How To Use A Good Cardamom Substitute

While cardamom is one of the most unique spices known to man, and that no other spice or seasoning can match its distinct taste, you can get a cardamom substitute that at least shares some of its characteristic flavors. Let’s get to the bottom of it and start planning how we can use that fine, unique taste of good old cardamom.

Have you always wanted to pick up that cardamom, yet the budget stops you? Or do you have the extra money, yet it’s not even available in stores near you? You’ll be surprised that you’ve been ignoring cardamom substitutes all along; some might just be in your cupboards right now!


What Is Cardamom?

What Is Cardamom?

Cardamom is native to southern India. It grows wild in the forests there and is considered one of the world’s most ancient spices. It’s got a warm and eucalyptus flavor with lemony and camphoraceous undertones. Cardamom grows to about 10 feet and has large leaves. The fruit pod contains 8 to 16 brown seeds. You can use both the pod and seeds as a spice.

Did you know that ancient Egyptians used to chew on cardamom seeds to clean their teeth? The Romans and Greeks, on the other hand, used the spice as perfume. Today, cardamom is an expensive spice, which is why most people look for substitutes instead.

Cardamom Substitutes - What You’ll Need:

cardamom substitute

Cardamom’s flavor is distinguishable. It’s spicy and floral at the same time, with herbal hints and citrus notes. Cardamom’s taste is potent, that’s why it’s not an option to completely omit it from the recipe. Because of its strong flavor, its absence will be noticeable. That’s why cardamom substitutes are much needed.

This isn’t the only reason, though, why we use substitutes for cardamom. It could be its price that makes you steer away from this versatile ingredient, or that you may have allergy from cardamom. It’s good to know then that you can use cardamom substitutes that are most likely already in your pantry right now. Here are five of the most common cardamom substitutes you can use:

1. Cinnamon

2. Coriander

3. Myrtle Pepper

4. Nutmeg

5. Blended Spices



Cinnamon may not be an exact substitute for cardamom because of its distinct flavor, but to get the closest cardamom taste, you can use cinnamon as a component in a mixture of spice. The two share similar undertones of flavor and warmth, but cinnamon has more heat than cardamom.

Did you know that cinnamon has medicinal properties? The oily part of cinnamon gives its distinct flavor and smell. This oily part is called cinnamaldehyde which is also the one responsible for cinnamon’s health and metabolism benefits.



Coriander seeds are generally sold dried. When split in half, a coriander reveals two partially hollow hemispheres, sometimes with powdery matter inside. You can get coriander ground or whole. Did you know that your favorite herb, cilantro, comes from the fresh leaves of coriander? However, cilantro doesn’t make for a good cardamom substitute. Coriander seeds do.

Coriander seeds are sweet and aromatic when they’re ripe. They possess a citrus undertone that’s slightly similar to orange peels. You’ll find the leaves popularly used in many Indian and Mexican dishes.

Myrtle Pepper

Myrtle Pepper

Myrtle Pepper, more commonly known as Allspice, is widely used in culinary all over the world, although it’s the only spice that’s grown exclusively in the Western Hemisphere. You can get myrtle pepper whole or ground.

It tastes like an exotic blend of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, pepper, and a hint of cardamom. That makes it logical for myrtle pepper to be a valid substitute for cardamom. Also, myrtle pepper smells similar to cardamom’s fragrance.



Nutmeg is one of the most precious spices because of its aromatic and aphrodisiac properties. It’s even used for medicinal purposes. It is native to Indonesian Moluccas Island, a rainforest that’s also known as the “Spice Islands”. Why is it a good substitute for cardamom? Because of its same warm and woody characters.

Nutmeg’s aroma is also strong, yet it won’t overpower a savory dish. However, it doesn’t possess cardamom’s exact aroma and taste. But it’s readily available in stores and is less expensive than cardamom.

Blended Spices

Blended Spices

No single spice can substitute cardamom and possess the latter’s exact flavor and aroma, but when you put together the spices mentioned above, you’ll be near-perfect in getting that distinct cardamom taste.

If you decide to blend these spices, you’ll be needing clove, ginger, and orange as well. Why? Because you’re going to attempt to copy cardamom’s characteristics - aroma and taste, which these three can give you.

You can try blended spices when making savory and sweet dishes without worrying that one spice may overwhelm the others or the whole dish. Just follow the instructions that you’ll read further below.

