What is Mixed Spice in British Food?

Learn About This Ingredient in Traditional British Recipes

Mince pies
Christmas Mince Pies. Diana Miller / Getty Images

Mixed spice, also referred to as pudding spice, is frequently used in British cooking. Its general sounding name may be due to the fact that this mixture dates all the way back to at least 1828, where it can be found as an ingredient in British cookbooks. It is a carefully blended spice mix which is often bought ready-made. The warm, spicy flavorings are a part of many traditional British recipes, particularly Christmas cakes, Christmas puddinghot cross buns, and many other cakes, pies, and baked goods.

 

The spices are mainly sweet, with an emphasis on the cinnamon. It is most often used in baking, or sprinkled over fruit or combined with other sweet ingredients. The flavor is somewhat rich so the spice will often appear in Christmas desserts as well as other celebratory recipes. Mixed spice is not just used for sweet cakes, though—a sprinkle or two in a casserole is always welcome. 

What Mixed Spice is and is Not

Although there is a little flexibility in this spice mixture, it does combine specific ingredients. Mixed spice includes a balance of some or all of the following ground spices: cinnamon, coriander seed, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and mace.

Although mixed spice includes allspice, you cannot substitute the single spice for the mixture. These two are often confused, but allspice is also known as Jamaica pepper, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta, Turkish yenibahar, or new spice, and is the dried unripe fruit of Pimenta dioica.

 

How to Store Mixed Spice

Mixed spice usually comes in glass jars or cellophane packets. Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Do not put ground spices in the freezer, though whole spice berries do freeze well. 

How to Make Mixed Spice

Mixed spice usually comes pre-mixed that is a carefully balanced blend of the spices.

Trying to create the correct mixture at home is not impossible but takes very careful measuring. Here are the approximate quantities:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice

Carefully mix all of the ingredients and store in an airtight container. The spices will stay fresh for a few months. Shake the mixture thoroughly before using. 

Alternatives to Mixed Spice

If you can't find mixed spice in your grocery store and choose not to make your own, you can still create authentic British dishes. Pumpkin pie spice mix is a great alternative to mixed spice and will create a similar flavor. A Dutch spice mix called koekkruiden or speculaaskruiden is also very similar to mixed spice. Dutch spice mix is mainly added to foods associated with the Dutch Sinterklass celebration on December 5.