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Cardamom is a fragrant spice found in a lot of dishes from around the world, including Indian dishes and Swedish meatballs. The spice is usually sold either in whole pod form or ground. There are only a few substitutes for cardamom, and the substitutes will not produce the same flavor as the spice itself. As the spice is the third most expensive in the world, you may wish to use inexpensive substitutes for cardamom, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger, instead. You can also use another type of cardamom, black cardamom, as a substitute.
If you are using a recipe that calls for whole cardamom but you have only ground, you can substitute the ground for the whole cardamom. Generally, six pods of cardamom equal 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom. If you have cardamom seeds out of the pod, about 18 seeds is the same as one pod of cardamom.
Other substitutes for cardamom include spices that are more commonly found in home pantries and that are considerably less expensive. The simplest substitute is an equal amount of cinnamon. For example, use 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon for every teaspoon of ground cardamom.
You can also mix spices to serve as substitutes for cardamom. Combine an equal amount of cinnamon and nutmeg or an equal amount of cinnamon and cloves to match the amount of cardamom you are replacing. If you need to substitute for 1 teaspoon of cardamom, try substituting 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon pf ground cinnamon. You can also try combining half cloves and half nutmeg as substitutes for cardamom.
As cardamom is in the ginger family, you may wish to try substituting either fresh or ground ginger for the cardamom called for in a recipe. Ginger has a sweeter taste, so it may be preferable to substitute ginger in sweet recipes, such as pastries. The flavors of cardamom and ginger are different, so you will get a different final dish than you would if you used cardamom.
Another substitute is brown cardamom, also called black cardamom, which is usually used in savory dishes in India. Unlike cardamom, which is also called green cardamom, black cardamom is dried over a fire. It has a smoky scent and intense, somewhat minty flavor. Black cardamom isn't suited for sweet dishes but will work well as a substitute for green cardamom in meat dishes or other entrees. Like green cardamom, it comes in pods, seed, or ground form.