Cardamom Substitutes

Cardamom, a popular spice used in various cuisines around the world, is known for its unique flavor and aroma. Native to India, cardamom is used in both savory and sweet dishes, adding a distinct, warm touch. However, there may be instances where this versatile spice isn’t readily available in your pantry, or you may be looking for a more budget-friendly option, considering cardamom is often quite pricey. In such cases, identifying the perfect cardamom substitute can save your dish without compromising on flavor.

There are several spices that can be used as cardamom substitutes in cooking, each offering a distinct and complementary profile. When seeking an alternative, it’s essential to consider the specific dish you’re preparing and the flavor profile you hope to achieve. By understanding the unique qualities of each substitute, you can ensure that your culinary adventure remains authentic and delicious despite the absence of cardamom.

This article aims to explore the different cardamom substitutes available, offering insights into which spice might work best according to your dish’s specific requirements. With these options in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle any culinary challenge involving cardamom, whether it’s due to limited availability or budget constraints.

Substitute for Cardamom

Types of Cardamom

Green Cardamom

Green cardamom, also known as true cardamom or Elettaria cardamomum, is the most common and widely used variety. It has a sweet, floral, and slightly citrusy flavor profile. Green cardamom is typically sold in pods, which contain small black seeds. These seeds are where the intense flavor is concentrated, and can be crushed or ground for use in a variety of dishes.

Uses of green cardamom:

  • In sweet dishes: cookies, cakes, and pastries
  • As a flavoring agent in tea and coffee
  • In savory dishes like curry or meat rubs

Black Cardamom

Black cardamom, or Amomum subulatum, is larger than green cardamom, and has a smoky, earthy flavor. It has black, rough pods with large seeds inside, which are used both whole and ground. Despite the name, black cardamom is not a direct substitute for green cardamom, due to its distinct flavor.

Uses of black cardamom:

  • In rice dishes, like biryani and pulao
  • As a spice in masala chai
  • In meat dishes, like stews and roasts

White Cardamom

White cardamom is essentially green cardamom that has been bleached to a pale color. The process of bleaching sometimes impacts the flavor, making white cardamom milder and less aromatic than its green counterpart. Although not as popular as green and black cardamom, it can still be found in some recipes.

Uses of white cardamom:

  • In white-colored dishes, like rice pudding and coconut-based dishes
  • As a more subtle flavor in desserts and sweet baked goods

In summary, green, black, and white cardamom have their own distinct flavor profiles and are used in different dishes. Green cardamom is the most common and versatile, while black cardamom lends a smoky, earthy flavor to savory dishes. White cardamom, a milder alternative, can be used in pale-colored dishes where the appearance and subtlety of flavor are of importance.

Cardamom in Different Cuisines

Indian Cuisine

Cardamom is an integral part of Indian cuisine, playing a significant role in both savory and sweet dishes. It is widely used in the preparation of biryanis, curries, and masalas due to its distinctive aroma and taste. For instance, in Indian chai, a popular spiced tea, cardamom adds warm and enticing flavors. It is commonly incorporated into Indian desserts like kheer (rice pudding) and kulfi (frozen dessert), imparting a unique taste and fragrance.

In Indian cuisine, cardamom is typically used in two forms: green cardamom and black cardamom. Green cardamom adds a subtle flavor and is often used in sweet dishes, while black cardamom has a bolder, smoky taste suitable for savory dishes.

Middle Eastern Cuisine

In Middle Eastern cuisine, cardamom is similarly appreciated for its distinctive flavor profile. It plays a vital role in the preparation of various dishes, including rice, meat, and desserts. One of the cornerstones of Middle Eastern cooking, the spice blend called baharat, often features cardamom as a key ingredient, along with other spices like cinnamon, cumin, and coriander.

In Middle Eastern desserts, cardamom is commonly used to enhance traditional sweets such as mamoul (filled pastries) and baklava, as well as in beverages like Arabic coffee, where it imparts a subtle, aromatic flavor.

In summary, cardamom is a versatile spice that is celebrated in both Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines for its unique aroma and taste. From savory dishes to desserts and beverages, it plays a prominent role in a diverse range of recipes, showcasing its adaptability and desirability in various culinary applications.

