Cardamom is a staple spice and flavor in many different foods. It works well in both sweet and savory recipes, bringing a slightly nutty spice and added warmth to any dish.
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Cardamom is considered to be among the world's most exotic spices, right up there with vanilla and saffron. It's also in the same botanical family as turmeric and ginger. And cardamom is among the oldest herbs, with ancient Sanskrit text written over 4,000 years ago during the Sumer civilization that references the spice.
The spice is also nicknamed the "Doctor of Spices," due to its incredible medicinal properties that have been used for centuries to alleviate specific ailments. Cardamom also accounts for roughly three percent of the worldwide spice trade and is very popular in Swedish, Arabic, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine.
As well as this nutty warmth, cardamom has layers of other flavors that include citrus and mint., making it a very versatile spice that can be used in any of your favorite recipes.
That being said, not everyone likes cardamom, and you may not even have cardamom in your home!
It is less of a common spice compared with the likes of cinnamon and ginger, meaning that it can catch people off-guard when a recipe includes it.
As well as this, it is quite difficult to get hold of (not to mention the hefty price tag that it often comes with!). It can leave you scratching your head in wonderment of what to use in its place.
Luckily for you, we have all the answers. In this article, we are going to be providing you with some of the best swaps and substitutes for cardamom depending on what recipe you are making and what you have in the pantry.
So if you are not a fan of this fragrant spice, or you have simply run out, this article will show you what you can use instead.
What do you need it for?
When you are looking for an alternative to cardamom, the first thing you need to think about is what you are using it for. What recipe has called for cardamom, bringing you to this article in search of an alternative?
It is important that you know exactly what the cardamom is being used for as this can give you answers regarding what flavor the cardamom would have brought to the dish.
Cardamom is versatile and can be used in savory and sweet dishes alike. It tastes wonderful with all meats, whether white poultry or red meat, and also works deliciously well in cakes, pastries, and even in alcoholic cocktails.
It is vital to understand what element of cardamom is needed. For example, in a meat dish, you may need cardamom for its warmth and spice.
In a cake, it is the sweet nuttiness that will be most desired. In a cocktail, you may want it to add zing thanks to the mint and lemon undertones, or warmth thanks to the spice.
Now, a beginner chef may not have the exact answers as to why it’s needed, but keeping in mind the flavor profile of cardamom and thinking about the wider context of the recipe can help with this.
You may also want to consider what exactly the recipe is asking of you. You can get cardamom in many different forms. You can buy ground or powdered cardamom, as well as getting cardamom pods.
There are also three different types - black cardamom, green cardamom, and white cardamom. If, for example, a recipe asks you to use fresh cardamom pods but you only have ground cardamom then you can simply use the ground version instead.
You may even be able to switch out one type of cardamom for another (e.g. using green cardamom pods in place of white cardamom pods).
Cinnamon and cloves
A mixture of cinnamon and cloves in equal amounts can be an excellent substitute for cardamom.
Cardamom is typically bought in pods that get added to dishes for the flavor. The pods can then be removed when the dish is cooked or kept in as a garnish.
With this in mind, it will be more than fine to use cinnamon sticks and whole cloves as opposed to powdered versions as they can be used in the same way as cardamom pods and removed or discarded when the recipe is cooked.
This alternative works well in many different dishes, but it works particularly well in soup, broth, or stew-based dishes.
For example, if a recipe for a lamb stew calls for cardamom pods, you can add in a few sticks of cinnamon and whole cloves in their place. You can then remove them before serving.
This becomes a little more tricker in recipes such as cakes. You can use ground cinnamon (powder form) along with some powdered or ground clove.
The latter is a little more difficult to come by, but if you do manage to find it simply use half a teaspoon of each to replace the specified amount of cardamom in your cake or pastry recipe.
Cinnamon and nutmeg
Similar to cinnamon and clove, cinnamon and nutmeg also make a great alternative to cardamom in a variety of recipes.
The sweetness of both the nutmeg and cinnamon complement one another well, especially when used in sweet recipes.
Use powdered or ground versions of each of these in all your favorite cardamom bakes. You can even use this mixture as a substitute for cardamom in curries and other spicy dishes to great effect.
The best amounts to use of both cinnamon and nutmeg are equal amounts each. We recommend that you use half a teaspoon of each in place of cardamom.
If you prefer to use cinnamon sticks and whole nutmeg you can, but this will be far more difficult for baked recipes such as cakes, pastries, and pies. You can use these for stews, soups, and curries instead as they can easily be removed when the dish is cooked and ready to serve.
Allspice powder is a very common product found in pantries and cupboards all over the world, so it is likely that, even if you have no other spice in your kitchen, you will have this one.
You can use it in place of cardamom in several different recipes.
We recommend using it for savory dishes rather than sweet ones. It works particularly well in all meat dishes, fish dishes, and even curries if you have none of the other suggestions available.
When it comes to using allspice as a substitute you should use a very small amount in comparison to some of the other suggestions on our list.
Use just half a teaspoon in total in place of the cardamom in your recipe. This is so that you can ensure the recipe will not be too overpoweringly spicy.
You should also bear in mind that, whilst allspice is commonly confused with mixed spice they are not the same thing.
Allspice is actually a spice in its own right and a member of the myrtle family of plants. It is not a blend of different spices. Mixed spice will not work in its place in this instance.
Cardamom seeds, pods, and ground powder
As we mentioned earlier in the article, you can actually use one type of cardamom pod in place of another. You can also use powdered or ground cardamom as a replacement for pods, and vice versa.
