aftertaste, but not enough to not eat them! --MN


what do they use the fruit for? Is it edible?


Was on a cruise trip in the Caribbean and that is 'the spicy island'. They offered mace too and I didn't know what it exactly was. until now. Thanks for the information.


Thank you so much for this information. I've known of mace being used around the holidays but never really knew what it was. So again thank you for taking the time to educate.

I love to modify recipes and I took a Paula Deen "Lemon Blossom" mini cupcake recipe and turned it into a "spice harvest" (so to speak) recipe and wanted to add mace but also really wanted to know what it was.

Nutmeg is probably one of my favorite spices. Good information. Happy cooking.


Thanks for the info. I wanted to make this dish that I found in one of my cookbooks and had no idea what mace was. I hope it will be easy for me to find at my local grocery store. Thanks again. this review was really helpful.


Never heard of mace. very interesting. will try it.


Thank you for the information. I did not know what mace was when it was called for in a recipe. I learned something new today.


Use 1 pint of marshmallow fluff and 1 pint of sour cream. Mix together with a hand mixer and add 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon of mace and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serve this with chopped fruit! Excellent!


Great w/ cookies :)


Bless you ten thousand times!! I was in the States just a few weeks ago and forgot to buy mace for my Christmas Pound Cake. I started it this A.M. and lo and behold - no mace!!!! I ran up to the computer, consulted Google and found your article which relieved me tremendously as I´m going to substitute nutmeg using a very light hand. Again, bless you and a wonderful holiday season to one and all.

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