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Are there Substitutes for Cardamom

Slofoodgroup Team June 25, 2022

Cardamom has an incredibly unique flavor. It’s profile includes an eclectic blend of  culinary descriptors, such as sweet, spicy, citrusy, herbal, and piney. Less frequently, you’ll also hear comparisons to ginger, black pepper, anise, and a wide variety of fruits. There is one constant, though, culinary enthusiasts the world over all seem to agree that cardamom is a delicate spice that contributes a distinct flavor to both sweet and savory dishes.

Despite its fantastic contribution to dishes, though, it doesn’t seem to be as readily available in the general population’s spice cupboard as some of the more common seasonings like cinnamon, oregano, cumin, or paprika. That being the case, the question of whether or not there are good substitutes to replace in recipes that call for cardamom is commonly asked in online forums.

While we highly recommend keeping some whole green cardamom pods on hand to fresh grind it into any recipes that specifically call for this fantastic spice, we also want to ensure that not having it doesn’t stop you from embarking on whatever culinary endeavor is at stake. So let’s take a look at some of the spices that may work as stand-ins for cardamom. 

Spices to Use in Place of Cardamom in Recipes

We don’t believe there is any spice that fully captures the unique essence of green cardamom, but in a pinch here are some that would be suitable based on similar flavor characteristics. 

Use fresh-ground cinnamon and cloves  in place of cardamom for soups, stews, and braises

Cardamom is a warming spice and, as such, it only makes sense that other warming spices would be ideal stand-ins for recipes. Although, not all recipes that call for cardamom include it for the same reasons. In many sweet applications, it’s easy to decipher the delicate notes of cardamon amongst the more neutral components of the end product, whereas with braises, soups, and stews, it might take a blend of more intense spices to come close to recreating that cardamom kick you are looking for.

In the latter case, we recommend using fresh-ground cinnamon (preferably Ceylon cinnamon to capture a similar “sweetness” of cardamom) and pairing it with a couple of fresh-ground cloves. Both of these spices are also considered “warming spices” and share similar attributes as cardamom, but it is easy to get carried away, so start with just a teaspoon at a time, or create a sachet with the whole spices and pull it out when you have the intensity of the infusion you are aiming for.

Use fresh-ground nutmeg in place of cardamom in baked goods and other sweet recipes

If a recipe for sweets and baked goods calls for cardamom and you don’t have it on hand, we recommend using fresh-ground nutmeg. Like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, nutmeg is a warming spice, but it is a bit more subtle than the other cardamom substitutes, which makes it perfect for baked goods and cream-based dishes. 

For ideas on how to use green cardamom, check out this article!