Commonly referred to as the queen of all spices, cardamom imparts a lovely spicy and floral element to sweet and savory dishes. Cardamoms are widely used in Indian, Scandavian, African and Middle Eastern cuisines, and used to flavor curries, desserts, baked items, etc. Scandinavian bread julekake, Finnish sweet bread pullas, Indian masala tea, and various spicy recipes made across the world, have cardamom in them. Cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world, after saffron and vanilla, however, as its production increased worldwide, it has become more affordable.
Did you know...No spice or combination of spices can mimic the true flavor of cardamom. Its intense aroma, spicy, warm and floral flavors cannot be replicated by any other spice.
Cardamom is a small, triangular-shaped seedpod, that has a hard and papery outer-shell and tiny black seeds inside. It is available in three forms: green cardamom, white cardamom and black or brown cardamom. Green cardamom is the one used in savory and sweet dishes, white cardamom is used in desserts, wherein the white color blends well with the dessert color. Brown or black cardamom is not true cardamom, and is used to flavor meats. When recipe books call for cardamom, they usually call for green cardamom, unless specified otherwise.
Several recipes call for cardamom, either in the form of ground cardamom powder, cardamom seeds or crushed pods. However, what does one do when one doesn't have cardamom in hand, or the nearest store is out of it. Can we use any kind of cardamom substitutes instead? Moreover, what about those who are allergic to cardamom? Sadly, there is no perfect cardamom substitute. If the recipe calls for less than ½ tsp. of cardamom powder, you may omit it if you want. However, if the recipe calls for a tsp. of cardamom powder, omission will certainly cause a loss of flavor in the final dish. In such cases try adding some of these substitutes for cardamom.
While nothing can truly substitute for cardamom, here are a few spices that can be used instead of cardamom in recipes. The flavor will be different, nevertheless, it will work in the recipe.
|Substitute for 1 tsp. Cardamom Powder||Used In...|
|½ tsp. ground cinnamon + ½ tsp. ground nutmeg||Sweetmeats and baked desserts|
|½ tsp. ground cinnamon + ½ tsp. ground cloves||Seafood and meat recipes|
|½ tsp. ground nutmeg + ½ tsp. ground cloves||Rice, meat, and savory dishes|
|½ tsp. ground ginger + ½ tsp. ground cinnamon||Rice, meat, and savory dishes|
|½ tsp. ground cumin + 1 tsp. ground coriander||Curries and meat dishes|
|½ tsp. allspice powder||Curries, meat, and fish dishes|
|¼ tsp. ground black cardamom||Only savory dishes. Not suitable for desserts|
|1 tsp. white cardamom powder1 white cardamom pod for every green cardamom pod.||Desserts. Too bland in savory dishes.|
Cardamom seeds are available at grocery stores without their pod coverings, however, these seeds are not as flavorful, as those present inside the pod coverings. But, sometimes, all you have is cardamom seeds, and to make things more complicated, the recipe calls for cardamom powder. In such cases the substitution is as follows:
½ tsp. cardamom seeds (ground) = 1 tsp. ground cardamom
Powder of 12 cardamom seeds = 1 cardamom pod
Sometimes what you have at home is cardamom powder, however, the recipe calls for crushed cardamom pods. Since pre-ground cardamom loses its flavor, it's always advised to use freshly ground cardamom and not the packaged one bought from the store. Nevertheless, if you can't get hold of green cardamoms, the substitution is as follows:
3 cardamom pod = ½ tsp. cardamom powder
These substitutes are meant for recipes that call for just about a tsp. of cardamom. If the recipe calls for more than a tsp. of cardamom, then it's relying a lot on the flavor of cardamom. For example, in desserts like 'orange cardamom spice cake', etc. wherein if you use cinnamon or any other spice, it will no longer be an orange cardamom spice cake. In such cases, there can be no cardamom substitute. Nothing you use will give the same flavor of cardamom. It's best to either purchase cardamom pods or make another dish.