What’s A Good Black Cardamom Substitute?

Black cardamom is a useful spice that is related both to green cardamom — a better known and possibly more versatile spice — and to ginger. Unless you cook a lot of Chinese or Indian food, you may not always have black cardamom on hand. If running out and grabbing some at the local Asian store is not an option, there are a few options you can try. Here are some of the best Black cardamom substitutes.

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Your best bet: Green cardamom

You will probably have an easier time finding green cardamom in most standard North American and European grocery store spice sections than you will black cardamom. Green cardamom has more Western applications than black cardamom, and it works better in dessert dishes. You may notice that green cardamom has a stronger citrus element to its flavor profile, which makes it a sweeter spice. In comparison, black cardamom’s smokiness and more astringent quality make it undesirable for most sweet recipes.

Green cardamom will lack the distinctive smokiness that you would get from its black relative, but will give you some of the same sweet notes. Green cardamom does have a drawback in that it can be an expensive spice. Get the best bang for your buck by buying it whole and grinding it yourself. If you do use green cardamom in place of the black version, use it as a 1:1 substitute.

A decent second choice: Garam masala

What makes garam masala a good black cardamom substitute is that it contains black cardamom. If your dish contains other spices that you find in garam masala, then you can use the Indian spice blend as a way to cut down on your meal’s prep time. All you will need to do is tweak some of the proportions to get your desired flavor profile.

If the dish doesn’t normally contain those spices, you can try toning them down or masking them with some other ingredients. Most dishes that require black cardamom won’t be ruined by the other garam masala spices.

In a pinch: Allspice

With its notes of multiple other spices like cinnamon and cloves, allspice may be able to contribute some of what black cardamom would bring to a dish. The difference between allspice and black cardamom will be noticeable in any dish where black cardamom provides one of the main flavors; however, it won’t necessarily detract. Allspice has the benefit of being easy to find in most grocery stores and spice markets around the world.

Other alternatives

Cinnamon’s sweetness and warmth do give it some qualities in common with black cardamom. Cinnamon can stand in for black cardamom in the sense that it won’t give you the same result as black cardamom, but it probably won’t ruin the dish.

Because it contains allspice and cinnamon, apple pie spice manages to capture a number of the notes that you would get from black cardamom. No one familiar with black cardamom will mistake apple pie spice for the real thing, but it can play the same role in a dish. Apple pie spice has the benefit of being something that you might already have in your spice cabinet — either it or its components — and it is easier to find in mainstream grocery stores than black cardamom.

Galangal is another complex spice in the Zingiberaceae family that you can use as a black cardamom substitute. Dried and powdered galangal might be a better match for black cardamom than the fresh rhizome.