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There are several options if you can’t use cardamom! Here are the best cardamom substitute options that can work in both sweet and savory recipes.
What is cardamom?
Cardamom, also referred to as cardamon, cardamum or the Queen of Spices, is an exotic spice from the ginger family that is native to India. It is the third most expensive spice in the world after saffron and vanilla beans.
This spice can be found as a whole pod, ground powder, or shelled whole seeds.
Green cardamom vs black cardamom vs white cardamom
There are different types of cardamom including black cardamom, green cardamom and white cardamom and they all have their own distinct flavors.
The most popular variety of cardamom is the green cardamom, which comes from smaller green pods and has a flavor that is intense, herbal, citrusy, spicy, with hints of mint, fennel and eucalyptus. This spice is potent, versatile and used in many dishes around the world.
The black cardamom has a flavor that is smoky with pods that are quite larger in size. While the white cardamom has a milder green cardamom flavor and is essentially green cardamom that has been bleached.
Most recipes that call for ‘cardamom’ are referring to green cardamom, so, for this post, we will be discuss the best alternatives for the most popular type of cardamom which is the green cardamom.
Before you substitute
The best option is always to go out and get this spice if you can. The flavors of cardamom are so complex and strong that it will be missed in a dish that calls for its use. Nonetheless, if you’re in the middle of cooking and notice you have no cardamom on hand, or you just can’t afford this expensive spice, you can find some quick replacements.
Most of those stand ins are ingredients you may already have in your kitchen too! And, while no other spice can really replace the flavor that cardamom imparts, they can work in a pinch.
Best cardamom substitute options
For the cardamom spice, the best substitutes are whole cardamom seeds, allspice, apple pie spice, cinnamon and nutmeg mix, cinnamon and cloves mix, cinnamon and allspice mix and coriander seeds.
Whole cardamom seeds
The best substitute for ground cardamom are whole cardamom seeds.
Cardamom seeds have the exact same flavor as store bought cardamom powder, albeit it is more flavorful. This is so because most spices lose some of their flavor once they are pulverized.
To substitute whole cardamom seeds for ground cardamom, use 12 dehusked pods to replace 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom. Whole cardamom seeds can be used as is, in meat dishes, curries, coffee, chai teas and more.
And, if the dish calls for ground cardamom, use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle to grind the pods or seeds and substitute on a 1:1 ratio.
To replace cardamom, you need a warm spice with complex flavors. Because allspice has the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pepper, this spice is a great substitute for cardamom when you have nothing else to use.
By using allspice, you will get some of the potency and complexity that cardamom delivers in this single spice. You’ll also get some spiciness and some herbal notes with this spice.
Use allspice as a substitute for cardamom in meats, stews and baked goods. Substitute on a 1:1 ratio
Apple Pie Spice
Like allspice, apple pie spice is another good alternative for cardamom. It works great as a sub especially because it is made with ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom. Use apple pie spice to replace cardamom on a 1:1 ratio.
One of the best substitutes for cardamom is coriander seeds. This is a warm spice from the coriander plant that has a strong lemon-citrus, nutty, spicy and sweet flavor. This spice has some similarities in terms of flavor and can be used as an alternative for cardamom in a pinch.
Cinnamon + allspice
A mix of cinnamon and allspice is also another good alternative to use in the absence of cardamom.
Cinnamon has that sweet and woody flavor, with faint citrusy notes and allspice has that pleasantly warm, fragrant aroma. When they come together they make a mix that can be used as good cardamom replacement.
Use 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of allspice to replace 1 teaspoon of cardamom.
Cinnamon + nutmeg
The combination of cinnamon and nutmeg is also another good alternative for cardamom. These two complex spices work well in recipes like rolls, doughnuts, lattes and cakes to name a few.
Like above, use 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg to replace 1 teaspoon of cardamom.
Cinnamon + cloves
A mix of ground cinnamon and ground cloves is also another good alternative for cardamom. Cardamom is a complex spice, so, making a spice blend out of those two complex spices, namely cinnamon and cloves is a great way to get some of that cardamom flavor with items you may already have on hand. Use this combo in recipes like sweet breads, granola bars, cookies and more.
Use 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to replace 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom.