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Nutmeg vs Mace : Duo Popular Spices from Indonesia

Nutmeg is one of the spice plants that are commonly found in Indonesia and very popular throughout the world [1]. About 70% of the world’s nutmeg production is from Indonesia, followed by India, SriLanka, and Grenada. This endemic plant of Maluku Islands can be separated into two parts: nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is the seed of a tree fruit that is similar to an apricot, while mace is the dried aril which is shaped like a thin red weave above the seed [2].

Nutmeg and mace can be found as whole or ground and used for seasoning foods and beverages, from sweet to savory dishes. They also contain essential oil which can be obtained by distillation or oil extraction. Before the distillation process, the nutmeg should be dried and grounded into coarse powder. After the distillation process, the products are then separated into nutmeg essential oil and nutmeg butter. Nutmeg and mace can be also processed to make nutmeg oleoresin and mace oleoresin, which are used for flavor application [3].

Unlike PT Mitra Ayu that uses Supercritical CO2 Extraction, many other producers use solvent extraction method to make their nutmeg and mace oleoresin. For example, in the paper by Sofyana et al. and Rodianawati et al., ethanol was used to make oleoresin after the distillation process [4, 5].

What is Nutmeg and Mace?

When the nutmeg fruit matures, it splits open and we can see the aril and the seed. The aril or mace which is like lacy membrane encases the nutmeg seed is collected, flattened, and dried for 10-14 days. When the mace dried, the red color turns to amber-, yellow- or orange-brown. The mace is sold as whole (called “blade” of mace) or processed into a ground spice [6].

Besides the inner seed, nutmeg, is usually has orange brown color. Before the nutmeg ready to become food seasoning, nutmeg seeds are dried gradually under the sunlight for six to eight weeks. The nutmeg seed is shrunk away from its hard coat. After the kernels rattle in their shells when shaken, it is separated from the outer coat and ready to be sold as spice (whole or ground form) [7].

Whole vs ground

In general, the blades and whole nutmeg seed would give a fresher and cleaner taste compared to the ground ones. In addition, the whole form would also have a longer shelf life [6,7].


The nutmeg has nutty and slightly sweet taste, with a strong and distinct aroma. Some people which sensitive tongue, might call it spicy. Meanwhile mace flavor is similar with nutmeg but softer and less sweet, which is often described as sweet, woody, warm, and mild pungent. Some argue that the mace has similar taste as a mixture of cinnamon and pepper [6,7].


The ground and whole nutmeg need to be kept in an airtight container, away from heat, light, and moisture. When store properly, the ground nutmeg will retain its freshness for up to six months.

Mace has the longest shelf life among the other spices. It is recommended to store mace in a tightly-sealed jar, in a cool and dark place. Both the blades and ground mace can retain the flavor for over a year, but its flavor would start to decrease after six or eight months. Another interesting tip is it is not recommended to refrigerate mace [6,7].


[4] Sofyana, S., Supardan, M.D., Zuhra, Z., Maulida, C.A. and Haura, U., 2013. Ultrasound Assisted Extraction of Oleoresin From Nutmeg (Myristia Fragrans Houtt). International Journal on Advanced Science, Engineering and Information Technology, 3(4), pp.281-284.

[5] Rodianawati, I., Hastuti, P. and Cahyanto, M.N., 2015. Nutmeg's (Myristica fragrans Houtt) oleoresin: effect of heating to chemical compositions and antifungal properties. Procedia Food Science, 3, pp.244-254.


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