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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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.
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!