Knowing more about the spices we use in cooking can help us to develop our skills and techniques. Cinnamon is a common spice but cardamom can feel a little harder to find in shops.
Cardamom offers a deep, minty, citrus like flavor which offers warmth and aromatic properties to a dish. Cinnamon is woody with a deep spice and citrus flavor, warm and sweet. Cardamom is the seed from within a pod that we use and cinnamon is the dried bark of an evergreen tree, as sticks or powder.
Both cardamom and cinnamon have a lot to offer in a dish and can be used in sweet or savory food.
Cinnamon Vs Cardamom
- Cardamom bring a deep earthy, herbal, minty and citrusy flavor to a dish alongside that almost floral musky aroma. Cinnamon has a woody and citrus warming flavor with a strength to give it a punch in cooking, like a gentle version of cloves. Both cardamom and cinnamon have a warm sweetness that does not come with a tartness.
- Cardamom is the seeds that you find within those plump green pods. Bought as pods the flavor will maintain it’s intensity for longer than when you purchase as powder. Cinnamon is dried and rolled up bark from an evergreen tree.. There are a few varieties of this evergreen tree, the most common being Ceylon cinnamon.
- Cinnamon trees are native to India and Sri Lanka as well as Myanmar. In the 1700’s this invasive tree was introduced pan tropically by traders, propagating by seed it will become the dominant species in many areas. Cardamom can be also found growing native to India, Sri Lanka and Guatemala.
- Purchased as either a powder or sticks, cinnamon can be used to flavor sweet or savory dishes. Cardamom can be bought as a seed pod, ready for your to crush and remove the seeds, or as seeds or powdered seeds. The freshest most pungent way to store cardamom is as pods, then only open as you want to use.
- Ceylon cinnamon is a very expensive spice, although not as expensive as cardamom pods. This is because both spices have to be harvested by hand and this is a time consuming process. As you find with saffron and vanilla.
- A very small number of people are allergic to cinnamon and will display with a range from symptoms similar to hay fever to full blown anaphylaxis. Whereas there is very little research to suggest allergies for cardamom.
Can You Replace Cardamom With Cinnamon
It is common to run low in your spice rack sometimes so knowing how to substitute spices is a great time saver.
You can replace cardamom with cinnamon in a like for like ratio. Both offer that warmth and citrus sweetness that adds an almost mature depth to a dish. 1 teaspoon of powdered cardamom = 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon. when using a stick of cinnamon = 1/2 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon cardamom.
There is a slight woody element when using cinnamon that isn’t quite there with cardamom but they are a great substitute for one another.
Substitutes For Cinnamon
Here is a list of some of our favorite alternatives to cinnamon in our cooking.
- Nutmeg is a very strong flavor and should be used sparingly as an alternative to cinnamon. 1 teaspoon cinnamon = 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.
- Allspice is a relative of clove and can make a good substitute for cinnamon. Go carefully here as you will find it quite strong. Use this ratio 1 teaspoon of cinnamon = 1/4 teaspoon of allspice. Just be aware that allspice is like a blend of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon so if a recipe also calls for those two ingredients you can omit them and adjust the level of allspice used.
- Cardamom is a great substitute for cinnamon and use the ratio 1:1.
- Cloves can be used to replace cinnamon, mainly due to their compatibility taste wise. Be very aware of how intense the clove flavor is and adjust your ratios to 1 teaspoon cinnamon = 1/4 teaspoon cloves.
- Sometimes using a pre-made spice blend can help and pumpkin spice is a suitable replacement for cinnamon. Use 1:1 as the warmth from this mix is a great match. For a full how guide on how to replace and how to make pumpkin spice have a look here.
How To Replace Cardamom
Choose your replacements based on the dish you are cooking. Be gentle with some of these as they can be a little harsh in sweeter dishes.
- You will need to use a mix of spices to get the best possible alternative to cardamom. 1 teaspoon cardamom = 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. This gives the warmth of cardamom alongside the sweetness. Truth be told these three spices are often found together in recipes meaning they compliment each other well.
- If there is no ground nutmeg in your spice rack try to replace with ground cloves. 1 teaspoon cardamom = 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon cloves. Just be aware that a few people may have an allergic reaction to cinnamon so this might not be the best option.
- For a savory solution try mixing cumin seeds and coriander seeds to get a similar warmth and kick of cardamom. 1 teaspoon cardamom = 1/2 teaspoon cumin + 1 teaspoon coriander. Use ground for ground and seeds for seeds quantity wise.
- If you are using store bought ground cardamom then the ratio is 5 fresh pods = 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom. It really does lose some of it’s kick when it is not fresh and it will last so much longer on the shelf if you buy in pods.
How To Prepare Fresh Cardamom
If you are buying cardamom in pods you will have a better quality of flavor for longer. Preparing your seeds only when you are ready to use is the perfect solution to retaining freshness.
Split open the cardamom pods and remove the black seeds from inside. A labor of love can be to then use a pestle and mortar to crush the seeds. But you can just as easily use a coffee grinder and get a smooth paste. A little bit of time and you will have a smooth ground cardamom.
5 cardamom pods make about 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom. This means if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom = 20 cardamom pods.
TOP TIP – You can use the discarded pods to infuse some flavor into herbal teas still. Just steep them in boiled water for ten minutes to release the flavor.
What Next & Further Reading
- Growing Cardamom a complete guide for growing indoors as a houseplant in cooler climates or outdoors for zones 9-11.
- Fennel Seeds Vs Cumin Seeds Important Differences
- Fenugreek Seed And Fennel Seed – Differences and Replacements
- Spices And Herbs What Are The Important Differences
- How To Grow Cumin Cuminum Cyminum From Seed
Thanks for reading and do let us know if you have any other alternatives that you have found work! It is always great to share knowledge in this community.