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November 29, 2023 5 min read

If you're in the kitchen craving that wonderful clove flavor, don't grab the pre-ground stuff just yet. You can easily bring out the rich, spicy taste of freshly ground cloves with just your hands and a little bit of skill.

In this quick guide, we'll show you how to hand-grind cloves, a spice that adds a warm and aromatic touch to your dishes, whether they're sweet or savory.

What Are Cloves?


spoon with cloves scattered around
Credit: Envato Elements/ tycoon101

Cloves are pretty interesting when you think about it. They start their journey as the unopened pink flower buds of the clove tree, Syzygium aromaticum. They're mostly native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia but can also be grown in India, Madagascar, Mexico, Kenya, and Sri Lanka. The buds are harvested right before they bloom to capture their peak flavor. Once they're picked, they're dried in the sun, and that's when they turn into the brown, nail-like spices we're familiar with.

How to Grind Cloves by Hand


How to Grind Cloves by Hand


Grinding cloves by hand is an easy process that doesn't require any fancy equipment. Just follow these steps:

Ingredients and Tools:


  • Whole cloves (full clove bud)
  • A small, sturdy bowl
  • A heavy object (e.g., the bottom of a glass or a rolling pin)
  • A clean, dry cloth or paper towel



  • Start by measuring the amount of cloves you need for your recipe. Whole cloves are best for this method.
  • If you like, you can toast the cloves before grinding, but make sure that the cloves cool down before grinding.
  • Now, find a stable surface to work on, like a countertop or cutting board. Lay down a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to catch any runaway cloves and make cleanup easier.

  • Place a few whole cloves in a small, sturdy bowl. Make sure not to overcrowd the bowl; you want enough space to allow for grinding.

  • Take the heavy object (the bottom of a glass or a rolling pin) and gently press it down on the cloves in the bowl. Apply steady, even pressure.
  • Start grinding by moving the heavy object in small, circular motions over the cloves. Apply enough pressure to crush the cloves, but not so much that you shatter them into tiny pieces.
  • Keep grinding until the cloves have turned into a fine grind or reach the consistency you want. This may take a few minutes, so be patient.

  • Check the texture of the ground cloves. If you see any larger pieces, continue grinding until everything is evenly ground.

Alternative Methods to Grind Cloves


grinding tools of different types on wooden platter
Credit: Envato Elements/ boomeart

While hand-grinding cloves is a simple and effective way to achieve that fresh, aromatic flavor, there are a few alternative methods you can explore if you're looking for different ways to grind cloves. Here are a couple of options:

1) Mortar and Pestle

A mortar and pestle is a traditional kitchen tool that's great for grinding spices. Place the whole cloves in the mortar and use the pestle to crush and grind them in a circular motion. This method gives you more control over the texture, allowing you to achieve anything from a coarse grind to a fine powder.

2) Spice or Coffee Grinder

If you have a clean coffee grinder or dedicated spice grinder, you can use it to grind cloves.Just put the whole cloves in the grinder and pulse until you get the texture you want. Make sure to clean the grinder well afterward to prevent any lingering spice flavors from transferring to your coffee beans.


3) Food Processor

A food processor is another handy appliance for grinding spices.Add the whole cloves to the food processor and pulse in short bursts until you get the texture you want. Remember to use a dedicated flat blade grinding attachment to prevent flavor transfer.

4) Grater or Microplane

A fine grater or microplane can also be used to grate whole cloves. This method produces a very fine powder and is suitable for recipes where a smooth texture is essential. Simply rub the whole cloves against the grater or microplane until they are finely grated.

Do's and Don'ts for Grinding Cloves


spoon with powdered cloves and bowl with whole cloves
Credit: Envato Elements/ TomsonDima

Grinding cloves by hand or with other methods can be simple if you follow the right tips. Here are some key do's and don'ts for effective clove grinding:



  • Start with Whole Cloves: Always use whole cloves for grinding. They retain their flavor and aroma much better than pre-ground cloves.
  • Use a Small Amount: Avoid overcrowding your grinding tool, whether it's a bowl, mortar, or grinder. Grinding a small batch at a time ensures that everything will be evenly ground.
  • Store Properly: After grinding, transfer the freshly ground cloves to an airtight container to preserve their flavor and aroma. Store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.



  • Don't Rush: Take your time when grinding cloves. If you rush, you might not get an even grind.
  • Don't Overdo It: Be careful to not apply excessive pressure or grind for too long, especially if you're using a high-speed blender or food processor. Cloves can quickly turn into a fine powder if you're not careful.
  • Don't Forget to Clean:After grinding cloves, thoroughly clean the equipment you used to prevent the strong clove aroma from affecting other foods.

What Can You Add Ground Cloves to?


hand holding a spoon with whole cloves
Credit: Envato Elements/ 13people

Ground cloves are super versatile and can be used in many dishes. Here's how you can use them:


  • Sprinkle some on your apple pie or mix it into chocolate cake batter for something different.
  • Add a dash of ground cloves to your morning coffee or hot chocolate for a warm, spiced flavor.
  • Try adding it to a creamy mushroom sauce or a rich red wine reduction.
  • Consider adding ground cloves to a butternut squash soup or a Moroccan-inspired tagine.
  • Use it in marinades for chicken or veggies before grilling or roasting.
  • Mix it into homemade preserves and chutneys.
  • Add it to your rice and grain dishes, such as pilaf or biryani.
  • Combine it with other spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice for a homemade spice mix or a unique curry blend.
  • Add it to bread, muffin, and scone recipes to spice things up.
  • Try adding it to fruit salads, compotes, and homemade jams.


FAQ Section


Q1: How long do ground cloves last?

Ground cloves can last for about 3 to 6 months when stored properly in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.


Q2: Are there any health benefits to using ground cloves?

Yes, cloves are known for their medicinal properties, including antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial benefits. They're also a good source of antioxidants and can help in digestion.


Q3: Can I use ground cloves for skincare?

They can be added to homemade masks or scrubs. However, it's essential to do a patch test first and consult with a dermatologist if you have sensitive skin, as cloves can be irritating to some skin types.


Q4: How do I know if my ground cloves are still good to use?

Check the aroma and color of the ground cloves. If they have lost their strong, spicy scent or have significantly faded in color, they may be spoilt.


    Grinding cloves by hand can be a bit of work, but it really pays off with the amazing flavor they add to your meals. This step-by-step guide will help you make the most of this great spice and take your cooking to the next level.

    For an easier and more fun grinding experience, think about upgrading to the Pepe Nero Mortar and Pestle. It's a kitchen essential that combines function and style, ensuring every grind is a delightful one. Shop with us today.

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