Cardamom is a highly aromatic spice that has been used for centuries across the world. It’s known for its distinct, sweet and spicy flavor profile, making it an excellent addition to many dishes. But what does cardamom taste like?
Cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world. And it’s also called the “Queen of Spices”. These facts might have you wondering what’s so special about this spice. Our article here will tell you everything you need to know about cardamom.
Cardamom is a plant that belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. This group is more commonly known as the ginger family.
It originated in Southern India and is now grown in other parts of the world, such as India and Sri Lanka. However, the biggest supplier of cardamom is Guatemala.
In the culinary world, cardamom is a spice derived from the dried fruit of the plant. The fruits are oval pods with three sides. When you cut them across, you’ll see a triangle shape.
Inside the pods are seeds with essential oils that give cardamom its signature taste. These dark-colored seeds are small and irregular in shape.
Despite being widely grown in Guatemala, the spice is not widely used there. Instead, cardamom is more popular in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Swedish and Scandinavian recipes also commonly call for this zesty spice.
You can easily find green cardamom pods, seeds, or powder in the spice aisle of your local grocery store. If it is not there, you can try your luck looking for this spice in the international aisle.
Also called true cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum grows mostly in Costa Rica and India. As the name implies, green cardamom has a distinct green pod. This pod has lines along the fruit, creating a textured but uniform pattern.
Green cardamom is the most common kind of cardamom.
If your recipe calls for just cardamom without any specification regarding the color, it almost always calls for green cardamom.
People dry green cardamom using different methods, one of which is sun-drying. But direct sunlight bleaches the pods. Because of this, they’re dried under a shade to protect their green pigment.
Amomum subulatum, or black cardamom, has bigger and darker pods than green cardamom.
You’ll easily identify it from green cardamom because it has a wrinkled outer covering.
To dry black cardamom, people expose them to open fire, resulting in an even darker hue.
Black cardamom is tougher than green cardamom, so you may find it harder to grind.
White cardamom is the bleached version of the green variety. The bleached appearance is usually achieved through direct sun-drying.
There are two reasons for making white cardamom. The first is for you to be able to add it to light-colored recipes without ruining the dish’s appearance. The second reason for bleaching cardamom is to mellow its flavor.
White cardamom tastes like green cardamom, only milder and more subtle.
Retailers often pack whole cardamom pods by weight.
Getting the entire pod means breaking them apart and grinding the seeds yourself. These steps add considerable prep time to your recipe but give you the most flavor.
Note that you do not always have to use the seeds alone in recipes.
You can opt to add whole seed pods directly to your dish. This way, you can remove it with ease once you’ve achieved your preferred flavor intensity.
You can buy shelled cardamom seeds too.
Having cardamom in this form saves you some prep time because you don’t have to do the shelling yourself.
The trade-off, of course, is that the seeds have already lost some flavor and aroma.
Ground cardamom or powdered cardamom is the most convenient to use. After all, the heavy work is already done – you can add it to your recipes as-is.
You have to remember, though, that cardamom loses flavor quickly in this form. For this reason, avoiding using the powdered form is best if you want a full-bodied cardamom taste.
In contrast, if you want to avoid cardamom from overpowering your dish, you are better off with the powder.
So, what does it taste like? Well, that depends on the variety. Green and black cardamoms have very different flavor profiles.
That said, they are not like other spices, which you can use as substitutes. Using one instead of the other will change your dish’s flavor, which is not always a good thing. Also, because of this, a recipe will either list green or black cardamom, but not both.
In general, cardamom has an intense aroma and flavor. Some even people describe it as pungent, and they’re not wrong about that.
This spice does not take a back seat, so you should use it sparingly. Using too much cardamom can ruin your dish and make it taste too astringent.
A little goes a long way! Plus, as this spice comes with a high price tag, you might want to stretch it as much as possible.
Green cardamom has a slightly sweet flavor comparable to cinnamon. Plus, it has elements that taste like a combination of mint, eucalyptus, lemon, and nutmeg.
It is herbal, warm, and spicy. Cardamom can also remind you of allspice, black peppers, and cloves.
Green cardamom boasts a rich aroma and taste. It goes well with other warm spices like star anise and garlic.
That said, green cardamom is flexible – you can use it in sweet and savory dishes.
Due to the unique drying method used in black cardamom, it develops a smoky element.
This flavor makes the black variety of cardamom more suitable for savory dishes. In India, though, people add it to sweet dishes for a depth of flavor as well.
Aside from the smoky taste, black cardamom also has a cooling effect, like menthol.
In short, black cardamom tastes like mentholated, smoky, and muted green cardamom.
Ground cardamom seeds make great additions to dry rubs for meat. Just the same, it can enhance burger patties and meat loaves.
This spice can also transform and add a depth of flavor to your soup recipes.
Cardamom is a key ingredient in chai, the classic Indian tea made with herbs and spices as well.
Putting a dash of cardamom into your morning cup of coffee elevates its taste, too.
Cardamom is also a component in the spice blend garam masala, a common ingredient in Indian curry.
In Scandinavian cuisine, cardamom is present in baked goods such as pies and cookies.
Aside from elevating your dishes, cardamom also comes with several health benefits. For starters, this spice has vitamins A, B, and C.
It also boasts niacin, calcium, and magnesium content.
Cardamom contains potassium and some essential electrolytes as well. On top of that, it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Cardamom has both sweet and spicy notes. Because of this, it is a versatile spice that can blend well with many other flavors. That said, you can use cardamom not only in savory recipes but also in sweet dishes.
Both cinnamon and cardamom are great spices that can elevate your culinary experience. They pair well with other herbs and spices, so there should not be a battle between them. In fact, they share some similar flavor notes, so they can be a substitute for each other in most recipes.
Cardamom’s flavor is like cinnamon in some ways. There are also some similarities with lemon, mint, eucalyptus, and nutmeg. Cloves, allspice, and black pepper are comparable to cardamom. No single ingredient can replace cardamom’s complex taste, though.
Cardamom is the “Queen of Spices,” not only because of its unique flavor but also its health benefits. Aside from that, it is one of the few spices you can use to flavor red meat and desserts.
So, what does cardamom taste like? It has an intense flavor reminiscent of ground cinnamon and mint. Nuances of the black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and eucalyptus flavors are also there. Because of its unique taste, you should have cardamom on your spice rack.