Now, this is not quite as straightforward as it seems, as certain types of cardamom give off different flavors, and so, they are suited to certain dishes. Follow our guide for more details.
White cardamom in place of green cardamom and vice versa
You can use both green cardamom and white cardamom pods in place of each other, but only in sweet recipes. This is because they will not give off as much flavor in savory recipes.
Simply use one pod in place of another. White cardamom pods are blander in taste than green and black, so bear this in mind.
You may also want to use half a teaspoon of white cardamom powder in place of three pods of green cardamom. However, keep in mind that cardamom can lose some of its flavors when it is crushed.
For this reason, it may well be worth tasting the recipe as you go so you can better judge whether you need to add more.
Black cardamom can be used in savory dishes but is not recommended in desserts as the flavor does not work as well with sweet dishes.
You can use equal amounts of black cardamom in place of that of white or green.
Cardamom seeds can also be used. To make things that little bit more confusing and complicated, it should be noted that even fewer cardamom seeds are needed in place of the other forms of cardamom.
As a general rule, you can substitute half a teaspoon of cardamom seeds and use them in place of 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom powder.
Depending on your recipe you should consider the different textures that the seeds may provide.
Ginger is yet another spice that works well in place of cardamom in many different recipes. Ginger is commonly associated with sweet dishes such as cakes and pastries (perhaps because of the popularity of gingerbread).
However, it is also a delicious addition to many curries and stews. For this reason, you can use fresh or ground and powdered ginger instead of cardamom in all of your favorite dishes.
It provides the same spicy warmth and citrusy zing as cardamom and is often much easier to get hold of. It can also be cheaper, too.
Use half a teaspoon of ginger alongside the same of cinnamon, or a whole teaspoon of ginger on its own in all of your cardamom recipes.
If you plan to use fresh ginger you should grate it first or chop it into small pieces and measure out one teaspoon this way. Bear in mind that the recipe will taste more gingery if you use fresh rather than ground.
Cumin and coriander
An equal mixture of cumin and coriander is the perfect replacement for cardamom in spicy dishes such as curries and meat recipes.
All three are often used in Indian dishes, and if you have run out of cardamom you can certainly use a little more cumin and coriander in its place.
Half a teaspoon of each will work well and give your recipe that earthy warmth that cardamom provides.
It should be noted that this substitute cannot be used in sweet dishes as the flavors do not translate well. It is better left for savory recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What flavor is similar to cardamom?
Cardamom has such a unique flavor that you might think it’s impossible to replicate. But, there are certain spices that are very similar in flavor to cardamom.
These include allspice, coriander seeds, and nutmeg. You can recreate the flavor of cardamom by mixing certain spices together.
The first of these is a mixture of cloves and cinnamon. The intensity of the cloves works well with the sweetness of the cinnamon to create a flavor that closely resembles cardamom.
It’s an easy substitute equation, too. If a recipe calls for 1tsp of cardamom, just use half a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of cloves.
The second spice mixture for recreating the flavor of cardamom is cinnamon and nutmeg.
Again, if you need 1tsp of cardamom for your recipe, simply just half a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg.
A mixture of cinnamon and ground ginger also works well for mimicking the flavor of cardamom, as they create a spicy, warm, sweet flavor. Just use equal parts of each to make the same required cardamom measurement.
Finally, a mixture of cloves and nutmeg can be used to recreate the flavor of cardamom. Again, simply use equal amounts of each to get the required measurements of cardamom.
Can I substitute coriander for cardamom?
Yes and no. While you cannot use fresh coriander as a substitute for cardamom, you can use coriander seeds.
The reason for this is because coriander seeds taste completely different from the leaves they produce and have a distinct nutty, citrus flavor that is quite similar to cardamom.
You need to act with caution when using coriander seeds in place of cardamom, though. Too many and you could accidentally end up overpowering the dish.
Add a little at a time, and never go over the amount of cardamom the recipe calls for.
Is cardamom similar to allspice?
Allspice and cardamom are very similar in flavor and, luckily, allspice is widely available so it's a good choice if you’re looking for a substitute.
Similar to cardamom, allspice has a fruity, spicy flavor with hints of citrus. It’s not exactly the same as cardamom, but the flavors are close enough to be unnoticeable.
Another thing that separates them, aside from the slight taste difference, is that allspice is the dried, unripe berry of the “Pimenta dioica”.
This is a tree that is native to the Greater Antilles, Southern Mexico, and Central America. Cardamom pods are a seed harvested from various members of the ginger plant family.
Many people also believe that allspice is a mixture of different spices, which is understandable given its name. However, it is a single ingredient.
Is cardamom the same as coriander?
While the seeds of each plant have a similar flavor, cardamom and coriander are not the same thing. Cardamom is made from seeds that are harvested from various members of the ginger plant family.
There are also two main varieties of cardamom; black cardamom and green cardamom. You may also come across white cardamom while shopping for spices, but this is simply a bleached version of green cardamom.
On the other hand, as their name suggests, coriander seeds are harvested from the coriander plant. They have a completely different flavor from the leaves of the plant, which makes them a wonderful substitute for cardamom.
The most common type of cardamom used in cooking is green cardamom, and it has a place in both sweet and savory dishes.
Black cardamom has a smokier flavor, which makes it much more suited to savory recipes. However, there are some Southern Indian recipes that call for its inclusion in sweet dishes.
As you can see, if you have run out of cardamom mid-recipe, all is not lost.
There are plenty of spices that you can use in its place, many of which are easier to get a hold of and cheaper to buy.
You may even have some of them laying around your house anyway!
Our Best Cardamom Substitute
Use in or with your favorite recipe.