Cardamom is a unique ingredient with a flavor that is not easy to imitate. Luckily, there are options for substitutions. While these substitutions are not exact, they mimic the flavor well enough in a dish.
There are a few different ways to substitute the flavor of cardamom. For Green Cardamom, substitute Cinnamon plus cloves, nutmeg, or ginger. For Black Cardamom you will want a spicier flavor, substitute Allspice and Peppercorns or Ground Coriander, Nutmeg and Peppercorns. For White Cardamom, substitute Nutmeg and Cloves or Fennel Seed + Sugar. For Yellow Cardamom, substitute Fennel and Sugar or a combination of Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. For Yellow and White Cardamom, which are milder, use less than the recipe calls for.
Now that you know what to substitute for Cardamom let’s look at why and how these substitutions work.
Here are the different possible substitutions for Cardamom. When choosing the right substitution consider the flavor profiles in the ingredients you are using. Also, it is important to consider your goal as regards flavor for your recipe. No single spice can substitute for cardamom however spice blends can do a fairly good job.
Cinnamon & Cloves
When substituting cinnamon and cloves for cardamom use ½ tsp of cinnamon plus ½ tsp of cloves for each teaspoon of cardamom. Remember if you are substituting for yellow or white cardamom you may wish to use less than the recipe calls for. How much you use may be determined by your preferences.
Cinnamon and cloves mimic the woodiness, spiciness, and smokiness of the cardamom.
Cinnamon & Nutmeg
When substituting cinnamon and nutmeg for cardamom use ½ tsp cinnamon plus ½ tsp of nutmeg for each teaspoon of cardamom. Remember if you are substituting for yellow or white cardamom you may wish to use less than the recipe calls for. Cinnamon and Nutmeg mimic the spicy, woody, and sweet tones of cardamom.
Cinnamon & Ginger
When substituting cinnamon and ginger for cardamom use ½ tsp cinnamon plus ½ tsp ginger for each teaspoon of cardamom. Remember if you are substituting for yellow or white cardamom you may wish to use less than the recipe calls for. Cinnamon and ginger mimic the sweetness and spiciness of cardamom.
Allspice & Peppercorns
Allspice has similar flavors to cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Mixed with peppercorns it makes a good substitute for black cardamom or dishes where you need the peppery spiciness of black cardamom. If you want a milder dish, use white or green peppercorns instead of black peppercorns.
Fennel Seed + Sugar
Fennel and sugar are best used in sweet dishes as a substitute for cardamom. Fennel has a mild licorice flavor and with sugar will mimic the sweetness of cardamom. This substitution is best for dishes that use white cardamom. Use ¾ tsp of Fennel and ¼ tsp of sugar for each teaspoon of cardamom. If you are looking for a closer flavor to cardamom but are using it for baking consider mixing in some allspice to add the woody, spicy tones of cardamom.
Nutmeg + Cloves
When substituting Nutmeg and Cloves for Cardamom use ½ tsp of Nutmeg and ½ tsp of Cloves for each teaspoon of Cardamom. Nutmeg offers the woodiness through its nutty flavor and a sweetness. Cloves offer a sweet and spicy flavor.
Ground Coriander, Nutmeg, and Peppercorns
When substituting Coriander, Nutmeg and Peppercorns use ½ tsp of Coriander, ½ tsp of Nutmeg, and ¼ tsp of peppercorns for each teaspoon of Cardamom. Nutmeg offers the nuttiness or woodiness and sweetness of Cardamom. Coriander offers the woodiness, tartness, and sweetness of Cardamom. Peppercorns offer the spicy tones of cardamom. If you want a mild spicy flavor, use white or green peppercorns instead of black.
Cumin + Coriander
When substituting Cumin and Coriander, use 1 tsp of Coriander and ½ tsp of Cumin for each teaspoon of Cardamom. Coriander offers the woodiness, tartness, and sweetness of Cardamom. Cumin adds a smoky and earthy flavor.
Other Alternatives for Cardamom
You can use just allspice as a substitute. Use 1 tsp of Allspice for 1 tsp of Coriander.
You can also use any combination of Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. ¼ tsp of each mixed together makes 1 tsp of Cardamom. You can add more or less depending on your flavor preferences.
What Does Cardamom Taste Like?
The taste of Cardamom varies based on the varieties. However, in general Cardamom has a piney, citrusy, minty (or menthol-like), herby, and spicy. Different varieties tend to have different flavor strengths.
Green Cardamom: The flavor of green cardamom is more citrusy and herbier. Green Cardamom is also sweeter.
Black Cardamom: Black cardamom tends to be stronger and more menthol-like in flavor. It tends to be spicier. It can also be earthier and sometimes smokey in flavor.
White Cardamom: White cardamom is green cardamom that has been bleached. It is milder in flavor but shares the same flavor notes as the green cardamom.
Yellow Cardamom: Fully ripened yellow cardamom has a sweet, tart, and grassy flavor.
Types of Cardamom
There are many kinds of Cardamom in the world. The most common and most popular are black and green Cardamom. There are also Yellow and White Cardamom.
Green Cardamom: Green Cardamom is used in Indian and Asian cooking. It is most commonly found in spice blends, teas, and baking.
Black Cardamom: Black Cardamom is popular in Indian, Nepalese, Vietnamese, and Chinese cooking. Most commonly used in savory dishes, such as meat dishes, rice dishes, stews, etc.
White Cardamom: Traditionally used in Scandinavian and European dishes. It is now popularly found in Chinese and Middle Asian countries. It has a milder flavor believed to be caused by the bleaching process.
Yellow Cardamom: Yellow cardamom is grown in the cloud forests of Guatemala. The unique growing process and the allowing for the ripening of the seeds is what gives it the yellowish tinge and milder flavor. Like white cardamom, yellow cardamom comes from the green cardamom plant.
Ground Cardamom: Ground Cardamom loses flavor quickly after being ground. If you are using pre-ground cardamom you may need to use more if the recipe calls for fresh ground cardamom.
Whole Cardamom: Whole cardamom pods have more flavor. Many Indian dishes call for using the whole pods. Some recipes call for breaking them open and fresh grinding the seeds. For the best flavor, and most bang for your buck, cardamom pods are the way to go. On average it takes 6 cardamom pods to make 1 tsp of fresh ground cardamom.
How Cardamom and Cardamom Substitutes Can Be Used
Which substitutes and how to use them can differ based on what you are making. Are you making Chai? Or baking? Or cooking? Is your dish more sweet or savory?
Cardamom Substitutes for Chai: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, and Cloves are popular substitutes for cardamom in chai. For a spicier Chai add peppercorns. Fennel is another popular substitute for those who like licorice or anise flavor. Chai is a combination of sweet and spicy. When substituting cardamom look at the other ingredients included. The recipe may already call for ingredients that can be used for Cardamom.
Cardamom Substitutes for Baking: Baking a sweet dish, such as dessert, will require a different flavor than baking a savory dish. When baking a sweet dish, use sweet substitutes for cardamom. Sweet substitutions include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and fennel. If you are making a savory dish then use the above with peppercorns, cumin, and/or coriander.
Cardamom Substitutes for Stews, Curries, and Soups: As with baking make your cardamom substitution decision based on the flavor of the soup. If the dish is sweeter use the sweeter substitutions. If the dish is savory use less sweet and more spicy substitutions. In addition, always consider your personal taste preferences. If you like any of these spices more, you can use more of them and less of others.
There you have it. There are many spice blends that can be used as substitutions for cardamom. Happy Cooking!