Search for the Best Cardamom Substitute: 6 Great Alternatives
Cardamom, which originates from South Asia, is one of the most expensive spices in the world. This is one of the reasons why a lot of people look for a cardamom substitute.
If you’re looking for a substitute to this unique and delicious spice, keep reading! Here are some suggestions I’ve gathered from research and personal experiments.
Take note that these are mostly for green cardamom, the type that is more common in recipes. There’s also black/brown cardamom, but this is used mostly for savory dishes due to its smoky flavor.
Cardamom is not available in all supermarkets, so like me, you may need to pay a visit to the local Indian or Asian store. It’s actually cheaper if you bought them in these places! Take note that a pod can make around 1/6 teaspoon, so a little will definitely go a long way.
What Is Cardamom?
Before we begin, I’d like to share with you some things I’ve come to learn about cardamom since I started using it. It’s always best if you get to know the spice first before you look for substitutes!
This spice has a complex flavor, a combination of fruity, nutty, spicy, woody, and citrusy. This means that it’s very distinct! However, since it’s expensive and not easy to obtain, people continue to experiment on alternatives.
If you’re cooking curries, tea, sausages, or even desserts that call for cardamom, here are some things that you can substitute it with.
Spices That Can Act As Cardamom Substitute
Coriander Seeds For Both Sweet And Savory Dishes
Cardamom is not always available in supermarkets. If you’re not able to get your hands on them, you can also opt for coriander seeds, which also have the same flavor profile.
Coriander <seeds, not the leaves—these have completely different flavors!>, also have a citrusy and nutty flavor like that of the cardamom. When adding the coriander seeds to your recipe, take it easy first.
A recommendation says that for savory dishes, use the same amount of coriander seeds. For sweet dishes, on the other hand, start with a half amount coriander seeds first. Just adjust if you think you need more.
For those making a curry dish, equal amounts of cumin and coriander give out amazing flavors as well. I’ve tried this in my curry sauce, and it was delicious! Cumin and crushed coriander seeds will give you the rustic and earthy notes of cardamom.
Nutmeg For The Same Woody And Fruity Elements
Nutmeg, a common spice in Indonesia, is commonly used in both sweet and savory dishes. You might have already encountered this if you’ve made pumpkin pie!
This one’s also a good substitute for cardamom, as it has the same woody and fruity flavors. You can use the same amount of nutmeg in recipes that call for cardamom.
However, keep in mind that while they have similar qualities, they differ in overall flavor. Cardamom is so unique that there is nothing that can actually mimic its flavor. Hey, it’s not called the “queen of spices” for nothing!
One advantage that you can get from using nutmeg is that it’s way cheaper than cardamom. I’ve tried using this in a recipe, but it lacked depth, so I explored other options. If you want more layers of flavors, you can make use of a spice combination which brings me to my next suggestion…
Spice Combination: Cinnamon And Nutmeg
Cooks who have cooked with cardamom will most probably agree that cardamom’s taste can’t be mimicked. It is extremely intricate that no single spice can fully act as a substitute. But this is where it gets exciting: now you can make spice combinations!
Most of you are probably already know what cinnamon is, and how it’s used in sweet dishes. Cinnamon and cardamom have different tastes, but they do have some similarities in terms of sweetness.
Research as well as recommendations from friends have given me ideas on how to do combinations to achieve cardamom’s flavor. I’ve learned that cinnamon, on its own, can’t act as a complete cardamom substitute, but a combination will.
You can combine equal parts of both cinnamon and nutmeg, and use this mixture in your recipe that calls for cardamom. A cinnamon and nutmeg combo can give out the complex flavors of cardamom: sweet, spicy, a bit citrusy.
Spice Combination: Cloves and Cinnamon
Again, take note that a pod of cardamom yields about 1/6 teaspoon. If the cinnamon and nutmeg combination is not for you, you can also go for the clove-cinnamon mixture.
For this combination, simply mix equal parts of ground cloves and cinnamon. The fruitiness and woodiness of the cinnamon mixed with the intense flavor of cloves are delicious! Great for savory recipes of meat!
Cloves, which are the flower buds of the evergreen clove tree, are easy to obtain because they’re available all year round, and available in most supermarkets.
Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The buds are picked by hand when they are pink and dried until they turn brown in color. Cloves are about 1/2-inch long and 1/4-inch in diameter and with their tapered stem, they resemble tiny nails.
In fact, their English name is actually derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail. Although cloves have a very hard exterior, their flesh features an oily compound that is essential to their nutritional and flavor profile.
If the recipe calls for one teaspoon of cardamom, start with a quarter teaspoon of cloves and quarter teaspoon cinnamon. Ideally, it should be half a teaspoon of cloves and cinnamon, but it’s best if you taste your dish first, then add afterward if you need to.
Allspice For A Combination Of Different Flavors.
Allspice is another cardamom substitute that you can easily get from your local supermarket. Also called Jamaica pepper, these are dried, unripe, and aromatic berries in places like Jamaica and Central America.
A key ingredient in curries and the famous Jamaican jerk chicken, this tastes like a blend of the good stuff—like clove, nutmeg, cinnamon. Like cardamom, it’s complex and has different notes of flavors of different spices combined.
Like cardamom, allspice is highly aromatic and has beautiful spicy, fruity, and citrusy notes. This is why some people use this as a cardamom substitute! Again, cardamom’s flavor is inimitable, so don’t expect them to taste exactly the same.
Allspice is stronger than cardamom, so see to it that you put less than the amount that the recipe asks for. Just add more if you think your dish needs it! This one’s also way cheaper than cardamom, so it should not put a hole in your wallet.
Don’t Have Green Cardamom? Try The Black/Brown Variety.
Cardamom is a spice that grows in tropical countries, mostly in South Asia (like India and Nepal). There are different types <green, red, black, white>, but again, the items on this post focus on the green variety.
The green cardamom plant has this color because it’s harvested and dried before it matures. This is so the pods will remain closed, and therefore fresh and flavorful.
If you’re simply looking for a type of cardamom that you can substitute for the green type, you can try black/brown cardamom. These are dried over fire, so you should expect a smoky flavor.
Black/brown cardamom is for not advisable for sweet dishes, but it’s delicious in savory ones. If you’re willing to buy some cardamom seeds and the green ones are unavailable, you can try getting the black ones. These are best in meat—not so much in sweets.
Did any of these substitute recommendations help you? I sure hope they did! Whether you’re trying to save money or simply want to experiment, I hope these cardamom substitute suggestions helped.
Cardamom is a delicious and beautiful spice, but sometimes budget and availability may get in the way, so substitutions should always be ready! You just need a bit of tweaking do some experiments before getting your desired results.
Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you! If you have recipe ideas to share, you can share them in the comments below.