How To Use The Substitutes

#1 - Cinnamon

How To Use The Substitutes-cinnamon

Be careful when working with cinnamon. It’s got a strong taste and aroma that it can easily overpower all other flavors in a dish. For sweet recipes, you can use half as much cinnamon as you would use cardamom. If you’re making savory dishes, cut the cinnamon 1/4 of the amount of cardamom specified in the recipe.

Rule of thumb for cinnamon as cardamom substitute:

Savory recipes: 1 cardamom = 1/4 cinnamon​

Sweet recipes: 1 cardamom = 1/2 cinnamon​

#2 - Coriander

How To Use The Substitutes-coriander

To use coriander as cardamom substitute, just replace the amount of cardamom specified in savory recipes with the same amount of coriander. If you’re making sweet dishes that require 2 spoonfuls of cardamom, use 1 spoonful of coriander.

Rule of thumb for coriander as cardamom substitute:

Savory recipes: 1 cardamom = 1 coriander​

Sweet recipes: 1 cardamom = 1/2 coriander​

#3 - Myrtle Pepper

How To Use The Substitutes-Myrtle Pepper

Myrtle pepper’s flavor lasts longer than cardamom’s. This will prompt you to use less myrtle pepper than you would use cardamom. This spice is a strong spice. You wouldn’t want it to overpower the dish. You just need it to somehow give the dish its cardamom-like flavor. How? Just try not to use more than a fourth of the amount of cardamom specified in the recipe.

Rule of thumb for myrtle pepper as cardamom substitute:

All recipes: 1 cardamom = 1/4 myrtle pepper or less​

#4 - Nutmeg

How To Use The Substitutes-nutmeg

Perhaps the easiest to use amongst all cardamom substitutes, you can simply replace cardamom amounts stated on the recipe with the same amount of nutmeg. This goes for both savory and sweet dishes.Rule of thumb for nutmeg as cardamom substitute:

All recipes: 1 cardamom = 1 nutmeg

#5 - Blended Spices

To get the closest substitute for cardamom, you’ll mix a number of spices and ingredients.

For this, you’ll need:

  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Myrtle pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Clove
  • Orange zest (top layer of orange peel)

Rule of thumb for blended spices as cardamom substitute:

Savory recipes: Mix equal parts of coriander, myrtle pepper, and nutmeg.​

Sweet recipes: Mix 4 parts of nutmeg, 1 part of cinammon, myrtle pepper, and clove.​

Add a pinch of orange zest to the blend to get the cardamom’s citrus overtone and a pinch of ground ginger for that woody flavor inherent to cardamom.

Excellent Cardamom Tips!

Excellent Cardamom Tips!

We all know cardamom can be a bit expensive. That’s why this article is written in the first place. But we also know it’s used heavily in Indian cuisine. That means you just need to visit the nearest Indian grocery store and see if you can get a great deal!

Like pepper, cardamom tends to lose its flavor quickly. We suggest you get it in pods and grind them on your own at home. Cardamom pods are cheaper too than seeds! Not sure how to grind? You simply remove the seeds from the pods and toss those seeds into a coffee grinder!

If your recipe calls for a teaspoon of cardamom, you’ll need to get six pods of cardamom! Why? Because one pod is equal to 1/6 teaspoon of ground cardamom. Remember, 6 pods = 1 teaspoon of cardamom. We suggest you get cardamom in pods. It might not save you time, but it’ll save you money.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Cardamom seeds are available at grocery stores without the pod coverings. Obviously, those won’t give you the interesting flavors of fresh cardamom, so we suggest you get them in pods. Most recipes, though, will have “cardamom powder” on them. If that’s the case and you’re using substitutes, just remember that 3 cardamom pods are equivalent to half a teaspoon of cardamom powder.

We may not always get all the ingredients we need for a recipe that looks like it’ll taste awesome, but it’s a good thing Science provided us with substitutes that are the next best thing. We hope you found the article useful and will start incorporating the substitutes to your most favorite cardamom recipes!

Please share with us your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to share the article!

Paula Hughes

I’m Paula, and I’m absolutely in love with food blogs. I’m a foodie at heart but being the mother of two small boys, it’s not always easy to keep up with fancy dinners… so I rely on the support of other blogging moms like me to help along the way.

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