Green cardamom isn’t used in Chinese cooking as much as black cardamom, but India’s “Queen of Spices” still has its place in our pantry.
The third most expensive spice in the world (only after vanilla and saffron), green cardamom has been valued for centuries. It has applications in Ayurvedic medicine, use as a breath freshener, and the ability to transform the flavor of something as basic as rice.
What Is Green Cardamom?
The most widely cultivated type of cardamom, green or “true” cardamom is a spice made by drying the fruit of the herb Eletteria cardamomum, a member of the same plant family as ginger.
Although it is native to the Indian subcontinent and is largely cultivated in southern India, much of the world’s supply is now grown in Guatemala, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
Green cardamom is harvested and dried before the fruit reaches full maturity. Each of the small pale green pods holds 15 to 20 dark brown seeds. They are the source of green cardamom’s intense aroma and flavor. It is at once eucalyptus-like and citrus-y with notes of sweetness and pine.
How To Use Green Cardamom
Green cardamom is a staple in Middle Eastern and Indian kitchens. Unlike black cardamom, green cardamom works as well in sweets as it does in savory dishes. You can use it in everything from sweet breads and cakes to curries.
If a recipe simply calls for “ground cardamom,” it’s generally referring to green cardamom.
The whole pods may be used, but it’s also common to remove the seeds from the husk and grind them. Because it’s fairly pungent, a little goes a long way.
When used sparingly, its flavor typically pairs well with other spices and aromatics like cinnamon, coriander, and turmeric. As such, ground cardamom is often used in spice blends like garam masala and even some Chinese five spice powder mixes.
Popular Indian dishes like chicken biryani and basmati rice are often flavored with cardamom. It works with chili powder, cumin, and ginger in Kaitlin’s recipe for spicy and fragrant Cashew Chickpea Curry, which satisfies some of our cravings for Indian food (and is 100% vegan!)
Buying & Storing
You can find pre-ground cardamom in the spice section of most supermarkets. Ethnic grocery stores, especially those specializing in Indian and Middle Eastern goods, are more likely to carry the whole seed pods. They’re typically sold in plastic packages that may be labeled “Elaichi,” the Hindi word for cardamom.
If you don’t have access to an international grocery, whole green cardamom is also available for purchase online.
Though whole pods can be more challenging to find, we assure you it’s worth the trouble. Grinding the seeds releases the fragrant oils within, causing the flavor and aroma to fade more quickly. As a result, ground cardamom only has a shelf life of about one year.
Whole cardamom pods, on the other hand, will stay fresh for approximately three years as long as you store them in an airtight container away from heat and light.
Substitutions for Green Cardamom
White cardamom has a floral, almost minty taste and aroma similar to that of green cardamom. It is not as intense, however. You’ll have to use a bit more than the recipe calls for to achieve the intended effect.
If a recipe calls for whole green cardamom, but you only have the ground stuff on hand, keep in mind that 1½ teaspoons of ground cardamom is roughly equivalent to 10 whole pods.
We’re always looking to expand our palates and find new ways to use our favorite ingredients! Do you have a cherished recipe or a preferred way of using this spice? Let us know in the comments!