What Are Cardamom Pods and Delicious Ways To Cook It

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Naomi Blue Published: April 6, 2021 Modified: September 22, 2021
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Cardamom pods don’t appear too often in everyday recipes, unlike spices such as cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and other more popular ones. Although, it is worth adding them in your spice rack especially if you frequently make sweet and savory recipes. 

Cardamom or elaichi is widely used in Middle-Eastern, Indian, and other Asian cuisines. You’ll find them in curry dishes like this chicken with coconut curry recipe, and also in hot beverages such as teas and coffees.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about cardamom pods from their various types, health benefits, uses, and even proper storage for longer usage.

What Are Cardamom Pods?

what are cardamom pods

Cardamom pods come from the cardamom plant that’s native to Southern India, Sri Lanka, and Guatemala. It’s considered the third most expensive spice in the world since harvesting it is labor-intensive. Specifically, they are manually harvested, and the picking process takes time. 

In terms of appearance, the cardamom pod generally has a triangular cross-section with a spindle shape. It has a thin outer shell that is papery in texture. When opened, the pods have black seeds, which are used in cooking as a seasoning. These can either be used as ground (powder) or whole.  

These are the common characteristics of cardamom. Its taste, however, is much more complex.

Kinds of Cardamom Pods

different kinds of cardamom pods

So, what does cardamom taste like? The taste of cardamom pods depends on which kind you get. There are three kinds to choose from. Each type has a varying color, from green and black, to white. These, in turn, have their own distinct and aromatic flavor to offer to your dishes, amplifying the taste of your meal.

Green Cardamom Pods (scientific name: Elettaria cardamomum)

These are the well-known cardamom pods that you can always find in the spice section of your grocery store. It’s used in sweet and savory dishes like curry, and also in herbal teas such as Indian chai tea. Green cardamom’s taste is more on the herbal side and slightly sweet. 

Black Cardamom Pods (scientific name: Amomum subulatum)

Next is the black cardamom, which is also a popular Indian spice. In terms of taste and aroma, it’s more on the stronger and smoky side, with a hint of citrus and menthol-like flavor. This spice is also used in sweet and savory dishes for more intense flavoring, unlike the green cardamom which is more subtle in taste.

White Cardamom Pods

Lastly, the white cardamom is known as the bleached version of the green cardamom pod. It’s not as widely popular as the previous types, but it’s still used to make baked goods like scrumptious cranberry cardamom spice muffins

You can also try using it for teas and adding it to curries, but the taste might be slightly different. In short, it’s not as strong and rich in flavor and aroma because of the bleaching process. 

The reason behind the bleaching is to adjust and reduce the flavor of the green cardamom. As a result, it’s less intense and subtle than the previous types of cardamom. 

Using Whole or Ground Cardamom

Cardamom spice can be used either as a whole or ground (powder). However, it really depends on the kind of recipe that you’ll be cooking. Still, you should know that using either whole or ground will have a slight difference in its flavor intensity. 

Whole Cardamom Pods

Dishes like this Northern Indian chicken curry that use cardamom seeds get more fresh flavors from using the raw seeds, where the majority of the cardamom flavor comes from. Sometimes, there are even recipes where you use the whole pod. 

Tip: Make sure to discard the used pods after cooking, since biting into them can be quite unpleasant.

Ground Cardamom or Cardamom Powder

Cardamom powder, on the other hand, is not as intense in terms of flavor especially when it’s the store-bought version. It’s because the natural oils from the seeds are reduced after they’ve been ground.

If your recipe requires you to use cardamom powder, then it’s better to manually grind the cardamom seeds since some of the freshness and aroma will still be present. You can do this with a mortar and pestle or a handy spice grinder.

Again, don’t bite the pod to open it. Remember to only grind the specific amount that you need for the recipe so that the remaining pods can be stored properly and retain their freshness.

Where to Buy Cardamom Pods

It is easier to find powdered or ground cardamom in your local supermarkets’ spice section. Cardamom pods, especially black cardamom pods, may not be available at times.

Just in case, try visiting Indian food markets or international specialty stores which are fully stocked with a variety of spices, and are much more affordable than the ones in the supermarkets.

