Once you smell cardamom, you will remember it because it is unique. It is warm, spicy, and floral, which is why it is commonly used in teas and baked goods. If you like chai tea, you have tried this spice before and you know how important it is in giving recipes their unique aroma and flavor.
There are times though that you won’t find cardamom, and you still want to make the recipe you planned for. You don’t need to worry as there are other ingredients you can pick instead of cardamom that will still provide a unique aroma and relatively similar flavor.
What Is Cardamom?
Cardamom is a small seedpod, triangular in shape, with a hard green outer shell and very small black seeds inside.
There are three kinds: green, white, and black or brown. Usually, green cardamom is used in both sweet and savory dishes, white cardamom is more common in desserts, while brown or black cardamom is used in meats.
How Is Cardamom Used?
Cardamom can be used as seeds, powder, or crushed pods. These are very common in Indian cuisine, but they have become a constant in African and Middle Eastern food as well.
Lately, they are used as an addition to the baking process, because they add aroma and spice to it and result in a very unique, strong taste.
What Can I Replace Cardamom With?
And now, these are some of the cardamom replacements that you can look for:
#1. Cloves + Cinnamon
For spice, aroma, and flavor, the combination of cloves and cinnamon comes very close to that of cardamom.
You can mix these two spices, but whether you choose to use powder cinnamon or stacks is entirely up to you, though for better results we recommend powder. This combination works better when used in seafood and meat recipes.
You can buy cloves and cinnamon in every grocery store by the spice section. Make sure that you replace ½ a teaspoon of cloves and ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon for 1 tablespoon of cardamom.
If you want to see what you can use instead of cloves, see our list of cloves alternatives.
#2. Cinnamon + Ginger
These two spices are great together as they bring flavor and some heat, which can be similar to the one cardamom has. This combination is very aromatic.
Ginger can be too spicy for some, so if you don’t like spiciness, this may not be the right choice. Ginger goes well in many Asian dishes, so adding cinnamon would balance the flavor a bit, and you can use this combination in curry, stews, and soups.
You can also find cinnamon and ginger in your local grocery store, and you can choose to use fresh ginger, which is the root, crushed, or powdered. These two can be used in the same amount that your recipe calls for cardamom.
#3. Cinnamon + Nutmeg
As you can see, cinnamon is a very versatile spice, so using it with other spices can bring a close flavor to what cardamom would add.
Nutmeg is sweet and warm, which makes it a great combination when mixed with the heat and spice from the cinnamon. This blend though could be too sweet for savory dishes, so it works best in baking and teas.
As with the other options, these two can be found in grocery stores by the spices aisle. Be sure to use ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon and ½ a teaspoon of nutmeg for every 1 teaspoon of cardamom.
This spice is a blend of various ingredients, which makes it powerful and aromatic, similar to cardamom.
Most allspice contains cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper, which can come close to the spice of the cardamom spice. You can use allspice in various foods, including stews, meat dishes, curry, and hot teas.
You can find allspice in every grocery store, but we recommend you to try it first, as some people don’t like the strong flavor too much at first. For every teaspoon of cardamom your recipe indicates, we suggest you add ½ a teaspoon of allspice.
#5. Cumin + Coriander
Cumin is very powerful and has a unique aroma that when mixed with the herb coriander, results in a great flavor resembling that of cardamom.
Coriander can be bought fresh at the grocery store, and you can mash the leaves very well to use them with cumin. However, your recipe will be easier if you use both powdered cumin and powdered coriander.
Because these two are strong, we recommend you use them in sauces and curry, as the flavor can overpower anything too fresh. You can find them both easily at the grocery store or the local organic market.
Spice It Up!
Choosing a spice to replace cardamom can seem overwhelming, but it is all about trying flavors and combining.
That’s why you should go with the spices you like and know the most, which you may even have in your pantry right now. You could start with cinnamon and then combine it with these recommended spices, or others that you think would go well.
Yes! Cardamom can be used if you don’t have any garam masala, but it isn’t as aromatic and powerful of a flavor, so you may want to mix it with cumin and black pepper for more of a kick to it. Alternatively, you could use garam masala instead of cardamom, but we recommend using a small amount only and in savory dishes.
Cardamom is a very healthy spice, which is why it is sometimes recommended as a health supplement. It can lower blood pressure, lower inflammation, and acts as an antioxidant. The recommended daily dose for cardamom is 500mg of cardamom powder or extract.
The easiest way to tell whether a spice is of good quality is through its aroma. Sometimes, spices can be cheaply imitated especially the overly expensive ones just like cardamom. Cardamom pods are usually large. Bright green cardamoms or a yellowish one are noted to be of low-quality. It’s either an artificial color has been used, thus the bright green color, or it has been wrongly dried, making it look yellowish.
Taste can be very subjective. According to many people who tried cardamom before, cardamom tastes citrusy. It has a zesty citrusy, minty, strong, distinctive and a little spicy flavor.
Choosing the right substitute for cardamom can be tricky, but it shouldn’t be impossible, and as you can see most of the time it’s all about combining flavors and aromas.
Make sure you taste the spice you choose and that you measure accordingly, too much of one can completely throw off the entire recipe. Now, it’s time to try them!
*Photo by JPCPROD /depositphotos