7 Best Cardamom Substitute Choices You Probably Didn’t Know

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Recipes.net Team Published: July 8, 2021
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Have you experienced getting excited over making Indian-inspired chicken curry only to find out you’ve run out of its staple ingredient: the unique cardamom? Assuming you’re familiar with it, you ought to know how unique the flavor and aroma of cardamom are. So, what do you do? You ran out to the nearest Indian grocery store to find it, but what if the nearest store also doesn’t have it? Whatever the circumstance is, your next best option is to look for cardamom substitute choices you might already have in your pantry!

Cardamom is very valuable and unique, and it’s possible you can’t exactly replicate its flavor from spices you have on hand especially if you’re venturing into Indian cuisine (where cardamom is a staple spice). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use alternatives to make a mixture of spices that can stand in, at least for some recipes. Remember, the secret to being a good cook is being able to work with what you have and being able to use them to your advantage. Don’t worry, being a home cook, gives you more room to be lenient. It allows you to be less strict with ingredients.

If you’re not sure how to do that, don’t worry! In this article, you’ll learn how to mix and match spices that can substitute the unique cardamom spice for your recipes. We’ll also give you measurements and tips that may be useful for your next magical kitchen creation!

Having trouble with substituting allspice too? Give our 10 Best Allspice Substitute Options You Might Already Have In Your Pantry a quick read! 

What Is Cardamom: Its Taste and Uses In the Kitchen

What Is Cardamom, ground cardamom and cardamom pods

Flickr | Dave Sutherland

Before heading right to cardamom substitutes, how about we get acquainted with what cardamom is first? Let’s get to know its taste and uses in the kitchen.

Unlike most spices, cardamom (also spelled cardamon) is a spice that can be made from both cardamom pods, fruits, and seeds of Elettaria Cardamomum of the ginger family. You could easily say cardamom is a close relative of ginger and turmeric. However, they completely differ in appearance. Cardamom can be easily recognized as it has a very distinctive spindle-shaped pod. The skin of the pod is paper-thin and delicate. Inside it are black seeds that greatly resemble black peppercorns.

Giving cardamom a taste for the first time and describing its flavor notes can be a daunting task too as its flavor profile is quite complex. To start, it has a fruity and acorn-like taste that becomes astringent if you consume too much. You’ll also taste some hints of menthol, cloves, licorice, and fennel. For this reason, cardamom can be used for both savory and sweet dishes. Advantageously, it’s one of the spices that are this versatile in the kitchen.

Cardamom may not be popular in certain countries, but it’s a staple spice in Middle Eastern, Arabic, Swedish, and Indian cuisines. To give yourself a headstart on this spice, try cooking this instant pot chicken tikka masala that’s famous inside and outside India. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can also use cardamom for drinks such as this hot cardamom tea recipe.

Best Cardamom Substitutes You Can Try

Running out of this special ingredient can be cumbersome especially when you’re in the middle of following a recipe. Because if that is the case, you can’t exactly run out to the nearest Indian grocery stores to buy one. Now if you have the cardamom whole, you can just use your handy spice grinder! But if not, you can try using the substitutes below.

Cinnamon and Allspice

Whole cinnamon sticks and ground allspice

If you’re looking for a spice that comes closer to cardamom’s flavor notes, then a combination of cinnamon and allspice is the best cardamom substitute you can use. Like cardamom, allspice is also slightly sweet and fruity with undertones of licorice. Aside from that, allspice also shares its floral aftertaste, making it the closest replacement for cardamom.

For this particular alternative, just mix an equal amount of allspice and ground cinnamon. There’s also no need for you to guess how much you’ll need for this alternative, you can put as much as the recipe suggested like in this healthy lamb meatballs recipe which calls for one tablespoon of cardamom.

Looking for other healthy recipes you can easily make at home? We compiled 25 Healthy Recipes For A Low Cholesterol Diet just for you! 

Cinnamon and Nutmeg

whole cinnamon and nutmeg

Next to cinnamon and allspice, you might want to try cinnamon with nutmeg this time. The two share several attributes with one another: both are warm with a nutty and/or earthy flavor. They’re also sweet, which makes them great for savory and sweet dishes alike. Consequently, nutmeg became a great replacement for cardamom in any recipe. But aside from that, you can also smell the same floral notes similar to allspice and cardamom which makes them sweeteranother reason why nutmeg is on the top of this list of cardamom substitutes.

