Top 11 Cardamom Substitutes In Baking

Mary and Brenda Maher

By Brenda & Mary

Last updated:

While cardamom boasts a bright, floral fragrance that’s tough to replicate, you don’t have to ditch that recipe just because you’re fresh out. You can capture similar flavors and aromas with a few clever swaps to satisfy your cravings.

cardamom in a bowl

Discover pantry-friendly spice substitutes for cardamom that’ll let you bake without a hitch!

What is Cardamom?

It’s a spice that comes from the seeds of several plants in the ginger family. Yes, it’s related to that zesty ginger root you might have lying around.

Cardamom can be found in two main types: green and black. The green variety is what you’ll most commonly see at stores and is prized for its sweet, eucalyptus-like flavor.

When you go spice shopping, you might notice cardamom sold in two forms: whole pods or ground into a powder.

The whole pods are great for infusing flavors into dishes, including brewing them with coffee or tea. You just toss them in during cooking and remove them before serving. The powdered form, on the other hand, is what you’d mix directly into your doughs or batters for a more immediate burst of flavor.

These expensive spices are a secret weapon in baking cookies, pastries, and bread. Whether it’s a Scandinavian cardamom bun or a spicy Indian biscuit, a dash of cardamom can transport your treats from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

What Does Cardamom Taste Like?

Describing the taste of cardamom isn’t a walk in the park. It’s quite the unique character in the spice world.

First off, let’s talk about green cardamom. It is the kind you’re most likely to encounter in your sweet recipes in baking.

It’s a delicious spice that hits you with a cozy warmth, much like cinnamon, but then surprises you with a complex bouquet of flavors. It’s floral and citrusy at times, and if you pay close attention, there’s a hint of something almost medicinal, but not in an off-putting way. It’s this intriguing mixture that makes it so beloved in both drinks and desserts.

And then there’s its lesser-known cousin, black cardamom. While it shares some traits, it’s smokier with a peppery vibe and earthy flavor. It’s a favorite for more savory dishes, especially in Indian cuisine. However, the intense flavor is not my go-to for a batch of cookies or cake.

Being part of the ginger family, all types of cardamom share some similar flavors. When used sparingly, it has a gentle spiciness, but be careful not to go overboard. Too much can steer your dish into overly tangy and spicy territory.

How I Use Cardamom

From my kitchen experiments, I learned that ground cardamom can lose its flavor quickly. To get the best bang for your buck and the freshest flavor, opt for the pods of whole seeds. Plus, they’re usually cheaper—a win-win in my book.

Grinding cardamom is no rocket science. Simply crack open the pods, scoop out the seeds, and give them a whirl in a coffee or spice grinder.

When you start baking with cardamom, a little goes a long way. This spice packs a punch, so if you’re unsure how strong you want the flavor, start with less. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out once it’s in there.

My go-to move is to begin with about half the suggested amount. If the taste seems too mild after baking, no sweat. You can jazz things up with a cardamom-spiked glaze, frosting, or spiced syrup brushed over your finished goods.

The best part is that this approach isn’t just for cardamom. As I’ll show below, it’s also a solid strategy for its substitutes.

11 Cardamom Substitutes In Baking

1. Cinnamon


If you’re in a pinch and can’t find cardamom, cinnamon is a fantastic stand-in. It’s got a sweet yet spicy flavor profile that mirrors the warmth of cardamom, albeit with its own unique twist.

But here’s the catch. This cardamom alternative packs a stronger punch, so you’ll want to dial it back a bit. I typically use about half the amount. For instance, if your recipe calls for one teaspoon of cardamom, go with half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Cinnamon shines in dishes where you’d normally use a spice blend, like in apple pies or spiced cakes. It pairs beautifully with other cozy spices, such as ginger and nutmeg.

2. Cloves

ground cloves

Ground cloves are another robust substitute for cardamom. These small but mighty buds offer a potent aroma and a pungent, sweet flavor that adds depth to your baking goods. Cloves are much more intense than cardamom, so also start with just half the amount of cloves when replacing cardamom.

Cloves are particularly good in recipes that call for a pronounced spice flavor, such as in spice cakes or gingerbread. Their powerful flavor can provide the warmth and complexity that cardamom typically offers. Be careful not to go overboard, as too much of it can become overwhelming.

3. Nutmeg


It’s got this gentle warmth with sweet whispers that make it a delightful addition to cakes, cookies, and even cream-based concoctions. While nutmeg is milder and doesn’t quite pack the punch cardamom does, it’s a brilliant replacement.

So, how do you use it? Simply swap in nutmeg for cardamom in a one-to-one ratio. If you’re a bit cautious about the swap, feel free to use about three-quarters of what your recipe calls for in cardamom. This way, you won’t risk overpowering your delightful bake.

I recommend giving this a go in things like spice cakes or even your morning batch of cinnamon rolls.

4. Allspice

Ever found yourself squinting at a jar of allspice and wondering if it’s the cardamom you were looking for? You’re not alone!

Allspice is often mistaken for other spices due to its complex flavor profile that hints at cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves—all rolled into one. While it lacks the floral top notes that cardamom brings, allspice can add a rich depth to your bakes that’s hard to beat.

When substituting, remember that this ground cardamom substitute is a bit stronger. I suggest using half the amount of allspice to the cardamom your recipe requires to keep things balanced.

This versatile spice shines bright in recipes where a strong spice presence is welcome, like in traditional apple pies or spice-heavy muffins.

