20 Flavors for Cardamom

green cardamom pods


Popular in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine cardamom has an intensely fragrant aroma. Considered a warming spice it’s perceived to help generate internal body heat and is valued in cooler climates. In the West, cardamom is most often associated with Scandinavian baked goods.

Oh, but there is so much more. I’ve always maintained that cardamom is the new cinnamon. Sweet, spicy, or savory–its flavor pairing capabilites are extensive. I scoured the web, cookbooks, and spice sources to put together a list to help you use that bottle of little green pods and black seeds to their full capacity.

As you flex your creative cooking muscle use this list as a cardamom flavor pairing guide. For example, if you have a recipe that calls for apricots or walnuts consider adding cardamom if there isn’t already a dominant use of spices. I expanded on a few suggestions here and there but most are pretty straightforward. If you haven’t added cardamom to your spice shelf, consider doing it now. With so many possibilities, cardamom has become a spice shelf staple.

  1. Cinnamon
  2. Coffee. Brew it with the coffee beans for a twist on classic black.
  3. Lemon. I always thought cardamom would be a nice addition to a lemonade.
  4. Orange.
  5. Apricots.
  6. Pistachios.
  7. Tea. Enjoy a traditional chai?
  8. Walnut.
  9. Chocolate. Here’s a recipe for chocolate cardamom cake. (Scroll down to “Try It.”) Or go here for Evil Shenanigan’s cupcake version.
  10. Cream. Blend a pinch into whipped cream.
  11. Vanilla Bean. Try sprinkling some fresh ground cardamom on vanilla ice cream. 
  12. Plum. My blatent plug for an amazing chocolate bar. Dark chocolate with dried plums, walnuts and cardamom by Vosges. It’s worthy. Just writing about it sparks a craving..so let’s move on.
  13. Squash. As part of a garam masala spice blend, saute it with a little olive oil until warm and fragrant, then add your squash or squash-based soup ingredients (e.g. pumpkin or butternut).
  14. Rice. It’s good when added to savory dishes like rice pilaf or for sweet desserts such as rice pudding.
  15. Curries.
  16. Almond.
  17. Baked Goods.
  18. Sugar. Scandinavians will mix cardamom with sugar and use it like we use cinnamon and sugar.
  19. Apples. Try putting some in your apple pie or applesauce.
  20. Carrots.  Here’s a recipe for perfect chai carrot cake.

I can pretty much guarantee this is not an exhaustive list.  So please share, how have you used your cardamom?


Photo Attribution: LexnGer
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1 Janice June 14, 2010 at 11:17 am

I agree that cardamom is vastly under-utilized, especially considering its versatility. I hope you make some converts from this post.

2 The Housewife June 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm

I agree that cardamom is very under appreciated! I love it’s heady aroma and it makes such a huge difference when used correctly. Since I cook indian food primarily at home, I use it almost everyday! However my favorite ways to use it are in delicate indian desserts like kheer or to make a mean cup of masala tea! :)

3 Spice Sherpa June 14, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I’ve been asked what makes a good substitute for cardamom? That question makes me wonder if it’s generally not on the shelf. It’s such a unique flavor and so versatile there really isn’t a substitute. Once one becomes familiarized with it cardamom is easy to use up!

4 Magic of Spice June 15, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Exceptional post!

5 denise @ quickies on the dinner table June 16, 2010 at 3:22 am

I love cardamom and am a little surprised too when asked for a substitute in recipes! I really didn’t think it was difficult to find!

What I like about it is how effortlessly it straddles both sweet and savoury recipes – just like cinnamon, my favourite spice! I use it very, very often for curries and spiced meat stews or pie fillings but one of my favourite recipes for it is an orange, almond and cardamom loaf I often make for tea – gorgeous!! It goes so very, very well with a cup of black Darjeeling tea!

6 Spice Sherpa June 16, 2010 at 7:55 am

I think perhaps some people shy away from purchasing cardamom for a specific recipe. It’s expensive and they may not know what to do with it afterwards so the expense isn’t justified in their minds. Just a guess.

7 sweetlife June 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

coffee with cardamon, oh what a great way to revive my morning coffee…
my mom adds cardamon to her rice, and we really enjoy the flavor… great suggestions…

8 Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet } June 17, 2010 at 2:03 am

Great post – I was not that familiar with cardamon and now I am inspired!

9 zerrin June 17, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I haven’t had an experience with this spice yet. I heard of its name many times, but didn’t know actually what it is and how to use it. Thank you for this informative post.

10 Spice Sherpa June 17, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Please try it, it’s a wonderful spice to know. Plus there are some health benefits. My site is full of uses for cardamom–just click cardamom in the tag cloud and it will pull up the posts on it. Or go to the cardamom under “Spices A-Z” I had fun writing about it. I plan to add more. Always more. :-)

11 Tunde June 20, 2010 at 9:26 am

Great post !!Cardamom is one of those versatile spices that adds something extra to the mix. Sometimes I add it to my steak seasoning. I however like using it paired with cinnamon whenever a recipe calls for cinnamon, such a pleasing combination.

12 Spice Sherpa June 21, 2010 at 8:27 am

Cardamom with steak seasoning. Great idea and it sounds like such a natural match. Especially with cracked black pepper. Thanks for chiming in!

