Often misspelled as “cardamon,” cardamom is from a plant native to southeastern Asia and is known for its aromatic seeds and pods. Along with being the third most expensive spice (behind saffron and vanilla), cardamom is widely used throughout Asia and Europe.
You can find cardamom pods in three colors: green, black and white with green being the most common of the three. The white is simply a bleached version of the green while black cardamom is related to green cardamom but is not from the same plant. Cardamom pods encapsulate 8 to 16 seeds that are used as the spice.
When shopping for cardamom, you may have found yourself wondering whether it would be better to buy the whole pods or the seeds. You may also have wondered whether they have the same flavor or if they can be substituted for each other. In this SPICEography Showdown we’ll look at the similarities and differences between these two forms of the same spice.
Do cardamom seeds and cardamom pods have the same flavor?
Since the flavor of cardamom comes from the seeds, both cardamom seeds and pods do share the same flavor when fresh; however, poor storage can result in a loss of flavor.
Should cardamom be purchased as pods or as seeds?
When properly stored, cardamom pods will be usable for more than a year. However, seeds that have been removed from their pods will start losing their flavor once they are exposed to air. In other words, you should buy pods if you are going to store the spice for an extended period. Ground seeds should be used immediately as the flavor will start fading rapidly after grinding, which means that you should only grind seeds that you intend to use right away.
Can cardamom seeds be used as a substitute for the pods or vice versa?
Both seeds and whole pods can be used in the same dishes; however, the methods of preparation will be different.
When using pods, split or crush them to expose the seeds. They can then be slow-cooked to extract the flavor. Since biting into cardamom can be unpleasant, consider placing the pods into a bouquet garni so that they can be removed easily.
When using the whole seeds, make sure to bruise them with the back of your knife before adding them. The other option you have is to grind them. A little cardamom goes a long way and since it loses its potency quickly once ground, you will want to grind only as much as you need for your dish. If your spice grinder will not work with only a few seeds at a time, grind the cardamom seeds along with the other spices for your dish or use a mortar and pestle.
Are cardamom pods easier to find than cardamom seeds or vice versa?
You should be able to find the loose seeds as well as ground cardamom in the spice aisles of most grocery stores; however, you may have to go an Indian grocery to find whole pods.
Are cardamom seeds and pods used in the same types of cuisine?
Whole cardamom pods are widely used in rice and meat dishes throughout southeastern Asia while the ground seeds are popular for use in Scandinavian baked goods.