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What Is Cardamom?

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

If you like spicy and sweet food, then you will love adding cardamom to your dishes. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this spice and what you can use it for.

What Is Cardamom

By the end of this article, you will become an expert on what cuisines you can use it with and how you can identify it. 

About Cardamom

Cardamom is a spice from the ginger family that is native to southern regions of India and Sri Lanka, but it has become so popular that you can find it in other tropical countries.

Of these tropical countries, it has been getting more popular in Guatemala, Vietnam, and Tanzania. 

There are different types of cardamom, including green, black, and white. Green cardamom pods are distinct when they’re whole, as they are green and triangular in shape.

Within these pods are the small black seeds that we use to make the spice. 

While the pods can also be used whole, we remove the seeds to grind them into a fine powder to use as a spice.

You’ll find that the spice itself has a unique flavor, allowing it to be used in sweet and salty dishes, especially in Indian cuisine. 

Some say that cardamom has several health benefits and has been known to relieve cold and flu symptoms and help digestion.

Others have said that cardamom can be used to prevent cancer, but there needs to be more studies to confirm this. 

What Cardamom Smells Like

You’ll notice that cardamom has an intense and unique scent, with people noticing several differences. While some describe it as spicy and fragrant, others note a smoky, earthy smell. 

Truthfully, it is an acquired taste that takes some getting used to. However, we agree that once you grow accustomed to the scent of cardamom, you’ll love how it smells.

In India, it’s popular in savory and sweet dishes alike, but in Scandinavian baking, it is a staple.

If you have any Scandinavian baking recipes, you’ll notice it’s a common ingredient in cakes, cookies, and bread. 

What Cardamom Tastes Like

Cardamom is known as an aromatic spice, as it is both sweet and spicy, which is why it’s popular in both savory and sweet dishes.

The flavor reminds us of mint and lemon, but it also has a mildly spicy aftertaste. 

Due to the nature of this ingredient, it’s versatile, so you can experiment with several different dishes. Consider using it for baking, drinks, or curry spices.

Of course, if you want more examples, we’ll happily offer you a few suggestions for using them. 

How To Use Cardamom

As mentioned before, cardamom is a versatile spice you can use for a wide range of dishes. Depending on how you use it, you can use it whole or grind it into a spice. 

If you want to grind it and use it as a spice, you should remove any dust or debris from your pod.

Once you remove the debris, you can grind your cardamom with either a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.

Another method is to take a knife and chop up the cardamom. Once you do this, you can use it in raw or cooked dishes. You’ll find that cardamom is a great pairing with meat, vegetables, and fruits. 

When you add cardamom to a cooked dish, add it as early as possible to ensure the flavors mold together.

You only need to add cardamom a little before serving a raw dish. As it can be used in a variety of dishes, just remember these rules, and you can use it for any dish you like. 

Different Types Of Cardamom

We mentioned earlier that cardamom comes in different types that can be found by looking at their colors. These are green, black, and white cardamom.

The most popular type of cardamom pods is green, which you’ll find in a host of Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.

They are known for having a sweet, floral flavor, but that is only the simpler description. 

Green cardamom has a complex flavor; it is warm, citrusy, spicy, herbal, and also minty.

Despite all these flavors, it is a single spice. Still, it’s also why it is so popular in such a variety of different dishes. 

While less common, black cardamom pods are an option for anyone who prefers intense, smoky flavors. Therefore, it’s safe to say it’s more popular in savory dishes than sweet ones.

If you need to use black cardamom, we recommend using the whole pod when cooking.

However, the rarest types of cardamom are white, and they are essentially green pods that were bleached white. 

If you’re wondering what white cardamom tastes like, you can think of the flavors of green cardamom. However, unlike green cardamom, the flavor has faded.

While not as popular, it is popular in northern Europe and is a known favorite among Scandinavian countries. 

Common Uses Of Cardamom

Due to its versatility, you can use cardamom in a variety of different dishes.

In this section, we’ll focus on teaching you how you can use it in sweet and savory dishes and also how you can add it to your favorite drinks.

Cardamom In Sweet Dishes

We mentioned before how cardamom was a popular spice in Scandinavian baking, and it is used in a wide range of sweet desserts.

It should surprise no one that it is also popular in Indian sweets and is also used for baklava. Due to the sweet and spicy combination of cardamom flavors, we’ve found that it can be pretty addicting. 

Cardamom In Savory Dishes

Even though it’s popular in sweet dishes, cardamom is also a popular spice that can be used in savory dishes.

Cardamom is a popular addition to curries, as it is known for having a slightly sweet flavor with a mild aroma that doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the sauce.

Many people either use cardamom as a spice or they add it to curries whole. 