Substitutes for Cardamom

When you find yourself out of cardamom, several other spices can work as effective substitutes. Though each alternative carries its distinct flavor profile, they still maintain a certain level of aromatic and seasoning properties that fit well in recipes requiring cardamom.


Cinnamon is a widely accessible and versatile spice, suitable for replacing cardamom in various dishes. Both share warm and sweet characteristics, making cinnamon an excellent option for use in baked goods and desserts. While the taste differs slightly from cardamom, it’s perfect for a pinch when needed.


Nutmeg provides a warm, aromatic, and slightly sweet note to recipes. Although the flavor isn’t an exact match, it’s a suitable substitute for cardamom in small amounts, especially in baking recipes and warm beverages.


Ginger boasts a warm, zesty, and slightly sweet flavor profile that can work as a suitable cardamom substitution. Fresh or ground ginger is ideal for replacing cardamom in savory dishes and some dessert recipes, where its spiciness complements the dish well.


Allspice derives its name from its flavor, which resembles a combination of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Substituting cardamom with allspice is a convenient option because it has a similar warm, sweet, and aromatic character.


Cloves are a robust and aromatic spice with a strong, sweet flavor that can work as a substitute for cardamom. Use cloves sparingly, as their potency may overshadow other flavors in a recipe. Ground cloves are a feasible option for desserts, and whole cloves are ideal for savory dishes.

Cardamom Seeds

If you have access to whole cardamom pods, you can simply use the seeds found within them. Cardamom seeds retain the spice’s flavor effectively and can be used in place of ground cardamom. Simply crush the seeds using a mortar and pestle or grind them finely in a spice grinder.

Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds are a more distinctive substitute for cardamom, with their warm, citrusy, and slightly earthy flavor. They work exceptionally well in savory recipes and spice blends, like curry powders and masalas. Ground coriander seeds can serve as an effective alternative to ground cardamom in several dishes.

Using Substitutes in Recipes

Baked Goods

When substituting cardamom in baked goods, it’s important to consider the desired taste and aroma. For a similar flavor profile, use a blend of cinnamon and nutmeg or cinnamon and ginger. These spices offer a warm, sweet taste, making them suitable for various dessert recipes.

- Cinnamon and nutmeg blend:
  - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  - 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Cinnamon and ginger blend:
  - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  - 1/4 teaspoon ginger

Savory Dishes

In savory dishes, cardamom can be replaced with a blend of other spices to achieve a comparable taste. For recipes that call for a citrusy or sweet flavor, consider using a blend of coriander and cumin. When cooking with meats and rice, try using a mix of cloves and allspice.

- Coriander and cumin blend:
  - 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  - 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- Cloves and allspice blend:
  - 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  - 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Tea and Beverages

Chai and other flavored teas often include cardamom for its distinct and aromatic profile. In these cases, try using a mix of cinnamon and cloves as a substitute. For other beverages, like lattes and desserts, a combination of cinnamon and ground ginger can provide a similar taste.

- Cinnamon and cloves blend for teas:
  - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  - 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- Cinnamon and ginger blend for other beverages:
  - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  - 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

By understanding the flavors and aromas of alternative spices, you can confidently substitute cardamom in a variety of sweet and savory recipes. This will allow you to still enjoy the essence of cardamom, even when it’s not readily available or not preferred.

How to Measure and Use Cardamom Substitutes

When using cardamom substitutes, it is important to keep in mind the proper way to measure and use them in various recipes. In this section, we will go through the essential steps for correctly measuring and using cardamom substitutes.

Teaspoon Measurements

Using the proper teaspoon measurements for cardamom substitutes is crucial to maintain the balance of flavors in any recipe. Here are some common substitutes along with their recommended measurements per teaspoon of cardamom:

  • Ground cinnamon: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Nutmeg: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ground ginger: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ground cloves: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Allspice: 1/2 teaspoon

Make sure to adjust these measurements as needed to suit your personal taste and the requirements of your particular recipe.

