Cardamom comes in three colors, with each color having its own unique characteristics. The two most common colors are the black and green varieties with the green being the one that most of us know from the spice aisle in the grocery store. The third cardamom variety is the white variety, which is just bleached green cardamom.
Green cardamom is grown extensively in southwest India as well as in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Tanzania. Black cardamom comes mainly from the Himalayas with Nepal, India, and China being the main producers.
When faced with a recipe that calls for cardamom, you may wonder which of the two you should choose. You may also have questions such as: is one better than the other? Can you use one type of cardamom as a replacement for the other? Which one will provide the most flavor? In this edition of SPICEography Showdown, we will answer those questions and more.
Do black and green cardamom have different flavors?
The first thing that you should note is that while these two spices are from plants in the same family (the ginger family), they are not close relatives. The green cardamom has a sweet floral flavor with notes of eucalyptus. Green cardamom’s flavors work equally well in both sweet and savory dishes. Black cardamom is smoked over an open fire, which gives it a pungent smoky flavor that is deep and best suited for savory dishes.
Can black and green cardamom be used in place of each other?
Green cardamom has an intense flavor that complements both sweet and savory dishes but cannot replicate the smokier, dark flavors of black cardamom. Black cardamom also has a strong menthol kick that is not present in green cardamom. While they are similar in that the seeds can be removed from the pods and ground, black cardamom is not usually used in desserts as its smokiness can easily overwhelm cakes and puddings.
Are green and black cardamom prepared in the same way?
While both types of cardamom come in pods, the method of preparing them for use is somewhat different. Note that in both cases, the flavor disappears quickly once the seeds have been removed from the pod.
With green cardamom, it is best to remove the seeds from the pods and grind them with a mortar and pestle just before using them. The pods can be kept for later use, You can steep them in water or milk for coffee or tea.
With black cardamom, the best way to use them is to use the whole pod with the seeds in place before discarding them. They can be removed from the pod, but are often difficult to grind to a powder.
Are green and black cardamom used in the same types of dishes?
Green cardamom is commonly used in Indian cuisine and is also a popular baking spice in Sweden, Finland, and other Nordic countries. It is used in Scandinavian julekake and the Finnish bread, pulla. Black cardamom is used by itself or along with green cardamom in spice blends like Indian tandoori spice and in Thai curry paste.