Suppose you’re making a sweet and savory dish for the whole family or baking something delicious for dessert. Your recipe calls for cardamom, so you head over to your spice rack to get some, but you discover that you’re all out. This doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your dinner plans at once.
Even though cardamom has a unique flavor, many spices can mimic the same distinct taste it can give your food. You might even find some of these spices in your kitchen, just waiting to be used. The list below shows which ones work best and how to substitute them.
Cardamom comes from the Elettaria cardamomum herb of the ginger family, making it a relative by species of turmeric. It has ground and powdered forms processed from the seeds in its spindle-shaped pods. The pods have thin skins, almost like paper, and the seeds closely resemble peppercorns.
The plant is generally cultivated in Guatemala, India, and Sri Lanka. This is why it’s widely used in Indian cuisine. It’s also a common ingredient for Arabic, other Middle Eastern, and Swedish dishes.
Cardamom can be paired with different fruits, grains, and meats. It’s also added to tea, mulled wine, and even Turkish coffee.[Source]
It can complement nutmeg and allspice, making it an ideal additive for cookies and other pastries.
The spice is sold in different forms, including ground and powdered versions. Both have a more concentrated flavor than whole seeds, but almost always lose this flavor faster.
This is why ground cardamom and powdered cardamom are preferred for immediate use instead of storage. Green cardamom (also called true cardamom) is sweeter than black cardamom, which has a stronger smokier quality that pairs better with savory food. Bleached green cardamom, also known as white cardamom, has a milder taste.
10 Best Substitutes For Cardamom
In general, this highly fragrant ingredient has a naturally spicy flavor with a lemon-like citrus note and a minty herbal edge.
For this reason, it’s one of the most expensive spices in the world after saffron and vanilla. This also makes it less accessible than other spices, which is why knowing the best substitutes for it can be essential.
Since cardamom is a member of the ginger family, it’s only natural to consider ginger as a substitute. This herb not only has a similarly strong, spicy aroma but also delivers a sweet and peppery punch. Fresh ginger, like cardamom, is used in different curries, stir-fries, and marinades.
Aside from being a source of carbohydrates, ginger also contains micro-nutrients like vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. It can treat nausea, particularly in morning sickness, and help with osteoarthritis. It also helps regulate weight loss and blood sugar levels.
Ginger’s spiciness is a little milder, but it gives any dish the same warmth that cardamom would. This is why you can use an equal part of ginger in place of cardamom. Or, to make your dish taste more accurate, you can mix half a teaspoon of ginger to half a teaspoon of cinnamon to match one teaspoon of cardamom.
Allspice, also known as myrtle pepper, Jamaican pepper, pimenta, or pimento, comes from an evergreen tree (Pimenta dioica) that produces berries.
The plant grows in regions of Central America, parts of Southern Mexico, and the Greater Antilles. It’s added to beef and lamb meat to give them the quality of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. It’s much stronger than cardamom, but it has a similar base flavor despite the unique taste it lends to the same dish.
Allspice not only improves the health of your skin and hair but also boosts your immunity through its antiviral properties.
It also has antiseptic and analgesic qualities. It contains micro-nutrients such as vitamin C and calcium. You can use an equal part of allspice for your recipe to give it that extra kick.
You can also mix half a teaspoon of allspice with a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg and a quarter teaspoon of coriander to match one teaspoon of cardamom.
Apple pie spice combines the flavors of allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Its use in cakes, pancakes, cookies, muffins, pies, and smoothies makes it a good substitute in sweet dishes that need cardamom.
For savory dishes, apple pie spice can be combined with ginger, cloves, or additional parts of either nutmeg or cinnamon.
Apple pie spice not only enhances the flavor of your recipe but also combines the health benefits of its three major components.
Generally, it’s best to start off with a small amount of apple pie spice. Then, gradually add more of it to your recipe until you hit its ideal flavor.
Nutmeg is a spice derived from evergreen trees. It has a mildly nutty flavor with a sweet taste, making it a neat addition to beef stews, sausages, puddings, and potatoes. It’s also used in eggnog, mulled wine, and mulled cider.
This spice can improve digestion by helping to promote the production and excretion of intestinal juices. It contains magnesium and antioxidants that enhance the body’s anti-inflammatory processes, especially against stomach ulcers. Nutmeg is also said to have antibacterial properties.
Depending on the dish, you can use an equal part of its ground or powdered form in place of cardamom. You can also use half a teaspoon of nutmeg plus half a teaspoon of cinnamon to replace one teaspoon of cardamom. A combination of nutmeg and cloves works better for savory recipes with meat.
Cinnamon is another additive that you can use. It’s high in antioxidants and has been known to relieve inflammation and stabilize blood sugar levels.
