What are Cloves?

What are cloves? Cloves, dried flower buds from a tree in Indonesia, are used either ground or whole in cooking. The name is derived from the Latin word for nail because whole dried cloves spice look like decorating nails. Cloves are used for three main purposes around the world: cooking, medicine and for its fragrance.

What are Cloves?What are Cloves?

What are Cloves Cooking Uses

The most common answer to the question “what are cloves used for?” is as a strong flavor in spicy foods. Cloves will be one of the key ingredients you’ll need to learn about when you’re learning how to cook with spices. You’ll find cloves in food and drink such as:

  • Indian curries, in particular biryanis. They are very strong, so they are normally ground up with other spices such as cumin and coriander to produce garam masala. This is then added to most curries to give them an authentic taste.

  • Chai tea. This is a specially spiced tea that comes in both caffeinated and non-caffeinated varieties. In its loose leaf form, the cloves will be left whole and strained out when the tea is ready to drink. In teabag form, the cloves will normally be ground up.

  • Dutch cheeses. The Dutch seafarers built incredibly strong trading links with Indonesia, which means that there is an unusually high amount of cloves used in Dutch cooking. Look out for cloves being used to flavor certain types of cheese too.

Cloves In Homeopathy

The other main answer to “what are cloves used for” is as a painkiller in modern homeopathy. The health benefits of cloves include:

  • Anti-gas in the stomach

  • Expelling parasitic worms from the body

  • Painkilling in dentistry. This is especially true when the essential oil of the clove is used, and this practice is now used by mainstream dentists as well.

  • Antiseptic properties on a small scale. This makes the essential oil useful for cleaning out infection in the gums and teeth.

A Simple Cloves Recipe

Now that you’ve got an idea of what are cloves used for, it’s time to put the theory into practice. The following is a simple recipe for an authentic Indian biryani. Unlike other curries, a biryani is meant to come out dry and already served with rice. You will need:


  • 1 Onion, chopped finely
  • 1 Clove of garlic, crushed
  • 10 Cloves
  • Peeled whole ginger, chopped finely
  • Dried coriander, cumin, turmeric and cardamom
  • 1 Pound diced lamb
  • 1 Cup natural yogurt
  • 1 1/2 Cups rice
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 Green chilies
  • Lemon juice

Gently fry the chopped onion and garlic in some lightweight oil such as vegetable or sunflower oil.

For a truly authentic Indian taste, try to find some ghee which is purified butter.


Raisin Bread RecipeRaisin Bread Recipe
  • 1 Medium size potato
  • 4 Cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 Cup warm water
  • 1 Cup honey
  • 6 Cups whole wheat flour
  • 5 ½ Cups all purpose flour (Allow extra for kneading)
  • 4 Cups raisins
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons cloves
  • 2 Teaspoons cinnamon

Peel potato and cut into pieces; cook in water until tender.

Drain potato reserving water in a large mixing bowl; mash potato.

Return mashed potato to the water in which it was cooked.

Blend butter and salt into potato; cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water; let stand 5 minutes and add honey.

Beat whole wheat flour into potato mixture; beat in yeast and mix thoroughly.

Cover bowl and let rise about 1 hour; work in all purpose flour to form soft dough.

Blend in raisins, cloves and cinnamon; on heavy floured surface knead until smooth adding more flour if needed to prevent stickiness.

Place dough in a greased bowl turning to coat; cover and let rise until doubled about 1 ½ hours.

Punch down and divide into 3 parts; place each in a greased loaf pan.

Cover and let rise again until doubled.

PREHEAT OVEN TO 375F degrees; bake for 40 minutes.

Three Loaves of Raisin BreadThree Loaves of Raisin Bread

Add the spices and the whole cloves to the pan and mix into the oil until you’ve made a paste. Cloves are very aromatic, so your kitchen will start to smell wonderfully sweet and spicy. You’ve now found another answer to the question “what are cloves used for?”

Add the lamb and yoghurt and cook until the meat is cooked through. Be careful at this point, as the spices will turn the outside of the meat brown from the very beginning, so you’ll need to take a piece out and cut it up to check that it’s done.

Cook the rice as per the directions on the side of the packet. Add it to the meat and yoghurt mixture. The turmeric should turn the rice bright yellow, which is the traditional color of a biryani.

Add the chilies and the lemon juice. Cover the whole pan and leave to simmer for an hour. Serve immediately with extra sides of naan bread and yogurt.