What is Mixed Spice in British Food?

Mince pies
Christmas Mince Pies. Diana Miller / Getty Images

There are countless traditional British recipes which use mixed spice, a spice which seems to be peculiar to these shores. The blend of spices gives a distinct flavour to many dishes. 

Definition of Mixed Spice: 

Mixed spice frequently occurs in British cooking. It is a carefully blended spice mix which is often bought ready-made. The warm, spicy flavourings are found in many traditional British recipes, particularly Christmas cakes, Christmas PuddingHot Cross Buns, and many other cakes, pies and baked goods.

 

Mixed spice includes a balance of some or all of the following ground spices: Cinnamon, Coriander Seed, Caraway, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves, Allspice and Mace.

What Mixed Spice is Not:

Mixed spiced is not Allspice, these two are often confused, but Allspice is also known as Jamaica pepper, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta, Turkish yenibahar, or newspice and is the dried unripe fruit of Pimenta dioica. 

How to Buy Mixed Spice:

Mixed spice usually comes as a ready mixed carefully balanced blend of the spices above. Trying to create the balance at home is not impossible but takes very careful measuring. These are the approximate quantities. 

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

These should be carefully mixed and stored in an airtight container. The spices will stay fresh for a few months.

Shake the mixture thoroughly before using. 

How to Store Mixed Spice:

If buying the ready prepared mixed spice, it usually comes in glass jars or cellophane packets. Stire in a cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight. Do not put ground spices into the freezer, though whole spice berries do freeze well.

 

Alternatives to Mixed Spice:

To create authentic British dishes over in the US, you can use  Pumpkin Pie Spice mix which is a great alternative to mixed spice.

A Dutch spice mix called koekkruiden or speculaaskruiden is also very similar to mixed spice. The Dutch spice is used a lot in the Dutch Sinterklaas celebration on December 5.

Favourite British Recipes Using Mixed Spice:

The warmth of these spices lends the spice to being used in warmer, winter dishes. The flavour is also rich as so the spice will appear a lot in Christmas and other celebratory recipes. The spice is not just used for sweet cakes, a sprinkle or two in a casserole is always welcome. 

Christmas cake

  Christmas Pudding

 Easter Hot Cross Buns 

 Game Casserole