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Substitutes for Cardamom – What Can I Use Instead

Cardamom is one of those strange ingredients; you either love it or you hate it. With such a potent and unique flavour, it is instantly detectable when it has been used in either Indian style cuisine, or in baking. Though cardamom is readily available in most stores, it won’t necessarily feature on the spice racks of every home.

Cardamom comes in two distinct varieties, and either in pod or powder form. The first type, green cardamom, happens to be one of the most expensive varieties of spice in the world. The second, black cardamom, is much more accessible to the masses.

We invite you to review the following question and answer section for some additional information that could be helpful to you.

Why is green cardamom so expensive?

Harvesting cardamom is a very labour intensive and time-consuming process. It also needs to be done by hand. Not only this, but it has become a victim of its own popularity. That is, the increasing demand for it has pushed its price up quite substantially


What exactly is cardamom?

Cardamom is of the ginger family, is commonly found growing in rainforest-type climates, and can often reach up to 20 feet in height.


So, what are the best substitutes for Cardamom?

It stands to reason then that if your recipe calls for green cardamom, you can simply substitute in some of the black stuff instead. However, if you’re not a fan of the flavour or if you don’t have any of it to hand, a decent substitute needs to be found, pronto!

With the increasing popularity of Indian cuisine worldwide, you are likely to have to call on cardamom or a good substitute for it at some point. It seems to show up everywhere in modern recipes as a flavouring for meat dishes, a modifier for bean dishes, and in desserts and cakes. In recent years, we’ve even begun to notice cardamom cropping up in cocktails and in hot chocolate powder recipes. So, if you don’t have any to hand, don’t worry about it. We’ve got you covered. Here’s our rundown of the best substitutes for cardamom:


1. Cinnamon and Ginger

ginger and cinnamon

Our first suggestion is a simple half and half mix of these two distinctive flavours. The reasoning behind why this unlikely sounding substitute works really well is this: both cinnamon and cardamom have beautifully complex tones in their flavour. They are both warming, yet earthy. Because of this, cinnamon fills out that element of the cardamoms profile.

See also
How Long Does Nutmeg Mix Last? Can It Go Bad?

On the other hand, with the inclusion of ginger, the somewhat fruity tinge to cardamom can also be included in the substitute. Though both elements are essentially quite pronounced flavours that make their presence known, when used in unison they actually sit surprisingly well with each other. They compliment each other rather than battling it out for attention.

The best tasting varieties of these ingredients can be found in an Asian store. However, if you do not have one of these in your locale, a simple supermarket variety will do.


2. Nutmeg


This substitute again aims to replicate the earthy tones of the ingredient it is attempting to substitute for – and it does it quite well. What’s more is that in terms of versatility, the nutmeg is an excellent match for cardamom. It is as useful in both savoury and sweet dishes and is beautifully aromatic.

As an added bonus, it is most definitely the easiest and most hassle-free substitute on this list to use. Simply substitute for cardamom in exactly the same quantity as the original recipe calls for. This will round out the fruitiness and earthiness of the dish overall. However, to the trained palette, it may be apparent that there has been a substitute as it doesn’t possess every single note of the cardamom’s hymn sheet. When it comes to selecting a decent nutmeg, it is always preferable to opt for whole nutmeg and then to grind it yourself.

3. Clove


One substitute that we’re sure many would never consider a viable one, is clove. But, in quite a few ways it may surprise you how versatile this spice really is. Though it is true that clove has a much more pungent odour and a stronger flavour than cardamom, it does also have more subtle range which is quite often overlooked.

See also
How Long Does Cinnamon Last. Can It Go Bad?

In terms of substituting clove for cardamom, it is not a simple case of putting it in in a 1:1 ratio as you would have with the nutmeg. Lesser amounts need to be used to accommodate for the increased strength of the flavour. Because of this, we’d recommend adding it in in small increments and tasting your dish for its effects as you go along. For optimal results, consider mixing it 1:1 with some nutmeg. This should round out the flavour profile of the cardamom you are replacing.

4. Allspice


Allspice, which contrary to common belief isn’t a mixture of several spices, can also provide that earthy, fruity flavour you are looking for. These dried and ground seeds are just as versatile as cardamom. It has the potential to work in both savoury and sweet dishes and is available pretty much anywhere.

In the same way the cloves could be mixed with nutmeg to fill in the gaps in flavour, so too can allspice. Simply mix it in in a 1:1 ratio and add gradually, tasting as you go along. Before long, you should be able to strike the balanced flavour you are seeking. Allspice is definitely a worthwhile ingredient to have at your disposal.

5. Cumin


As an afterthought, we decided to round off our list of cardamom substitutes with something that may at first seem like a crazy suggestion. Though cumin won’t really work in the realm of sweets, it does provide an earthiness in savoury dishes which could be considered relatively similar to that of cardamom.

See also
Substitutes for Fresh Ginger - What Can I Use Instead?

The chances are pretty high too that this is already in your spice collection as it’s quite a popular ingredient. So, in a pinch, when you can’t get to the store and none of the other suggestions above are in your house, give a little bit of cumin a go. You might well be surprised by the results! 


 We hope that you found this guide to substituting for cardamom to be a valuable and informative resource when you need an alternative option. As you can see, there are several viable options out there – one of which may well be lurking in your spice rack!

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