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The 5 Best Substitutes for Grains of Paradise

One of the most important components of a dish is the spice.

Whether you’re cooking out of a recipe or improvising on your own, spices add an extra layer of flavor and character to any food.

Grains of Paradise add an unexpected kick of spiciness to any dish, making it a unique and flavorful addition to any cook’s repertoire.

Grains of Paradise has a peppery, spicy taste which enhances the flavors already present in the dish.

It is an integral part of many African dishes but works well.

This spice can also give your food more depth – it offers a heat that is more complex than the average pepper.

However, Grains of Paradise are harder to substitute for.

This article will provide you with five alternatives for this unique spice.

What is Grains of Paradise?

what is grains of paradise

According to an article published by Serious Eats, Grains of Paradise is a spice used in many West African cuisines.

Grains of Paradise has an aromatic flavor that tastes like pepper but hints of cardamom and lemon peel.

It is different from black peppercorn because it contains no piperine (the compound responsible for the spiciness of black pepper.

) Grains of Paradise can be used to replace black pepper and is often found in spice blends.

Depending on the dish and the region, Grains of Paradise can be used in different ways:

  • Used as a replacement for black pepper in West African cuisine.
  • Used to flavor soups, stews, roast meats and vegetables, and rice dishes.

Grains of Paradise has many health benefits, such as preventing heart disease, diabetes, cancer cell growth inhibition, and relieving arthritis pain.

It isn’t easy to find in American supermarkets but can be purchased online or in specialty spice stores.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Grains of Paradise

If you cannot find Grains of Paradise, five substitutes can be used in its place.

1 – Mustard Seeds

mustard seeds

A common substitute found in Indian and Asian food; mustard seeds are in the same family as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.

This spice is used in many cuisines, including American cuisine.

It’s easy to see why mustard seeds are a good replacement for grains of paradise.

Their flavor is similar and can be found in almost any international market.

When you purchase mustard seeds, there are several options.

You can purchase the whole or pre-ground into a powder.

Grinding whole mustard seeds beforehand will help release their maximum flavor potential.

It’s important to note that mustard seeds have a very strong heat.

Thus, they may not be the best substitute if you’re looking for a more subtle spice.

2 – Cardamom Pods

cardamom pods

In India and Asia, cardamom pods are used to spice in many rice dishes.

It’s also used to season curries, vegetables, and meat.

The flavor of cardamom is rich and mellow, similar to a mixture of nutmeg and black pepper.

This spice has a smoky taste that can mix well with other flavors.

It’s important to note that the price of these pods has risen over the years, just as grains of paradise have.

Thus, this may not be the best possible substitute for this spice.

3 – Allspice Berries

allspice berries

While allspice was once a primary export of Jamaica, it also grows in Guatemala and Mexico.

It’s grown from the pimenta tree, which is related to the pepper family of plants.

This spice has a smoky flavor found in many of your favorite barbecue sauces.

In addition, allspice has a sweet and spicy flavor with hints of cloves.

The flavor of this spice is stronger than cloves and cinnamon but not as potent as ginger.

Allspice berries can be found in most international markets.

However, finding them fresh may be difficult to detect their sweet smell.

4 – Sansho Powder

sansho powder

Sansho powder is a traditional Japanese spice.

It’s made from the seeds of the sansho fruit, which can be found in China and Japan.

This spice has a sour, citrusy taste similar to Grains of Paradise.

The primary difference is that sansho powder contains ginger and lemon peel hints.

It’s important to note that sansho powder should not be used to replace black pepper.

Sansho powder is best used in Japanese cuisines, such as yakitori and teriyaki dishes.

So experiment with this spice if you’re looking for a new flavor of your favorite Japanese dishes.

5 – Ground Black Peppers

ground black peppers

It may be surprising that black pepper is a good substitute for Grains of Paradise.

It’s used in many cuisines, including Spanish, Italian, French, and Chinese.

Black pepper has an intense taste with hints of nutmeg and cloves.

However, you’ll find this spice can vary in flavor by the type of pepper used.

For instance, Indian black pepper is smokier than its Malabar counterpart.

It has hints of clove and can be purchased in either whole or ground form.

Black pepper powder is also a great option – with its flavors being similar to grains of paradise but not as intense.

Of course, you’ll need to experiment with your favorite dishes.

Black pepper is typically milder than grains of paradise, so you may want to use a little bit more to get that same flavor.


Grains of Paradise is an interesting spice that’s used in many cuisines.

Its flavor is smoky with hints of black pepper and gingerbread.

However, plenty of other spices can be used as a replacement for Grains of Paradise.

These spices include mustard seed, cardamom pods, allspice berries, sansho powder, and ground black peppercorns.

Of course, it’s important to note that spices may not be a perfect substitute for Grains of Paradise.

They will have their flavors and strengths, so you’ll need to experiment with them in your favorite dishes.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Grains of Paradise

The 5 Best Substitutes for Grains of Paradise
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Mustard Seeds
  • Cardamom Pods
  • Allspice Berries
  • Sansho Powder
  • Ground Black Peppers


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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