Last updated: August 7, 2021

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Looking for new taste experiences? Add some variety to your spice cabinet with cardamom. The spice, which originates from Asia, rounds off many dishes. But what is cardamom suitable for and which varieties can be distinguished?

In our cardamom test 2021 we show you the best cardamom products from each category. We also give you important tips and tricks on how to use cardamom. Whether ground cardamom or cardamom capsules, you will find the best cardamom products on the market.




Summary

  • The use of cardamom in the kitchen is very diverse. It has been used for centuries in many cultural circles to flavour food and drinks.
  • Cardamom contains health-promoting active ingredients such as cineole and borneol and helps to relieve symptoms such as colds. It is particularly good for use with stomach complaints.
  • The spice is hidden in many dishes such as curry, winter pastries such as speculoos and gingerbread or oriental teas. Its intense aroma rounds off many dishes in a particularly tasty way.

The Best Cardamom: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying cardamom

What is cardamom?

Cardamom is a spice plant and belongs to the ginger family. Along with vanilla and saffron, it is one of the most valuable and therefore most expensive spices in the world.

The plant originated in East Asia, where it is particularly widespread in India, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices in the world, but nevertheless enjoys great popularity due to its taste. (Image source: unsplash / Jason Leung)

In East Asia, cardamom has been used for cooking and baking for many thousands of years, whereas here in Europe it has only been used for a little more than 1,000 years. In addition to its exquisite taste, cardamom is also known for its stomach-calming effect.

The plant cardamom comes in different botanical genera - mainly green and black cardamom.

What is cardamom suitable for?

Cardamom is suitable for refining all kinds of dishes and meals. The taste can be described as spicy-sweet with a slight, eucalyptus-like pungency.

In the Orient, the spice is used to give rice dishes and curries a very special touch. In Europe, the sweet-lovely aroma is mainly used to round off baked goods, for example gingerbread, speculoos biscuits or cinnamon buns.

Cardamom can not only add that certain something to food. In Arabic and Turkish regions, it is particularly popular with coffee. Together with milk, you can easily create an excellent cardamom latte.

It is also indispensable in spiced teas such as chai. Speaking of spices: In spice mixtures with cinnamon, cloves, chilli, aniseed or fennel, this East Asian colleague also looks very good.

What are the differences between the cardamom varieties?

Botanically, there are two different groups of cardamom: the green and the black cardamom plant.

By cardamom, we usually mean the green cardamom. The flavour is spicy to sweet with a eucalyptus-like aroma. It is excellent for sweet dishes or for exotic foods and warm drinks such as tea or mulled wine.

getrocknete Kardamomsamen in Schüsselchen

You can buy cardamom either ground or as dried seeds (Image source: pixabay / ludmila_ph).

Black cardamom is the name for a cardamom-related plant from central Africa to northern Vietnam and differs significantly in taste and use.

Black cardamom has a tart, earthy aroma and is slightly smoky. It is often found in Indian dishes such as curry or meat dishes.

In ancient times, it was mainly men who used black cardamom as a hair oil.

There are also other variants such as white cardamom, a bleached variant of green cardamom. This is rather rarely available in the trade.

For a precise, clear explanation, a table is excellent.

Variety Flavour Use
Green cardamom Due to its sweet and pungent aroma, this variety is described as fine yet spicy It is excellent for hot drinks such as chai or Arabic coffee. It is also often added to sweet baked goods. All gourmets who like to try exotic things would also enjoy cardamom ice cream or liqueurs.
Black cardamom The flavours are clearly more tart and intense, almost smoky and earthy. This is due to the fact that this variety is at home in the Himalayas, where the capsules are often smoked in front of an open fire Due to the aromatic intensity, hearty dishes, for example roast lamb, can be spiced particularly well with this cardamom. Since the longer the dish sits, the stronger the flavour develops, the main dishes are prepared the day before.

How do I dose cardamom?

In general, you should use cardamom in discreet amounts. The spice is commercially available as a whole capsule, seeds or ground. Always add cardamom together with all other ingredients in the cooking process. This is the best way for the aroma to develop in the dish.

Freshly ground cardamom capsules including seeds have a particularly intense aroma and are therefore added to the dish in small quantities. It is recommended to sort out the tasteless pods when using home-ground cardamom.

Ready-ground cardamom is suitable for the quick preparation and refinement of dishes.

The use of whole cardamom pods is ideal for soups, sauces and stews. They are usually sorted out after the dish is finished. The pure taste of a cooked cardamom pod in the dish has a bitter-intense flavour.

In general, using two to four cardamom capsules or 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom per preparation of a dish for about two to four people is the best dosage.

How does cardamom taste and smell?

The pure pleasure of cardamom describes itself in slightly pungent, aromatic and slightly bitter notes. The taste is similar to peppermint and menthol. The smell is reminiscent of a cold ointment with eucalyptus due to the essential oils.