It contains vitamins C and E, plus minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. It has a hot and bitter taste that, combined with other spices, can replicate the sweet and piney flavor of cardamom.
It’s sold either ground (better for baked goods) or as cinnamon sticks that work well for soups and stews.
Cinnamon is a common ingredient in teas, traditional foods, cakes, cookies, apple pies, and sweet and savory dishes that use chicken or lamb.
To substitute one teaspoon of cardamom, you will need half a teaspoon of cinnamon mixed with half a teaspoon of cloves or other spices. Or you can add a small amount of cinnamon, then gradually increase it as needed.
Cumin is a spice with a bittersweet, earthy flavor. This flavoring from the Cuminum cyminum plant (a member of the parsley family) and its other varieties is used in the pickling process and in preparing rice or pastries.
It’s also featured in many Indian, Middle Eastern, North African, and Latin American recipes.
It has powerful antioxidant properties that help your body remove harmful toxins and combat infections. Although cumin has relatively more fat, it’s rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium, and especially iron.
It also contains vitamin A, which is essential for immunity and healthy vision.
Its use in savory dishes makes it a good substitute for black cardamom. Cumin is more bitter than cardamom, so you’ll need less than the original amount of needed cardamom as a replacement.
Its bitterness can be balanced by fruity or acidic ingredients like tamarind, vinegar, or lemon juice. To replace one teaspoon of cardamom, mix half a teaspoon of cumin with half a teaspoon of coriander. Or you can gradually increase the amount of cumin to add to a dish if you want to use it by itself.
This spicy and nutty additive from the dried fruits of coriander herbs has a warm kick and lemony edge reminiscent of cardamom.
Its citrus note adds to the taste of vegetable dishes, baked goods, and curries. Food brining and pickling sometimes involves the use of this spice.
Coriander seeds aren’t only an excellent cardamom substitute, but it’s also said to be a great natural alternative to salt. It’s also one of the oldest spices used for cooking, dating to as early as 5000 BC.
Coriander seeds help lower blood sugar levels and promote digestion. Vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and iron are some of the healthy nutrients that coriander contains.
Like apple pie spice, it’s best to add a small number of coriander seeds or a small amount of powder, depending on the dish. It captures the same citrus-and-nut tone of cardamom without the help of other spices.
You can gradually increase the amount until it matches the flavor that cardamom would have produced in the same recipe.
Mace comes from the red coat cover of nutmeg seeds, giving it the same flavor as nutmeg but in a softer quality. It also has a hint of cinnamon and black pepper that makes it perfect for light dishes like fish.
Similar to nutmeg, mace helps improve your digestion and oral health. It also alleviates pain and helps reduce the risk of cancer. It’s an additional source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and B vitamins like folate, niacin, and thiamine.
It’s added to cakes and pies and is used in pickling and preserving. Half a teaspoon of mace is usually enough to replace a teaspoon of cardamom.
But you can also gradually incorporate it into your recipe, depending on how much of its flavor is needed.
This spice has a bittersweet flavor that adds heat to different dishes. Cloves come from flower blooms and lend their strong bitterness to many marinades, curries, fish, and stew. It also compliments the flavors of pie, rice, chai, and mulled wine.
Cloves contain eugenol, an antioxidant that is said to help relieve pain and inflammation. That’s why cloves have been used to alleviate tooth pain.
Its other antioxidants can assist with reducing the risk of chronic diseases. It also contains manganese which can strengthen bones by increasing their density. It can kill some bacterial species and reduce stomach ulcers.
You’ll need only a small amount of cloves to use in place of cardamom. To better capture the original additive’s flavor, you can combine it with another spice.
Half a teaspoon of cloves plus half a teaspoon of nutmeg will suffice, as well as a quarter teaspoon of cloves plus a quarter teaspoon each of nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice.
Galangal is native to Indonesia, but it’s also cultivated in other Asian countries. As a result, it’s commonly featured in curries, noodles, stir-fries, satay sauce dishes, and tom yum soup.
At first glance, this staple of Asian cuisine looks almost the same as ginger. However, its flesh is relatively harder, and its skin is lighter and smoother. Not only does it have an intense aroma similar to cardamom. Most galangal variants are earthy to taste, with a sharp and clean citrus flavor.
Galangal is a good source of dietary fibers and phytonutrients, both of which help to improve your body’s metabolism.
It also promotes regular bowel movements, protects your liver from oxidative stress, and helps correct spiking blood sugar levels. This makes galangal a well-known component of traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese remedies.
Half a teaspoon is usually enough to replace a teaspoon of cardamom for many dishes. And like the other substitutes listed here, you can increase the amount of ground galangal or galangal powder to your recipe when needed.