Spice Hack: Best Cardamom Substitute?
Cardamom spice has a complex flavor, a combination of fruity, nutty, herbal, woody, and citrusy- all at the same time. This means that it’s very distinct and not often easy to replicate! If you have the time, try our favorite, naturally organic, cardamom pods, cardamom seeds or black cardamom - transparently sourced from a Guatemalan co-op or shop all freshly ground & whole spices from our shop.
If you're in a pinch or looking to experiment with alternatives, you have options! The even better news is that you most likely have most of the options in your spice cabinet.
Best Cardamom Substitutes:
Apple Pie Spice
Ginger (close cousin)
Because of cardamom's unique flavor, your best bet is combining two potent and complex flavors- like the intensity of cloves with the woodiness of cinnamon. This cardamom substitute is best for use in meat and seafood dishes. For 1 teaspoon of cardamom, substitute 1/2 teaspoon each of these two spices.
If you are okay with your end product having a little different flavour, you can use a lesser quantity of ground cinnamon than the amount of ground cardamom suggested because cinnamon is a powerful spice.
You can also use a combination of ground cinnamon and grated nutmeg. Again use a lesser quality of this spice mixture because both these spices are very strong. Little goes a long way!
Both cinnamon and nutmeg are each widely recommended as cardamom substitutes. Cinnamon is the most popular of the two for use as a standalone cardamom replacement; however, nutmeg is still a popular and relatively inexpensive alternative. When using either of these spices in place of cardamom, it is recommended that you start with half the amount of the spice that your recipe requires and adjust the quantity to taste.
Aside from cinnamon and nutmeg, there are other spices that can be effective individual replacements for cardamom. For example, some experts recommend using allspice or peppercorns. As with cinnamon and nutmeg, you would halve the recipe’s cardamom amount for the replacement. If the recipe calls for a teaspoon of cardamom, use a teaspoon of allspice instead. Ginger can also be used as can coriander.
What Does Cardamom Taste Like?
You'll find cardamom pods infused in coffee throughout the Middle East, and in sweet foods and savory foods, paired with meats, fruits, legumes and grains, incorporated into cookies, pastries and other baked goods and even used as a flavoring in coffee, tea and alcohol. Cardamom also nicely compliments cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and ginger (it's close relative), so you'll often see cardamom pods here, particularly in Indian spices, like garam masala and vadouvan blends. Find out all about cardamom pods & recipes we love here!
How to use Cardamom
Ground cardamom loses its flavor quickly, so it's best to buy cardamom pods and grind your own. You'll save money if you do this because the pods also happen to be cheaper. To grind cardamom, just remove the seeds from the pods; toss the seeds in a coffee/spice grinder; and give them a quick whirl. There's nothing to it.
One cardamom pod is the equivalent of 1/6 teaspoon of ground cardamom. That means you'll need to buy six pods for every teaspoon of cardamom that your recipe calls for.
If the recipe calls for one teaspoon of cardamom, start with a quarter teaspoon of cloves and quarter teaspoon cinnamon. Ideally, it should be half a teaspoon of cloves and cinnamon, but it’s best if you taste your dish first, then add afterward if you need to.