Cardamom is a spice made from the seeds of a variety of plants in the Elettaria and Amomum family. It’s native to the Indian subcontinent and used in many traditional Indian and Pakistani recipes. Cardamom adds a beautiful fragrance and a very distinctive flavor to dishes. The flavor can be described as piney, nutty, fruity, and almost menthol-like.
Because of its distinctive flavor profile, you may have to mix some ingredients to create a good substitute for cardamom. Here is a curated list of 8 substitutes for cardamom that might just work.
#1. Cinnamon and Nutmeg
When you combine cinnamon with nutmeg, you get a spice that’s just the right amount of warmth, woodiness, and sweetness to replace cardamom. It’s a mixture you can add to tea and savory rice dishes, stews, baked products, and beef.
You can also use cinnamon and nutmeg for baked desserts. They go particularly well with cookies and pies. The cinnamon gives off a slightly pungent aroma that may be a little heavy on the nose but it’s a flavorful substitute.
1 Tsp. Cardamom = ½ Tsp. Cinnamon + ½ Tsp. Nutmeg.
Nutmeg is a ground spice derived from the seeds of the Myristica Fragrans tree. It has a distinctive pungent smell and a rich woody sweetness. Nutmeg is typically used to flavor baked goods, confections, and other sweet desserts. But it can also be used to flavor meats, potatoes, sausages, soups, sauces, and stews.
Nutmeg gives nuttiness with just a slight amount of spice to a dish. You can purchase nutmeg in its seed or powder form. The powdered version may have a slightly stronger taste, however, so you want to be careful using it.
Because the flavor of nutmeg is very similar to cardamom, it’s widely used as a substitute, even for flavoring chai tea.
1 Tsp. Cardamom = ½ Tsp. Nutmeg.
#3. Cinnamon and Cloves
This combination is a bit fiery but also carries sweet woody tones. The extra heat comes from the cloves and it’s useful when you want to add some intensity to a dish. When combined, cinnamon and cloves can replicate the intense flavors of cardamom in recipes for stews and savory meat dishes.
On their own, both of these ingredients taste pretty similar to cardamom, and by combining them, they each make up for what the other lacks.
Since it’s a perfect substitute you should mix ground cinnamon with cloves evenly and also replace them evenly for every teaspoon of cardamom.
1 Tsp. Cardamom = ½ Tsp. Cinnamon + ½ Tsp. Cloves.
Mace is a spice that is derived from the red cover of nutmeg seeds. It has a softer flavor than nutmeg and rich woody tones with some peppery nuance. It’s mainly used in Indian cuisine but mace will go well with any dish that doesn’t need too much intensity like vegetable stews, rice, meat, soups, and baked goods.
As it has a slightly stronger flavor than cardamom, you should start by substituting only half the amount and taste before adding more. Using half a teaspoon for every one teaspoon of cardamom may not be enough for dishes like curries and spicy gravies.
1 Tsp. Cardamom = ½ Tsp. Mace.
Allspice, also known as “pimento” or “Jamaica pepper” is a very easy-to-find substitute for cardamom. It’s derived from the berries of the evergreen Pimenta Dioica tree, native to the West Indies and Central America. Allspice is easier to find than cardamom because it is used all around the world. The flavor profile of allspice is similar to a blend of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.
Allspice has a very intense flavor, almost as intense as cardamom, so you can substitute them evenly. But if you need to make your dish hotter, you can add more. This sharp fragrant spice is best suited for savory dishes like soups, meat stews, vegetable broths, and fried rice.
1 Tsp. Cardamom = 1 Tsp. AllSpice.
#6. Apple Pie Spice
Apple pie spice is a simple mixture of autumn spices, typically nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger or Allspice. It is typically used to intensify baked desserts and sweet dishes like pies, muffins, cakes, pancakes, smoothies, cupcakes, cookies, and more.
You can also use it to add more flavor to spicy or savory dishes like meat and stews. If you’re ever in need of a quick and easy substitute for cardamom, apple pie spice is widely available, so it shouldn’t be hard to find.
However, apple pie spice has a very intense and complex flavor, so you need to use it moderately when compared to cardamom.
1 Tsp. Cardamom = ½ Tsp. Apple Pie Spice.
Ginger is a part of the same family of spices as turmeric and cardamom. As a result, it has a similar flavor profile to cardamom. Ginger is often used as a replacement for cardamom in chai tea and certain Indian curries. It works well with savory and spicy recipes, but it’s a little too hot for sweet baked dishes.
The flavor of ginger is sweet, spicy, and a little citrusy, quite similar to cardamom. The only difference is that ginger is a bit warmer, so you want to be careful with the substitution.
1 Tsp. Cardamom = 1 Tsp. Freshly Grated Ginger or ½ Tsp. Ground Ginger.
#8. Cumin and Coriander
If you’ve run out of cardamom for a recipe that requires spiciness and heat, an equal parts mixture of cumin and coriander makes an excellent substitute. It brings earthiness, warmth, and just a touch of delectable savoriness to dishes that increase their complexity and aroma.
However, do not use this mixture as a replacement for cardamom in sweet recipes because that could ruin it. Both cumin and coriander lie far outside the realm of the flavor profiles one typically seeks with sweet baked goods and confections. But this spice blend is ideal for savory dishes.
1 Tsp. Cardamom = ½ Tsp. Cumin + ½ Tsp. Coriander.