Cardamom is one of those spices that can span both sweet and savory dishes with grace. It is often used in Indian cooking as well as Middle Eastern, Arabic, and Swedish cultures.
I know you are thinking to yourself, “That’s all well and good, but what is it exactly?” Many of us have perused the spice aisle and seen cardamom in its various forms: small, hard pods, seeds, and the ground variety.
What you put in your shopping cart will vary based on the recipe you are using. Whole pods are great for flavoring rice and braises. The seeds are wonderful for curries and soups. The ground version is great for everything from Chai tea to garam masala blends to baked goods and spice rubs for meats. It is truly a versatile ingredient.
You may have also noticed that there are two kinds of cardamom to purchase: green or black. These have different flavor profiles making them better suited for different cuisines whether the dish be sweet or savory.
Green cardamom is made from the seeds of several plants native to the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia and it goes without saying that those cuisines tend to use this variety as a result.
The pods themselves are green or yellowish, hard and a little wrinkly while the seeds inside are black. The flavor of green cardamom is described as citrusy while being sweet and spicy. It is great for both sweet and savory dishes.
Black cardamom is native to the eastern Himalayas but cultivated in many places. The pods are brownish/black and are a bit larger than their green cousin. Their flavor is a little smoky from the way they are dried and has hints of resin and camphor. It is rarely used in sweets as a result.
Pro tip: If you can’t find the specific cardamom you are looking for, the Internet is a great resource. Hop online and have it sent straight to your house!
Here are some fantastic recipes using cardamom:
- Pickling Spice (How to Make Your Own Pickling Spice Mix)
- Orange Cardamom Cookies
- Cardamom Lemon Cake
What are the health benefits of cardamom?
Using cardamom in your cooking regular is thought to potentially lower blood pressure. It may contain cancer-fighting compounds and possibly protect from chronic diseases.
Why is cardamom so expensive?
The downside to this ingredient is the cost. It sits behind vanilla bean and saffron in terms of the amount of money you have to shell out for it. The reason for this is that there is no way to cultivate other than by handpicking it. It is an arduous and intensive process.
Is cardamom a strong spice?
Yep! Add it to the cinnamon and nutmeg category. A little will go a long way.
Can cardamom pods go bad?
Yes and no. If properly stored (etc. cool and dry place,) it can last for 3-4 years. Technically, it will never go “bad,” but like so many other spices it will lose its potency. If you aren’t using it all that often, I would buy it in small amounts and repurchase as needed.