As you know, cardamom is a popular herb and a spice that people used for centuries both in cooking and medicine while many used it as a substance that gave an aromatic, resinous fragrance. If you are not quite sure whether you have previously experienced the taste of it, then make sure you do even for once in your lifetime.
In this article ‘Best Cardamom Substitutes’, we will be discussing everything you need to know about cardamoms and the substitutes for them.
What is cardamom and where can you find them?
There are few types of cardamoms,
- Green cardamom
Green cardamom’s herbal, citrusy, slightly sweet flavor is used in sweet and savory dishes. (Known as Elettaria cardamomom)
- Black cardamoms
Black cardamom’s stronger, the menthol-like flavor is used mostly in savory dishes. (Known as Amomum Subulatum)
- White cardamom
White cardamom (Bleached green pods. They tend to have a milder flavor)
Among them, the most commonly used variety is the green cardamom, but it depends on the dish you are preparing. These belong to the ginger family and are known for the triangular shape of the pods. The seeds are black and small while the pods are different in color and size by species. Also, these can be used as a ground variety or you can use the entire pod or seed without crushing them.
Cardamom fruits are collected from wild plants, native to the moist forests in southern India. Cardamom is now mostly cultivated in countries like Guatemala, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan apart from India. Also, it is ranked as the third most expensive spice in the world.
Click here to see more countries that grow cardamom.
Why do people use cardamom?
Cardamoms are used in three areas.
- As a cooking spice
Cardamom can quickly overpower other ingredients when added to a dish. They pair well with poultry, red meat, lentils, oranges, rice and warm spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. They are used in curries, teas, and baked goods. You can find cuisines with cardamom mostly in Asian restaurants preferably Indian but now westerners have got accustomed to using cardamom in various types of food items simply because of the taste it possesses. Want to find more recipes with cardamom? Find them here.
Click here to find more details on how cardamom is used in cooking.
- As a medicine
Cardamom is an herb. Its seeds are used to make various types of medicine. Cardamom is used for digestion issues including heartburn, intestinal spasm, irritable bowel syndrome (known as IBS), intestinal gas, constipation, liver and gallbladder complaints and loss of appetite.
- As a substance that gives an aromatic fragrance
The uniqueness of its scent has made it used in aromatherapy. It is considered a calming tonic for the mind and emotions improving concentration and mental functioning. Also, this scent is effective in relieving nausea and vomiting associated with both pregnancy and chemotherapy while promoting respiratory health.
Best cardamom substitutes
It is the flavor of the cardamom that makes it unique. The taste of the types of cardamom is in different flavors that change subtlety. For instance, green cardamoms have a citrus flavor which is a combination of both sweet and tinge of spicy. Whereas, black cardamoms have a flavor that is more like mint with a hint of smokiness making them an excellent addition to flavorful dishes.
It is hard to find a substitution for cardamom, but not impossible. It can be replaced with many other spices which we will be discussing here.
Cinnamon is popular for its sweet and sharp fragrance, nutritional value and its taste. Its woody and spicy flavors add flavor to any dish.
It is an ancient spice that comes from the barks of several species of Cinnamomum Genus of evergreen trees, which belong to the laurel family. Though cinnamon is grown throughout Asia, Europe and North America, the most popular types of cinnamon are native to Sri Lanka and China.
You can use cinnamon on its own or as a substitute for cardamom. If your recipe mentions one teaspoon of cardamom, use half a teaspoon of cinnamon to get the flavor which is quite close to the taste of cardamom. You can also use the amount you want but that depends on the dish you are preparing. Make sure to check the taste after adding a small amount first so that you’ll know how much you will want.
Click here to find more health benefits of cinnamon.
2. Cinnamon and nutmeg
A combination of cinnamon and nutmeg will add a warm and smoky flavor to your dish which is quite similar to the taste of cardamoms. Even though they are not as potent and spicy as cardamom, their aroma creates a woody and sweet look like cardamom does, to the dishes you will be preparing.
If the recipe mentions one teaspoon for the dish you are preparing, add half a teaspoon with an equal amount of nutmeg.
Click here to find more health benefits of nutmeg.
3. Cinnamon and ginger
A combination of ginger and cinnamon together can be used as a substitute for cardamom in your dishes. Ginger has a slightly peppery and sweet flavor with a pungent and spicy aroma which makes it possible to use as a substitute. You can try equal parts of cinnamon and ginger to suit the dish you are preparing.
Make sure not to burn fresh ginger mellows while cooking otherwise they will give a bitter taste like burnt garlic.
Click here to find the health benefits of ginger.
4. Cinnamon and cloves
Cloves are taken from the flower buds of the clove tree which is also known as Syzygium Aromaticum. These can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. This intensely aromatic spice adds plenty of warmth to any dish.
Since cardamom and cloves replicate many of the intense flavors of cardamom with their spicy and woody touch it is a perfect combination and a good substitute for cardamom.
Here you can substitute one half of teaspoon of cinnamon and one half-teaspoon of cloves for one teaspoon of cardamom. This especially goes best with savory dishes like meats and stews.
Click here to find the health benefits of cloves.
Allspice is derived from berries that are native to Jamaica, Guatemala and Honduras. They are picked from an evergreen tree in the myrtle family named Pimenta Dioca. There are various names for these berries; pimento, Jamaica pimento, Jamaica pepper, pimento and myrtle pepper are some of them. These berries are dried until they are smaller, darker balls that are similar to peppercorns. Allspice powder which is used in seasoning foods is taken from those dark balls we mentioned above.
The strong, spicy taste and the aroma of this spice are quite similar to a mixture of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper making it another suitable alternative for cardamom. You can use half a teaspoon if your recipe mentions a teaspoon full of cardamom. It will not give you the exact perfect taste but it will give a similar flavor.
Click here to find the health benefits of allspice berries.
6. Allspice with peppercorns
You can use this combination of peppercorns and allspice as a replacement for cardamom. As we mentioned earlier allspice has a complex flavor similar to cardamom with notes of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.
Since both these spices are strong, use half the amount of each, if your recipe mentions one teaspoon full of cardamom.
Remember, whatever you are using to replace cardamom, you can never get the exact genuine taste 100%. These substitutions are just some replacements you can try in case you run out of cardamom and work quite okay.
How to use cardamom
Since ground cardamom loses the flavor quickly, it is better to buy cardamom pods and grind them on your own. This way you can save some money because the pods are cheaper, unlike cardamom powder. Remove the seeds from the pods and toss the seeds in a coffee/ spice grinder giving them a quick whirl, if you want to grind them.
Things you should consider
There are certain things you should consider when using substitutes for cardamom. First, understand that one pod is equivalent to 1/6th of a teaspoon of ground cardamom and that means 3 cardamom pods are equal to ½ teaspoon of cardamom powder.
In case you have the powdered version when your recipe asks for pods, you can replace the powdered version with the pods.
When you are trying a replacement for cardamom, make sure to start with a small amount and check the taste first before adding as you wish. It is all about the dish you are making and the taste you prefer since not all the recipes are up to your taste and interest.
As you know cardamom is among the most expensive spices in the world. If you do not want to try a substitute and you want the original taste of it, try to buy them from an international grocery store or online.