If you’re a fan of using cardamom, you probably make many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes—because this spice is often called for in many of these recipes.
However, if you’re new to this cuisine and see the ingredient in a recipe, you’re probably wondering: What is cardamom?
Cardamom is a type of spice that can be added to a variety of both sweet and savory food and adds a tinge of distinct flavor. It belongs to the ginger family and is known for the triangular shape of the pods.
Cardamom comes in two different varieties: black and green cardamom. It's used as a ground variety, or you can also use the entire pod or seeds without crushing them.
Depending on the kind of dish you’re making, your recipe could ask for either green or black cardamom, but green is the most commonly used one.
You can also find a watered-down version of green cardamom, known as white cardamom, but it does not give you the same kind of flavor.
Here’s what you need to know about this unique spice and what you can use as a cardamom substitute.
What does cardamom taste like?
Green cardamom has a citrus flavor that features a combination of both sweet and a tinge of spicy. Black cardamom, on the other hand, boasts a mint-like flavor mixed with a hint of smokiness, making it an excellent addition to flavorful dishes. Whether you use black or green, the flavor is ultimately quite potent and aromatic.
Because of cardamom’s unique flavor, it’s a bit of a challenge to find a substitute for it with the exact flavor notes. Nonetheless, I’ve come up with some that should very well work as subs.
1. Cinnamon and cloves
Using a combination of half a teaspoon of cinnamon with an equal amount of cloves to replace one teaspoon of cardamom works as a suitable cardamom replacement.
Combining the two ingredients recreates a similar woody and spicy flavor and works best if you need it for a meat-based dish or a stew.
2. Cinnamon and nutmeg
Combining these two ingredients brings a similarly warm and smoky taste to your dish that cardamom brings. Even though the two ingredients combined are not as potent and spicy as cardamom, their aroma creates a woody and sweet tinge to the dish, closely resembling the effect cardamom has.
Use half a teaspoon of cinnamon with an equal amount of nutmeg for every one teaspoon of cardamom that your recipe calls for.
Cinnamon is known for its aroma, pungent taste, and its combination of woody and spicy flavors that add a burst of flavor to any dish. It’s commonly used as a cardamom pods substitute even on its own. If your recipe calls for one teaspoon of cardamom, use half the amount of cinnamon to get the closest tasting substation possible.
Depending on your preferences, you may want to add more cinnamon upon tasting the dish, but always start with a smaller amount and work your way up.
4. Other alternatives
Although the ingredients I’ve already revealed are the most commonly used cardamom replacements and bring the closest cardamom-tasting flavor to your dish, there are still some other ingredients you can use instead if you’re out of everything else.
Many people go for peppercorns, allspice, or even ginger to replace cardamom. These are all potent tasting spices, so they only require half their amount to substitute for cardamom.
Tips from the pros
One important thing to remember when working with cardamom is that one pod is the equivalent of 1/6th of a teaspoon of ground cardamom.
If you have the powdered form of cardamom and your recipe calls for pods, you can replace the pods with the powdered version.
The bottom line
When you’re looking for a replacement for cardamom, it’s best to start with smaller amounts of the substitute and then work your way up. This is because all the spices and ingredients mentioned above have unique, aromatic, and potent flavors of their own.
Depending on whether you’re using them in a sweet or savory dish, the effect they have on your dish can vary. This is why you should work your way up only once you feel the need to add more of this ingredient.
- 1/2 T cinnamon
- Substitute a half teaspoon of cinnamon in every 1 teaspoon of cardamom.