3 Cardamom Substitutes

Cardamon

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Cardamom—also known as cardamon and cardamum— is a potent spice blended from plant seeds in the Zingiberaceae family native to the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia. Known as the "queen of spices," cardamom is added to an abundance of cooked dishes including curries, baked goods, and even beverages like Indian Chai or coffee.

There are two types of cardamom—green, which hails from the Elettaria genus flowering plant, and black from the genus of flowering Amomum plants. Each is characterized by its own aromatic smell and distinctive taste. Green cardamom has a more lemony, citrus taste that combines spice with sweet while black cardamom is more suited for savory cooking and features smokier notes.

Cardamom, which is harvested by hand, is a complex spice. It often comes at a hefty price compared to other spices, with whole pods costing an average of four times the price of their ground counterpart.

Cardamon Nutrition and Health Facts

This nutrition information for 1 tablespoon (5.8 grams) of cardamom is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 18
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 1.04mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.97g
  • Fiber: 1.62g
  • Protein: 0.63


Cardamom also contains trace minerals of magnesium (13 milligrams), which equates to around 3% to 4% of the daily recommended allowance for men and women. Among its many benefits, magnesium helps control blood glucose and is required for energy production.

A serving of cardamom also has small quantities of iron, potassium, vitamin C, and calcium—although not nearly enough to meet the recommended daily intake requirements.

Aside from its nutritional value, cardamom has many health benefits, including aiding digestive issues such as bloating and gas. It also has antioxidant properties, can lower blood pressure, and helps freshen breath when chewed or as an essential oil in mouthwash.

In traditional medical practices dating back centuries, the premise was that the consumption of cardamom would help with the treatment of diseases including teeth and gum infections, given the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potency. In modern oral health, Elettaria cardamomum cardamom has been shown to inhibit the growth of specific pathogens that lead to periodontal diseases caused by oral bacteria.

For people with diabetes, a study found green cardamom supplementation may have a protective effect on HDL-C (good cholesterol) levels in pre-diabetic patients. And a randomized double-blind clinical trial found cardamom may improve certain parameters of inflammation and oxidative stress across the pre-diabetic subjects who consumed the supplement for 8 weeks versus those who took the placebo.

Possible Side Effects

Generally, cardamom is safe to consume without serious side effects. However, the enzymes present in cardamom can cause skin conditions such as dermatitis and hives for some with sensitivities, as well as breathing difficulties and swelling, although these reactions are uncommon.

In addition, anyone with gallstones should avoid consuming amounts higher than that found in food, to avoid setting off spasmodic pain. And certain herbs, such as cardamom, have been interacting with specific medications such as Warfarin, an anticoagulant (blood thinner), among others.

Best Cardamon Substitutes

Although cardamom has a complex flavor that can be a challenge to emulate, it is not always essential, even if the recipe calls for a sprinkle. This is good news for anyone who dislikes its distinctive taste or has a known allergy. Instead, you can substitute cardamom with one of these alternatives to jazz up your cooking or baking.

Cinnamon and Ginger

Ginger is in the same botanical spice group as cardamom, so it's an excellent substitute in combination with cinnamon, both of which have woody notes. While ginger has been used for centuries to ease a number of health conditions such as indigestion, nausea, morning sickness, and even rheumatoid arthritis, cinnamon also has many health benefits, including boosting energy and vitality.

Cinnamon and cardamom have a similar nutritional profile although cinnamon contains around 3 grams more fiber and almost 9 milligrams less of magnesium per tablespoon. Ground ginger and cardamon also share a very similar nutritional breakdown.

Mix equal parts (around a quarter teaspoon of each, or depending on what the recipe calls) of cinnamon and ginger into your ingredients.

Cinnamon and Cloves or Nutmeg

Cloves are sourced from an evergreen tree found in Asia and South America and are a rich spice used in cooking. Not to mention, they are packed with vitamins and minerals and also contain antioxidants. This spice is so powerful that its oil is used to soothe toothache given its strong antiseptic and analgesic properties.

The gentle sweetness and hint of bitterness that you find in cloves pair with cinnamon well to balance the flavor. Cinnamon also blends well with nutmeg, a bittersweet, floral-like spice that is featured in the Christmas classic eggnog.

Cloves contain a fraction more fiber and calcium than cardamom per tablespoon, whereas nutmeg contains 19 more calories and almost 40 milligrams less potassium. Mix equal parts of cinnamon with either cloves or nutmeg to spice up your dish.

Allspice

Frequently added to dishes of Latin American and Carribean origin, allspice, as the name suggests, combines the sweet and woody flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in one. Available in whole and ground options, this rich spice works superbly in an assortment of cooked dishes, soups, sauces, and baked treats.

Allspice contains slightly more calcium, sodium, and around 5 milligrams less magnesium per tablespoon than cardamom. As the spice shares similar floral notes with cardamon, it works well as a last-minute substitute when your spice rack is lacking.

A Word From Verywell

When it comes to substituting cardamom, recreating its unique flavor may require a little experimentation on your part. But, for the most part, common household spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice can come to the rescue.

If you feel particularly confident in your culinary skills, you can try experimenting with different spices until you have developed the flavor you want. And, you never know, maybe you will like your substitutions better than the real thing.

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12 Sources
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  6. Fatemeh Y, Siassi F, Rahimi A, et al. The effect of cardamom supplementation on serum lipids, glycemic indices and blood pressure in overweight and obese pre-diabetic women: a randomized controlled trialJ Diabetes Metab Disord. 2017;16(1):40. doi:10.1186/s40200-017-0320-8

  7. Kazemi S, Yaghooblou F, Siassi F, et al. Cardamom supplementation improves inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers in hyperlipidemic, overweight, and obese pre-diabetic women: a randomized double-blind clinical trial: Cardamom supplementation in pre-diabetic womenJ Sci Food Agric. 2017;97(15):5296-5301. doi:10.1002/jsfa.8414

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  11. USDA. Spices, cloves, ground. Spices, nutmeg, ground. Published April 1, 2019.

  12. USDA. Spices, allspice, ground. Published April 1, 2019.

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