Cardamom is a new cinnamon? Okay, I’m willing to admit this is a bold statement. But we’ve had a new black (pink), thirty is the new twenty, and staying home is the new vacation. So let’s explore cardamom as the new cinnamon.
In the United States we love our cinnamon. Cardamom, although growing in popularity, simply does not enjoy the same loyal fan base. Yet apart from their flavor both spices are quite similar.
Both have an ancient past. Cardamom, like cinnamon, has been around for thousands of years. It was prized for its flavor, aroma, and medicinal value. The Egyptians didn’t sprinkle cardamom on their mummies (like they did with cinnamon) but they did use it for an aphrodisiac (along with the Greeks and Romans).
Both were part of the spice trade. Cinnamon and cardamom made their way over land across the Middle East to Constantinople. The Vikings intercepted the cardamom a few times and brought it back to Scandinavia where it is as popular as cinnamon.
Both are highly diverse. Breads, meats, teas, beer, spice blends, vegetables, puddings–whether you’re cooking with sweet or savory both spices complement a highly diverse menu.
Both are considered warming spices. Cardamom offers a strong, pungent flavor where cinnamon is more sweet and full of a gentle heat. Cardamom pungency is distinct yet, like cinnamon, its capacity for sweetness and warmth varies depending on its food pairings.
If you’ve only used cardamom in limited amounts this is the time of year to experiment. It adds depth-of-flavor to pumpkin pie, roasted autumn vegetables, baked goods, teas, and meats. It’s especially tasty when blended with chocolate. Exotic Chocolate Bars from Vosges Chocolat has a specialty bar that blends cardamom with the chocolate (I’m addicted. Well, my whole family is, even my 7 year old). If you’re ready to experiment with your own cooking check out the deep chocolate cake with cardamom recipe posted on the cardamom page.
Enough of the similarities. Unlike cinnamon, cardamom can be used in many different forms. It’s harvest as the nearly-opened seed pod from members of the ginger family. The pods are dried out. Cardamom refers to the whole pod, the crushed outer shell, or the ground up seeds inside. You can roast, toast, grind, blend, or steep any combination of the seed and pod.
So while we have yet to see Yankee Candle Company making cardamom-scented candles, or a cardboard, tree-shaped cardamom car freshener, this spice deserves as prominent space on your shelf. Yes, right next to the cinnamon.
P.S. I’m working on posting a holiday page with a pumpkin pie spice recipe that includes cardamom. Come back and check it out. Or, sign-up to receive email notification when new material is posted on Spice Sherpa. Click for email over there to your right…on top of the column. See it? Good. Glad to help.