How to Cook With Cardamom

Authentic Indian Chicken Biryani

When cooking cardamom, especially its pods, it’s best to toast them first in a skillet for a few minutes. Then, remove from heat and let cool for a minute. When they’ve cooled down, you can remove the seeds inside the pods and use those for the recipe. You can still use the pods after opening them. 

Add them to your coffee or tea for some flavorful herbal experience. Either use the whole pods or grind them for your beverage. We’ve also mentioned that cardamom is more well-known in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. Aside from delicious curries, you can also try making some authentic Indian chicken biryani for a truly flavorful meal.

Remember: Don’t substitute black cardamom for recipes that require green cardamom. The taste would be too strong and smokey especially when you’re making a dish that only calls for a mild and sweet taste. On the other hand, you can substitute green cardamom for black cardamom but the taste will not be as smokey and intense.

Recipes That Use Cardamom Pods

From flavorful Asian dishes to delicious baked goods, your cardamom pods can be added to all kinds of food. You can combine it with other spices like cinnamon to make a delicious serving of hot cardamom tea or a spiced ginseng iced tea. But as for the main dishes, here’s some you can try:

  • Black Bean and Radish BurgerCardamom can also be used in burger recipes. For this one, it’s a vegetarian-friendly burger that’s rich in spices, vegetables, and other seasonings. You can make it in less than an hour, so prep your grill and make some of this healthy burger with a twist. 
  • Instant Pot Chicken Tikka MasalaIf you’re craving for more Asian cuisine dishes, then this delicious serving of chicken tikka masala can be cooked in just 30 minutes. The chicken breast is filled with cardamom and other spices, then served along with cauliflower and peas. Add some rice on the side to complete the dish. 
  • Healthy Lamb Meatballs – This recipe makes use of other spices like turmeric and allspice mixed with cabbage, onion, and lamb meat to create a healthy and tasty dish.

Cardamom Substitutes

cardamom spice substitutes

There are available substitutes for cardamom that are cheaper, more common, and easier to find. Of course, mimicking the taste of cardamom is difficult since it has its own unique flavor and aroma. That’s why for the substitutes, you’ll need more than one spice to recreate the delicious taste of cardamom. 

You will need: 

  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Ground cloves

Blending these ingredients will give you a taste close to that of cardamom. Mix cinnamon and nutmeg together in equal parts. 

If you don’t have nutmeg, then you can use ginger or ground cloves to mix with cinnamon. You can also try blending all of the ingredients together in small amounts to really get that cardamom taste. 

How to Store Cardamom

It’s important to keep your spices fresh and aromatic. Storing them properly is one way to ensure this. There are spices that can easily lose their flavor when not stored properly. 

Cardamom pods can last for more than a year when stored properly. Pods have a longer shelf life than regular cardamom seeds. So, keep them safe inside an airtight container with a tight lid to prevent air and moisture from coming in. Place them in a cool and dark place. 

Meanwhile, cardamom seeds can easily lose their freshness especially once they’re exposed to air. So, it’s best to also keep them inside an airtight container. The shelf life for cardamom seeds is only a few months so storing them can extend it to about a year. 

Health Benefits of Cardamom

health benefits of cardamom

Spices like turmeric, ginger, and celery seeds can all boost one’s health. And like said spices, cardamom also brings many health benefits.

Cardamoms, in general, are a good source of antioxidants and other minerals which can prevent further sicknesses and illnesses. It’s also good for relieving and preventing digestive issues such as nausea, stomach pains, and acidity.

Like cardamom, herbal teas offer a lot of health benefits. Read 9 Herbal Tea Benefits and Best Types of Herbal Tea to Drink to find out more!

Cardamom pods are an essential spice for everyday cooking.

This spice is an amazing must-have ingredient that you can use in both drinks and dishes. So stock up on some cardamom, whether it’s pods or the ground form.


Naomi Blue

Naomi is a writer, editor, and manga enthusiast. She has written for various websites, events, and ad commercials. She is also an avid fan of street food and food history. She’s currently in her Japanese and Indonesian food phase and is interested in exploring Vietnamese cuisine next.

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