13 amy October 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Would you say using ground cardamom would have the same results as using the pods? How does the combination of a chocolate, coffee, cardamom cupcake sound, think it would work? I am not as experienced in using cardamom so thought I would ask for some insight. Thanks!

14 Spice Sherpa October 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm


Ground cardamom, especially fresh ground would be much more potent than the pods. If you want to use cardamom in a pastry, and plan to consume it, you will definitely want to grind it up fairly fine so it will blend well into your batter. I will use the whole pods, slightly cracked with a mortar and pestle if I’m using the cardamom as an infusion in coffee or tea, for example. Another way to deepen the flavor of cardamom is to roast or toast the seeds before grinding. I think a coffee, cardamom, chocolate cupcake sound scrumptious. Please share your results here. If you have a blog definitely link back to it!

15 amy October 22, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Spice Sherpa, Thank you, I appreciate the insight, answers to my questions and more. I will give a report once I have experimented and hopefully it will be soon. I actually don’t have a blog so I will post my chocolate, coffee, cardamom findings here. Stay tuned…

16 Spice Sherpa October 23, 2010 at 11:57 am

You’re welcome! I love exchanging spice ideas and suggestions. If you want to toast the seeds before grinding you’ll need to crack them out of the pods first. You can put the black seeds in a cast iron skillet on a medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon slowly and removed as soon as they are fragrant. Don’t want to burn them! Then put the seeds in a spice grinder. A coffee grinder works awesome but make sure it’s dedicated to spices. If this is new to you, you will be absolutely blown away by the fragrance. It’s like a taking a vacation purely on scent alone. You can check out some spice grinding options on this site under accessories. Please consider signing up for the RSS feed–you’ll get new posts notifications sent to your email. Looking forward to hearing about your results!

17 Amy October 24, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Planning to test my thoughts later today. I am leaning towards brewing the pods with the coffee. I don’t have a mortar and pestle but I might be inclined to visit bed, bath & beyond today. I do have a spice grinder but I think the hand grinding might be better for this. To brew would you use the toasted seed method to deepen the flavor or stick to the slightly cracked pods?

18 Spice Sherpa October 25, 2010 at 7:08 am

It’s depends on how much of the cardamom you want to have come through. If it’s competing with coffee and dark chocolate I wouldn’t be too scarce with it. Cracked pods infused into the coffee give coffee a distinct flavor. Not sure how much of that would come through in a baked good, you’ll have to let me know. I’d stick with roasting the seeds. You could roast the seeds, coarse grind them, mix them with the coffee grinds and try that combination in your cupcakes. That’s one grown-up cupcake!

19 amy October 25, 2010 at 10:29 am

CCC (Chocolate, Coffee, Cardamom) Cupcake Update: Lesson learned, when a friend says surprise me with one of your unique flavors never decide to try something new and especially when they are paying you for it.

My findings: I was too scarce with the cardamom and strangely enough the coffee as well. The chocolate was most dominant. The first batch, I used 10 cardamom pods (shell & seeds), cracked up in a mortar & pestle and brewed it with 2 TBS of 6oz of water. Not enough flavor, none honestly. The second batch, I used 20 cardamom pods in the same manner as batch one and brewed 3 TBS of 6oz of water. Still not enough flavor, not even a hint. Batch one had issues pulling away from the paper which is also why I went to batch two. Batch two was as it should be but just tasted like a yummy chocolate cupcake. Since I needed the unique flavor for my friend I relied on getting the frosting to give the coffee and cardamom flavor. Thankfully I was successful with that and as a complete cupcake they combine quite well. That said, I do love the CCC combination but this recipe needs to be perfected. A 3rd test batch is on the list and what I decided is the cupcake could carry the chocolate coffee flavor more strongly with only a slight hint of cardamom while the frosting should carry the cardamom more dominantly and only have the chocolate and coffee as support.

Why is it I feel I get more flavor out of the store bought ground cardamom rather than these premium green pods?

I will keep you updated on my continued findings though I don’t have plans of testing this again yet.

Now onto prep and bake for tonight’s casual monthly cupcake challenge. Challenge ingredient is spice (as you can see I am on a spice kick with more than just cardamom) and I have developed a Chocolate Raspberry Pink Peppercorn Cupcake. YUM!

20 Spice Sherpa October 25, 2010 at 11:11 am

Loving the sound of the raspberry pink peppercorn cupcake. That’s just fun to say. In my experience coffee infused with cardamom is better for drinking. If you want a true cardamom flavor in the cake you’ll have more luck grinding the fresh spice seeds (no pods) and mixing it directly into the dry ingredients. As for pepper and flavors–I made a great chocolate, black pepper cookie: 2 Ways to Love Black Pepper & Chocolate.

21 amy October 25, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Oh yes, I just checked out your post for those cookies…looks yummy and I love the flat cake aesthetic to them.
Thanks for the tips, next time I think I will try adding the cardamom to the dry ingredients and see what happens.
I know I love saying Raspberry Pink Peppercorn about as much as I love to say the 3 combined C’s, Chocolate, Coffee, Cardamom. The pink peppercorn cakes are not only addicting but beautiful, the dark chocolate with this punch of pink raspberry color…delightful.

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