Grind or Powder Form

Most cardamom substitutes come in grind or powder form, which makes them ideal for various applications, such as adding complexity to curries, enhancing the spicy notes in coffee, or contributing a citrusy zest to baked goods. When using a cardamom substitute in grind or powder form, consider the following:

  • Consistency: Ensure the cardamom substitute’s consistency is similar to that of the original cardamom. This will help maintain the intended texture of the recipe.
  • Flavor intensity: Since cardamom can be expensive, using substitutes might result in a different flavor profile. Be aware of how the substitute’s taste complements or contrasts with the other ingredients in your dish.
  • Gradually add the substitute: Add the substitute incrementally to the recipe, and taste it as you go to achieve the desired balance of flavors. This will prevent any ingredient from overpowering the dish.

By keeping these guidelines in mind, you can effectively use cardamom substitutes to enhance the depth and complexity of your recipes without sacrificing flavor.

Other Spice Blends with Cardamom

Garam Masala

Garam Masala, an Indian spice blend, often includes cardamom as a key ingredient. It has a warm, aromatic, and slightly sweet flavor, similar to cardamom. Garam Masala typically contains a mix of other spices, such as:

  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Black pepper
  • Bay leaves

When cardamom is unavailable, Garam Masala can serve as a suitable substitute in recipes, particularly for Indian dishes. Keep in mind that the flavor profile will differ slightly due to the presence of additional spices.

Apple Pie Spice

Apple Pie Spice is a blend mainly used in sweet dishes, particularly in apple pie recipes. It may contain cardamom, along with other spices like:

  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Cloves

As a cardamom substitute, Apple Pie Spice is suitable for sweet recipes, offering a hint of cardamom flavor without overpowering the dish. Adjust the amount of spice blend used to achieve the desired taste.

Chai Tea Blend

The Chai Tea Blend is known for its strong, spiced aroma, and often contains cardamom as a core ingredient. Other spices included in this blend are:

  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Cloves
  • Black pepper
  • Star anise

For recipes requiring a cardamom substitute with a similar flavor profile, the Chai Tea Blend is an excellent option. Be cautious when using this blend in savory dishes, as its strong, spiced taste may not suit all recipes.

Considerations When Choosing a Substitute

When searching for a cardamom substitute, it is important to consider the specific type of cardamom being used in the recipe. Cardamom is available in green and black varieties, with green cardamom offering a more delicate flavor and black cardamom featuring a more intense, smoky taste.

Considering the flavor profile of cardamom is crucial, as it is a unique spice that belongs to the ginger family. Its taste is a combination of slightly sweet, floral, and citrus notes, with a hint of mint. In order to find an adequate alternative, it is necessary to look for spices or spice blends that can mimic this complex flavor.

Some options for a cardamom substitute include:

  • Ground cinnamon and ground cloves
  • Ground ginger and ground nutmeg
  • Ground allspice
  • Ground coriander and ground nutmeg
  • Ground mace

Remember that the potency of the substitute spices can vary, so it is essential to adjust the amounts accordingly. Start with small amounts and taste the dish as you go, gradually increasing the quantity until the desired flavor is achieved.

When using cardamom pods, it is important to note that one pod contains multiple seeds which can be removed and ground for recipes. When opting for a substitute, adjust the measurements based on whether the recipe calls for whole pods or ground cardamom.

Keep in mind that while some substitutes may work well in savory dishes, they might not be suitable for sweet recipes and vice versa. Choose an alternative based on how well it will complement the other flavors in the dish.

To summarize, some key factors to consider when choosing a cardamom substitute include:

  • The type of cardamom (green or black)
  • The flavor profile
  • The potency of the substitute
  • The original form of cardamom (pods or ground)
  • The compatibility with other ingredients in the recipe

Our Best Cardamom Substitute

These options are sure to be a hit. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 6 votes
Total Time 9 minutes
Course Seasoning, Substitute
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 123 kcal


  • Cinnamon and cloves
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Allspice powder
  • Cardamom seeds pods, and ground powder
  • Ginger
  • Cumin and coriander


  • Try our kitchen tested substitutes for cardamom.


Select your option.
Use in or with your favorite recipe.


Calories: 123kcal
Keyword cardamom substitute
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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