Cardamom is used in many Asian dishes. It’s made from grinding the seeds of cardamom pods. Green cardamom is most expensive by weight and the most commonly used. White cardamom, which is bleached green cardamom, is often used in desserts. Black cardamom is less expensive and used for savory dishes, but not something commonly found in most kitchens. But cardamom overall is the third most expensive spice, behind vanilla and saffron. It can be difficult to find, and it loses potency once the seeds have been ground. For this reason, many people seek out the best cardamom substitutes for cooking just like mirin substitute.
Cardamom originated from South Asia. It’s commonly used in a variety of dishes all over the world including Scandinavian, Indian, Middle Eastern and African dishes. Some examples of international dishes that use cardamom include:
- Julekake, Scandinavian bread
- Sweet bread pullas, Finnish
- Masala tea, Indian
The taste of cardamom is very complex and depend somewhat on whether you are using green, white, or black cardamom and whether it’s whole or ground. It’s spicy but has a woody or nutty taste that is also fruity with a citrus accent. Finding a true cardamom substitute for cooking is tricky but not impossible if you know a little about cardamom and how it impacts your recipes.
If you’re skipping out on the cardamom due to an allergy, check with your physician before using any of the best cardamom substitutes for cooking as many of them have similar properties which could also trigger your allergy.
Where to Buy Cardamom
Because Cardamom originates overseas and it’s one of the costliest spices, you may have to do some work to find it. It’s heavily relied upon to make Indian food, so you may find it less expensive in those specialty stores. Some of the other best places to look for cardamom include:
- International grocery stores
- Bulk bins at your local grocery store
- Order online
It’s important to remember that cardamom loses flavor quickly once it’s been ground so only buy what you need. You get the best flavor if you buy the cardamom pods fresh, remove the seeds and grind yourself. If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom, you’ll need about six cardamom pods. But if you truly can’t find it or just don’t have the time for an extended hunt, you may want to consider one of these best cardamom substitutes for cooking.
Green Cardamom Substitutes
Green cardamom is infused with a slightly smoky earthy aroma with just a bit of an almost mint flavor and a hint of citrus. It can be used to enhance the flavors of meats, beans, desserts, or even pastries. It has also been used as a burst of flavor in various alcoholic drinks or coffees. While white cardamom is best suited for deserts and black cardamom is ideal for savory dishes, green cardamom is the one that is most often called for in recipes. It can be used in either sweet or savory dishes. If your recipe simply calls for cardamom, it’s likely green cardamom you should be looking for.
- Cinnamon (1 part), Allspice (1 part), Clove (1 part), Nutmeg (4 parts)
- Black Cardamom (for savory dishes, start with half amount called for and increase as needed)
- Apple Pie Spice
- Cinnamon (½ tsp), Nutmeg (⅛), Allspice (⅛)
- Cinnamon with just a bit of Mace
Best Substitutes for Black Cardamom
When it comes to black cardamom it’s a totally different flavor, some would say it’s not “true” cardamom. Black cardamom has a mostly smoky flavor, and some will say a medicinal flavor. Is typically used in savory dishes such as meat recipes because it brings out the flavor and adds that smoky essence that works so well.
Ginger and Cinnamon
Equal parts of ginger and cinnamon can serve as one of the best substitutes for cardamom for meat, rice dishes or recipes that are more savory than sweet.
Cinnamon and Cloves
Equal parts of each, good for savory meat recipes. Start with half of what recipe calls for and add in equal parts to desired taste. Great for meat and seafood recipes.
Nutmeg, Allspice, and Coriander
Equal parts nutmeg, allspice, and coriander combined will give you a very similar aroma and flavor of black cardamom. Keep in mind these spices can easily take command of a dish if you use too much of them. Start out with half of the cardamom called for in the recipe and increase equally to desired taste.
Cardamom Substitutes for Sweet or Savory Dishes
Also known as the Jamaica pepper. Unripe dried berries, not seeds. If you’ve had Jamaican jerk chicken, you’ve tasted allspice. It’s frequently used for baking as well. Tastes like a combination of nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. It has a stronger flavor than cardamom so start with half of what recipe calls for and add gradually to suit your taste. As a standalone cardamom substitute, it’s probably the closest in taste and it works well in curry dishes and with fish or meat dishes.
Start with half the amount of cardamom called for in sweet dishes and use the same amount as the recipe calls for if making a savory recipe. Good on its own for meat dishes. For curry dishes combine equal amounts of coriander and cumin.
Nutmeg and Cinnamon
When using nutmeg and cinnamon as a cardamom substitute in baked dishes or desserts, start with ½ tsp of each ingredient to every 1 tsp of cardamom called for in the original recipe. This is also one of the best cardamom substitutes for sweetmeat recipes.
The ideal way to find the best cardamom substitutes for cooking is to understand the subtle yet distinct differences between green cardamom, white, and black cardamom. Once you know these differences, you can determine which cardamom alternatives will work best for your recipe and the other ingredients that are involved. Have you found a great substitute for cardamom that we missed? Let us know.