How Do I Choose the Best Substitutes for Cardamom?

A.E. Freeman

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.

Cinnamon can often be used as a substitute for cardamom.
Cinnamon can often be used as a substitute for cardamom.

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.

Nutmeg can me mixed with other spices as a substitute for cardamom.
Nutmeg can me mixed with other spices as a substitute for 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.

Cardamom seed pods, with one opened.
Cardamom seed pods, with one opened.

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.

Ground ginger can replace cardamom in recipes.
Ground ginger can replace cardamom in recipes.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


Cardamom is expensive usually, but I buy it wholesale from Southeast Asian groceries which is much more affordable.

I've substituted nutmeg and cinnamon for cardamom in the past with some success. But cardamom is a very unique spice with a unique flavor and some recipes are just not right without it.

I love cardamom in milk desserts, especially rice pudding and ice cream. It's also great in tea and coffee.


@fBoyle-- There aren't many cardamon spice substitutes and the article has mentioned all of them.

The only other distantly similar spice that comes to mind is black or white pepper. It's not the perfect substitute, but it might work if you use it in moderation.

As far as I know, some chai recipes do call for black pepper, so that might just work. If you put some cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and clove in it, I think it will come out good.


I want to make Indian chai at home and the only spice I'm missing is cardamom. Cinnamon is already one of the ingredients so I don't want to put more of that as a substitute and I'm not sure if nutmeg is a good idea.

What else can I use?

Post your comments
Forgot password?