To make the mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg, simply mix equal amounts of both and swap it with cardamom at 1:1 ratio in any recipe.

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Cinnamon and Ground Ginger

Cinnamon sticks and ground ginger on a spoon

If you can recall, we said cardamom is in the same family as ginger, so it shouldn’t be surprising that you can also use ginger to stand in for cardamom. Of course, ginger alone can’t exactly be used as a replacement. Like the first two cardamom replacements, ginger accompanied with ground cinnamon can imitate cardamom’s flavor nicely.

For this substitute, we recommend using it for recipes that are slightly spicy, pungent, and warm. This black bean burger dish already has ginger, so using a combination of ginger and cinnamon won’t affect its flavor as much.

To create a mixture of both, just use equal amounts of each and mix it thoroughly. Simply put, for every teaspoon of cardamom you will need ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon ground ginger. You may also use fresh ginger if you like depending on the recipe you’re making.

Cinnamon and Cloves

whole cloves on white background

Despite having very different and distinctive appearances, clove and cardamom share some similar flavor notes. To begin with, they both have a slightly woody flavor profile as well as minty undertones that’s hard to miss. This aromatic spice also has a very delicate sweet flavor that helps balance this spice’s astringency—a flavor that’s also present in cardamom.

Having said that, it also makes sense if you try using this spice to fill in for cardamom. You can’t just use this option for recipes with meats, but it’s also good for beverages and desserts like cranberry cardamom spice muffins. If you’re thinking about using this cardamom substitute, you only need equal parts cinnamon and clove. Mix the mixture well and just get exactly what you need as you would a cardamom spice.

Coriander Seeds

pile of coriander seeds

You’ll also find a good cardamom substitute with coriander seeds. Similar to cardamom, coriander seeds are woodsy and slightly spicy. If you want, you can also give coriander a slightly sweeter taste by toasting the seeds first before grinding them. Grinding the seeds will also give coriander the nutty and earthy flavor it initially lacks. If you don’t mind the extra procedure that comes with using this substitute, then you may use it as a spice for any savory dish, preferably dishes with meat and has sauce in it.

Cardamom is stronger than coriander so you might need more than what’s asked in the recipe. For this alternative, you can start by adding ½ teaspoon ground coriander more than what the original recipe is calling for. So if the recipe asks for one teaspoon of cardamom, replace it with one ½ teaspoon of ground coriander. From there, you can build the flavor and adjust it according to your preferences. You may also add a dash of cumin if you want to incorporate a more earthy flavor to your dish.

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Apple Pie Spice

Apple pie spice on a plate

Nearly on the last of our list is apple pie spice! No doubt apple pie spice is a great substitute especially if you know what dishes complement this alternative. But why exactly is this a good cardamom alternative? Well to start, this spice is a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cardamom; all of which proved to be good cardamom alternatives.

Application of this alternative is pretty easy! You just have to put as much apple pie spice as indicated in the ingredients list. But for savory dishes, you might want to put a dash or two of ground ginger or allspice to compensate for its sweeter flavor. Needless to say, this will work just fine with any recipe you plan on making, but this works great for any dessert like this danish-like plum puff dumplings!

Cumin

bottle of cumin on white background

Aside from coriander, cumin is also a spice that’s commonly used in Indian cooking. If you’ve noticed, cumin pairs well with cardamom and coriander. Cumin and cardamom’s flavor notes are warm, earthy, and are also extremely aromatic and strong. This cardamom substitute works great for recipes with meat and ones with intense aromatic flavors like this chicken biryani recipe.

The similarities end there, however. Cumin is bitter, while cardamom is sweeter thanks to its slightly fruity flavor notes that balance everything out. Having said that, a little of this spice goes a long way. And so just remember to cut the amount in half when using this alternative. You can compensate by simply balancing cumin’s bitterness by incorporating fruity or slightly acidic flavors like vinegar, lemon juice, or tamarind, practically anything that works well for your recipe. Salt helps in balancing the flavor too. Our tip? Add everything in moderation and then build flavors from there.

Use These Substitutes In Place of Cardamom In Your Recipes

It’s quite easy to substitute cardamom with other spices you already have. Playing and tinkering with flavors will eventually lead you to discover spices that go well with each other! For cardamom substitute options (and other spices really), knowing each spice’s flavor profile is an advantage to help you find better alternatives for your planned dishes.

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