For sauces or baked goods that require a slightly sweet element, it is possible to substitute ground cloves with other spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. Replacing ground cloves with one of these spices is done in equal amounts, so a half-teaspoon of nutmeg can serve as a equal substitute for a half-teaspoon of ground cloves.
Cloves are flower buds from the clove tree, and resemble small nails that have been dried. Cloves impart a very strong flavor, and a small amount goes a long way. Most cloves are ground and used in baked goods, such as savory pies like pumpkin or sweet potato. Whole cloves, which do not have a useful substitution, are also used to flavor large cuts of meat, like hams.