Cardamom is a spice made from seed pods. It is popular in both Scandinavian and Indian cuisine. Cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world, outranked by vanilla and saffron. There are three distinct types of cardamom: green, white, and black. Black cardamom is best suited for savory dishes, since it has smoky flavors that complement meats and stews; it's used sparingly. White cardamom comes from seed pods that are bleached. The bleaching process diminishes the flavor of the seeds, making white cardamom the mildest of the three types of cardamom. When a recipe calls for cardamom, it is more than likely referring to green cardamom, since green cardamom is the most versatile of the three types in regard to flavor.
Green cardamom is sold in pod, seed, or powder form, powder being the most common. However, it's typically best to obtain and store cardamom in the pod. Once the seeds are exposed, or they are ground to a powder, they become less potent.
Cardamom is a part of the ginger family. It is a complex spice with an intense, spicy flavor and an herbaceous aroma with hints of citrus and fruity and woody notes.
If you find yourself without cardamom and in need of a substitute, it may be a challenge to replicate cardamom's complex flavor profile. A combination of spices can mimic the flavor of cardamom better than any single spice can, but there are a few standalones you could use in a pinch. If you're out of cardamom, try these substitutions:
Substitute one-half of a teaspoon of cinnamon and one-half of a teaspoon of cloves for one teaspoon of cardamom.
Cinnamon and cloves replicate many of the intense flavors of cardamom with their spicy and woody notes. This combination is the best substitution for cardamom and tastes good in savory dishes like meats and stews.
Substitute one-half of a teaspoon of cinnamon and one-half of a teaspoon of ginger for one teaspoon of cardamom.
Cinnamon and ginger are two standout spices that offer a flavorful blend of warm spiciness and woody notes. This blends tastes like the cinnamon and cloves blend, but it tends to be a tad milder in flavor, making it a better choice for baking.
Substitute one-half of a teaspoon of cinnamon and one-half of a teaspoon of nutmeg for one teaspoon of cardamom.
Cinnamon and nutmeg create a warm mixture. This blend is less spicy than the other two combinations, but it is still pungent. The spicy, woody, and sweet notes of cinnamon and nutmeg resemble some of the cardamom flavors. This blend is best suited for rice, stews, and other savory dishes.
Substitute one-half of a teaspoon of cinnamon for one teaspoon of cardamom.
If you're in a pinch and your spice cabinet is nearly empty, but you do have cinnamon on hand, you're in luck! With its pungent taste and woody and citrusy notes, cinnamon is one of the best standalone spices to use as a replacement for cardamom. Start with only half of the recommended measurement, and adjust from there to suit your tastes. Your dish will not have the complex flavor of cardamom, but cinnamon will get the job done when you're in a jam.
Substitute one teaspoon of allspice for one teaspoon of cardamom.
Another quick standalone substitution is allspice. This sharp, fragrant spice has hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, making it a suitable substitute for cardamom.
If you find yourself without cardamom, you're more than likely to come across some adequate substitutions in your kitchen cabinet. Don't let an empty jar of cardamom stop you from whipping up an incredible dish.