Cardamom 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'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:
Cardamom, known for its complex and distinctive flavor, can be challenging to replicate. Here are the best cardamom substitutes, offering you a range of flavorful options to enhance your culinary creations.
Renowned for their warm and slightly sweet taste, cloves provide a potent flavor that can complement a variety of dishes. Cloves pair exceptionally well with cinnamon when seeking a cardamom substitute, creating a harmonious blend of intensity and woodiness. This combination is especially ideal for meat and seafood dishes. To replace one teaspoon of cardamom, use 1/2 teaspoon each of cloves and cinnamon.
With its characteristic woody sweetness, cinnamon stands out as one of the most popular cardamom alternatives. It can effectively replace cardamom independently, though its powerful nature calls for a slightly lesser quantity than ground cardamom in your recipe. Embrace the distinct warmth of cinnamon as you explore its applications in various culinary creations.
Apple Pie Spice
A delightful blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, apple pie spice offers a convenient and flavorful substitute for cardamom. This pre-mixed spice combination complements sweet and savory dishes, infusing them with enticing aromas and taste sensations. Replace cardamom with an equal amount of apple pie spice to experience a new dimension of flavors.
Known for its nutty and aromatic essence, nutmeg can be an intriguing alternative to cardamom. Nutmeg creates a well-rounded substitute that can elevate various recipes when combined with ground cinnamon. Use less of this spice mixture, as nutmeg and cinnamon boast robust flavors that can overpower dishes if used excessively.
Ginger (close cousin)
As a close relative of cardamom, ginger offers a zesty and mildly spicy flavor that harmonizes well with various cuisines. Its versatility makes it an excellent stand-alone substitute for cardamom. Experiment with ginger in your recipes, and adjust the quantity according to your taste preferences to achieve the desired balance.
A spice that lives up to its name, allspice combines the flavors of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, offering a robust and slightly peppery taste. This unique spice can be an exciting individual replacement for cardamom, especially in recipes where a hint of spiciness is desired. As with other substitutes, halve the cardamom required when using allspice.
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 flavor, 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.
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.