Cardamom In Drinks

You may be surprised that cardamom is also a popular addition to various drinks, from cocktails to coffee.

Due to the sweet and spicy flavor, it works well with teas, coffees, and hot chocolate and works as a great additive to any comfort drinks while ill.

It can also be added to liquors, cocktails, and other types of mixed drinks to get more flavor. 

Ground Cardamom Or Pods

What Is Cardamom

Ground cardamom is green pods that are processed into a finely ground spice. This is the most popular option if you want to add cardamom to baked goods and batters.

However, whole pods are commonly used when you want to infuse the flavor of your dish by steeping your pods in a liquid or sautéing them in an oil of your choice. 

If you need to use a whole pod when cooking, you must discard it afterward, similarly to how you would bay leaves.

You find the seeds within the pods, which give cardamom its distinct flavor. Cardamom pods don’t have the same flavor profile that you would usually expect without the seeds. 

Substitutions To Use Instead Of Cardamom

While cardamom is popular in Indian, Thai, and Scandinavian dishes, they are still pretty expensive when you want to use them regularly.

When you don’t have green pods, you can replace them with white or black pods instead. However, if you have no cardamom, we have some possible substitutions you can use in their place.


Allspice is commonly used in Jamaican dishes and has an incredibly similar flavor to cardamom. It’s a dry, unripened berry from the myrtle pepper tree.

These berries are then fermented before they are then sun-dried until they turn a brown color. Allspice gets its name from smelling similar to a blended spice, despite only being a single spice.


Along with being a spice that pairs beautifully well with cardamom, cinnamon has a warm, sweet flavor that is also popular in Indian and Pakistani dishes.

With a complex and captivating scent, it is both sweet with a slightly bitter bite. It comes from the inner bark of a Sri Lankan evergreen, and the most common form is that of a finely ground powder.

However, you’ll find that it can also be found in the form of sticks and as a type of oil.


If you don’t have cardamom, you can replace them with cloves’ strong, pungent flavor. These are other popular spices that you can find in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.

Originating from the dried buds of clove trees, this spice is also known for its health benefits.

Some studies have shown that this spice has benefits, so you can always add it to your dish if you want a health kick.


A popular spice that is commonly used in baking and desserts, ground nutmeg is known for its warm, sweet flavor that bears some similarity to ground cardamom.

You can get nutmeg seeds from the evergreen myristica fragrant, and once they are picked, they then dry for up to eight weeks, when they should shrink.

Despite what you may think from its name, nutmeg isn’t actually a nut, so anyone with allergies shouldn’t worry if you find nutmeg in your recipe.

How To Store Cardamom

We have a few tips to help you if you want to store your cardamom in your kitchen for your dish.

Ideally, you should store your cardamom in an airtight container and keep it in a cool, dry place. To retain your spice’s flavor for longer, you can even store it in your freezer.

If you want to get the best flavor, you should grind the seeds yourself. We recommend using an electric grinder or a mortar and pestle to do this.

Then, when grinding it, use only what you need and put the rest in our previously mentioned airtight container.

It’s essential that you use cardamom sparingly until you know how many flavors you want to be added to your dish.

Cardamom is a strong spice, so you shouldn’t lose large quantities at once unless you’re used to it. 

What To Look For When Buying Cardamom

When you want to buy cardamom, looking for specialty spice dealers online is best if you can’t buy in bulk from Indian or Middle Eastern grocery stores.

However, if you do find cardamom in your local store, we suggest you look for any pods with a dark green color; they should also have a strong aroma that seems almost pungent.

If you see discolored or blemished cardamom, you should avoid them, as they will not be as good. 

Final Thoughts

We’ve learned here today that cardamom is an incredibly versatile spice from the ginger family.

Popular throughout Scandinavia, India, and Middle Eastern countries, this spice is used for drinks, desserts, and savory dishes.

With a unique floral flavor, it’s no wonder that it’s become so popular.

If you don’t have cardamom, you can easily substitute it with other spices such as allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.

However, none of these have the same flavor profile and can’t all be used so versatilely. 

We hope that you found this article helpful, and we hope you think about adding cardamom to any recipe you may try that calls for it.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to look at our other posts to find out more to satisfy your culinary curiosity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Cardamom Do To Your Body?

For thousands of years, cardamom has been used to aid digestion. It’s been used with other medicinal spices to relieve any discomfort and nausea.

Research has been done on how cardamom can relieve stomach issues, and some say it can possibly heal ulcers. 

Is Cardamom An Acquired Taste?

Absolutely. However, once you get used to it, you’ll find that you’ll enjoy it in a host of different dishes, from savory to sweet, once you get accustomed to the taste and smell of it. 

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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