Need to find out what to use as a cardamom substitute? Learn more about cardamom as well as some of the best cardamom substitutes for when you’re in the kitchen and don’t have any of this spice on hand.
What is Cardamom?
Cardamom is a spice that is commonly used in a variety of dishes, including baked goods, curries, and chai tea. It has a unique, warm, and slightly sweet flavor that adds depth and complexity to many dishes.
The cardamom plant is a perennial herb that belongs to the ginger family. It is native to the rain forests of India and other parts of South Asia, and is also grown in Central and South America. Cardamom plants have long, thin leaves and clusters of small, white or pale green flowers. The plant produces small, green pods that contain seeds, which are the source of the cardamom spice. The seeds are small, black or brown in color, and have a strong, aromatic flavor.
Cardamom is sometimes called the “Queen of Spices” and is especially popular in Indian cuisine as well as Scandanavian baking and in the production of liqueurs and other alcoholic beverages. However, it can be difficult to find in some areas, which means that you may need to find a substitute if you can’t find it at the store and don’t want to wait for an Amazon order to show up in your mailbox.
What Does Cardamom Taste Like?
Cardamom is a spice that has a sweet, aromatic flavor. It is often described as having a complex, warm, and slightly sweet taste, with a pungent and spicy aroma. The flavor of cardamom can range from mild and delicate to bold and assertive, depending on the variety and how it is used in cooking. It can be used in everything from chocolate chip cookies and gingersnap cookies, to beverages like chai and moon milk.
Whole Cardamom Pods vs. Ground Cardamom
When cooking with cardamom you can use either whole cardamom pod or ground cardamom. Whole cardamom is mostly used in savory dishes or drinks where the hard pods are not eaten themselves but rather used to add flavor. Ground cardamom does not last as long as whole cardamom, but is the method of choice for most baking recipes that call for the use of cardamom.
Green Cardamom vs. Black Cardamom
Green cardamom and black cardamom belong to the same botanical family but actually come from different plants.
- Green cardamom: The most commonly used kind of cardamom is green cardamom, which is what this article focuses on. Green cardamom is also known as “true cardamom” and comes from the Elettaria cardamomum plant that belongs to the ginger family. Green cardamom is sweet and used in everything from desserts to savory dishes. It is also more expensive than black cardamom.
- Black cardamom: This spice is also known as “Bengal cardamom” and it grows on the Amomum subulatum plant that also belongs to the ginger family. The flavor profile is totally different. Black cardamom has a smoky flavor and is mostly used in savory dishes, not drinks or desserts.
The Best Cardamom Substitutes
There are several options you can use as a cardamom substitute, depending on the recipe and your preferences. Here are some of the best ways to use a different spice when you don’t have any cardamom on hand:
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a spice that is widely available and has a similar warm, sweet flavor to cardamom. It works well in baked goods, such as cookies and cakes, and can also be used in savory dishes like curries. While not as aromatic as cardamom, cinnamon has a similar sweet and slightly spicy flavor that can add depth and warmth to a variety of dishes. Just be sure to use it in moderation, as cinnamon can be quite strong and overpowering if used in too large of a quantity.
- Nutmeg: Nutmeg is another spice that has a warm, sweet flavor that is similar to cardamom. It works well in baked goods, such as muffins and bread, and can also be used in savory dishes like curries.
- Allspice: Allspice is a spice that has a warm, sweet, and slightly pungent flavor that can work as a substitute for cardamom in some dishes. It is often used in baked goods, such as cookies and pies, and can also be used in savory dishes like stews and curries.
- Ginger: Ginger is a spice that has a slightly sweet and spicy flavor that can work as a substitute for cardamom in some dishes. It is often used in baked goods, such as gingerbread and cookies, and can also be used in savory dishes like stir-fries and curries.
- Cloves: Cloves are a spice that have a warm, sweet, and slightly bitter flavor that can work as a substitute for cardamom in some dishes. They are often used in baked goods, such as gingerbread and spice cakes, and can also be used in savory dishes like curries.
- Coriander: One of the closest substitutes for cardamom is coriander seeds. Both cardamom and coriander belong to the ginger family, and they have a similar, slightly sweet, and floral flavor. Coriander seeds can be used in place of cardamom in most recipes, although they are slightly more pungent and may need to be used in slightly smaller quantities.
All of the above cardamom substitutions have a stronger flavor than cardamom, so you may want to use a little less if you are using them to replace cardamom in a recipe.
How to Substitute Other Spices for Cardamom
When using a cardamom substitute in a recipe, it’s important to consider the flavor profile of the dish and choose a substitute that will complement the other ingredients. Some substitutes, like cinnamon and nutmeg, are similar in flavor to cardamom and can work well in many dishes. Others, like ginger and cloves, have a slightly different flavor but can still work as a substitute in some dishes.
Overall, the best substitute for cardamom will depend on the recipe and your personal preferences. By considering the flavor profile and strength of the various substitutes, you can find the option that works best for your dish.
When replacing cardamom in a baking recipe, the best substitute is going to be 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon combined with either 1/2 a teaspoon of ground nutmeg or 1/2 a teaspoon of allspice.
In Chai Tea
If you need a cardamom substitute in your recipe for chai tea, the best option is going to be an equal parts blend of cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and allspice.
If you’re making curry and discover you don’t have any cardamom available, you can sub it with an equal parts mixture of cumin and coriander.
Health Benefits of Cardamom
According to Healthline, cardamom is rich in antioxidants, which can help to protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Cardamom may also help to improve digestion and reduce bloating, and it has been used traditionally to treat respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma. Additionally, cardamom has been shown to have a positive effect on blood pressure and cholesterol levels, making it a useful spice for those looking to maintain good heart health.