5. Apple Pie Spice

This is a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. When you think about it, this combo creates that classic sweet and spicy vibe you often get from cardamom. So, if you’re out of cardamom and you’re whipping up something that calls for its sweet, floral notes, this complex spice can be your pinch hitter.

Now, how do you use it? Ease into it with a 1:2 ratio compared to cardamom. Why less? Well, although delightful, apple pie spice packs a punch, and the stronger flavor can easily overpower your dish if you’re not careful.

This substitute is a star in desserts. Whether it’s pies, cakes, or cookies, apple pie spice always brings warmth and depth.

6. Pumpkin Spice

This blend is a powerhouse of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Each of these brings warmth and a kick, which makes pumpkin spice a decent stand-in for cardamom in a tight spot.

This spice substitute doesn’t perfectly mimic cardamon. It’s good but different. Still, it can save the day when you’re in a bind. Use it in ratios similar to apple pie spice. If possible, start with a bit less and then tweak to taste.

7. Aniseed

Much like cardamom, this replacement for cardamom dances on your palate with a licorice-like flair, but it leans toward a sweeter melody. It’s this unique twist that can bring a fresh dimension to your baked goods.

When swapping in aniseed for cardamom, restraint is key. Start with half the amount you would normally use for cardamom. This helps avoid overpowering your treats with sweetness.

Aniseed goes well with many cakes, cookies, and breads, where its mild but distinct flavor can blend seamlessly without stealing the show.

8. Ginger

Ground ginger

This is one of those ingredients that can surprise you. Not a direct match to cardamom, but they share a similar spice lineage that makes ginger a worthy substitute. It brings a warm, spicy kick, but with a zingy, almost floral twist that can perk up any recipe.

With ground ginger, I always stick to a 1:1 ratio as a starting point when replacing ground cardamom. For fresh ginger, which packs more of a punch, use about half the amount compared to what your recipe calls for cardamom. This approach helps you harness ginger’s vibrant essence without overwhelming your baked goodies.

The citrusy flavor of ginger really comes into its own in recipes like gingerbread or spiced cakes. They’re where we need some peppery heat to complement the sweetness.

If you’re using fresh ginger, remember to cook it slightly first. This way, you can mellow the intensity of its distinctive flavor and make it more akin to cardamom.

9. Mace Blades

Mace is actually the outer shell of the nutmeg seed. It introduces a similar warm, spicy touch to your dishes. This option works wonders in cakes and some cookie recipes, giving them a subtly complex flavor that’s sure to tickle those taste buds.

It’s a tad more bitter than sweet, which is something to keep in mind. Go for half the amount you would typically use for cardamom. This helps to avoid overpowering your bake with bitterness.

10. Coriander Seeds

These little seeds ignite a citrusy, nutty, and slightly spicy explosion in your mouth. Here’s my secret sauce: I give them a quick toast to enhance their aroma and flavor before using them as a substitute. For grinding, use a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle to turn the toasted seeds into a fine powder.

Generally, you can use a one-to-one ratio when substituting coriander for cardamom, but feel free to adjust based on your taste. Coriander’s mild spice and citrus notes are especially good in fruit-based pastries and sweet breads.

11. Star Anise

The star anise is a bit of a bold character with its strong licorice flavor and peppery kick. It’s more potent than cardamom, so you’ll want to use it sparingly. A good rule of thumb is to use about a third of the amount of cardamom called for in your recipe.

Grind the star anise into a fine powder before adding it to your mixture. This spice particularly shines in recipes that can handle its robust profile, like chocolate cakes or spiced doughs. A pinch can elevate the complexity of flavors, making your baked goods stand out.

However, its strong flavor might not suit all recipes, especially those with delicate flavors that can be easily overshadowed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Cinnamon and Nutmeg Stack Up Against Cardamom as Substitutes?

They won’t exactly mimic cardamom’s unique flavor. Cinnamon brings a warm, almost toasty vibe, while nutmeg is sweeter and spicier. Still, they can beautifully complement your baked goods like cardamom to some extent. Just keep in mind that the flavor profile might shift a bit.

Is It Okay to Just Skip Cardamom in Recipes Instead?

It depends. In some savory recipes, you might be okay leaving it out, especially if there are other strong flavors. But in sweet dishes, cardamom often plays a supporting role, adding a subtle depth. Skipping it might leave your dish feeling a bit flat.

Are There Any Health Considerations When Swapping Out Cardamom?

As long as you’re using common spices, health-wise, you’re good to go. Just double-check if you have allergies or dietary restrictions.

Can A Mix of Spices Fill in Cardamom’s Shoes?

Absolutely. A blend of spices can often come close to cardamom’s complex flavor. Try equal parts cinnamon and ginger for a warming kick, for example. Try cinnamon and cloves spice mixes if you want a deeper, richer flavor.

Does It Matter Whether I Use Ground or Whole Spice Substitutes?

It sure does. Ground spices distribute flavors better throughout your dish, which is great for achieving a consistent taste in cakes and cookies. Whole spices, like cardamom pod substitutes, are more for infusing flavors into liquids.
With a little ingenuity, you can upskill your baking game and whip up something delicious with the cardamom substitutes above. Good luck!

Share on:
Mary and Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher, are the founders of Cake Girls, a Chicago-based online baking shop specializing in cake supplies, party decor, and DIY cake tutorials. They are known for their elaborate and artistic cake creations, which have been featured on the Food Network Challenge and in a reality show, Amazing Wedding Cakes.

Leave a Comment