What other spices can I combine cardamom well with?

There is a wide range of spices that you can combine very well with cardamom.

The best-known blend with cardamom is called Garam Masala and is a traditional Indian spice blend of ground cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cumin, turmeric, ginger and paprika.

But cardamom is also part of the spice mix in Indian dishes like curries and Indian stews, usually together with paprika, chilli, ginger, saffron and pepper. There are a lot of good and tasty recipes with cardamomum. Rice is ideal as a side dish.

You can pour boiling water over cardamom pods together with ginger, cloves, cinnamon and fennel and let the mixture steep for four to seven minutes. This is a quick way to make a delicious chai tea.

Winter pastries such as speculoos contain green cardamom and cinnamon. Cardamom is also combined with aniseed, cloves, vanilla and cloves in the preparation of mulled wine. In general, it can be used well as a winter spice in pastries and drinks.

In Asian cuisine, especially in Tom Kha soups, green cardamom is included and is a fixed ingredient in the list of ingredients along with garlic, coriander, ginger, lemongrass and chilli.

Application suitable spices Recipes
Tea Cinnamon, clove, fennel Chai tea
Desserts Vanilla, fenugreek, aniseed, star anise etc. Gingerbread, speculoos
Indian cuisine Paprika, turmeric, pepper, ginger Curries, saffron
Asian cuisine Ginger, kaffir, bay leaves etc. Tom Kha soups

Which spice can I use as a substitute for cardamom?

The flavour of cardamom adds a special touch to dishes. If you don't have cardamom at the moment, there are alternatives.

The intense tart flavour of clove mixed with the sweet smell of cinnamon is one option. This mixture is perfect for meat or fish dishes.

Another variation would be the use of ginger with its tart citrus-like flavour together with the sweetness of cinnamon. This variant finds its application in winter pastries or also in soups and sauces.

In the table you will find a short and simple explanation of which alternative spices you can use instead of cardamom.

1 tsp cardamom replaced by ideal for dishes like
50 % clove and 50 % cinnamon meat and fish
50 % cinnamon and 50 % nutmeg rice, meat and stews
50 % ginger and 50 % cinnamon best alternative to cardamom
50 % allspice spicier in taste than cardamom

What are the effects and side effects of cardamom?

The exotic spice is not only used in cooking, but also has health-promoting effects. It is used in Ayurvedic, Western and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Green cardamom is associated with the warm elements.

  • Due to its components such as borneol and cineol, cardamom is expectorant and antibacterial.
  • The essential oil in cardamom stimulates the flow of saliva and at the same time promotes the formation of gastric and bile juices. The result is better and faster digestion of hearty food.
  • Cardamom seeds chewed after a meal freshen the breath and stimulate digestion.
  • Cardamom oil in the form of a massage oil mixture promotes blood circulation and metabolic function of the muscles and has a pain-relieving effect due to its antispasmodic property.
  • In 2009, the "Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biopyhsics" published a study on the blood pressure-lowering effect of cardamom. Taking three grams of cardamom daily helps against high blood pressure.

Basically, cardamom is not harmful. The more cardamom is used, the more intense the aroma unfolds.

However, it should be noted that some people who consume higher amounts of cardamom cannot tolerate the ingredients and may react with symptoms. For example, pregnant women and people with gallstones are affected.

High doses of cardamom can trigger gallstone colic. Therefore, affected people with gallstone complaints should consume very little cardamom.

People with high blood pressure should also consume cardamom in small doses. The spice stimulates the cardiovascular system.

Pregnant women should not consume large amounts of cardamom, as it contains camphor components and these promote the onset of labour.

Advantages
  • Due to its components such as borneol and cineol, it is expectorant and antibacterial
  • Cardamom generally promotes digestion by stimulating the gastric juices
  • Chewing cardamom seeds relieves bad breath.
Disadvantages
  • Pregnant women should avoid eating cardamom, as its active ingredient, camphor, promotes early labour
  • Those with gallstones should avoid foods with cardamom, as it can trigger severe colic
  • The spice cardamom stimulates the heart and circulation and should be eaten in small doses by people with high blood pressure.

What do I use cardamom oil for?

There are many uses for cardamom oil. Its effect is relaxing, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and is suitable as a preventive for colds or respiratory infections.

Small amounts of cardamom oil in addition to the massage oil are suitable for complaints in the stomach area of various kinds such as flatulence, digestion or stomach cramps. The mixing ratio of ten drops of cardamom essential oil and 50 ml of neutral massage oil is best suited for the application.

Chai Tee mit Gewürzen

Cardamom tastes especially good in sweet dishes and drinks at Christmas time. (Image source: 123rtf/50914924)

In naturopathy, cardamom is also used as a fragrance oil. It is effective against stress and is said to stimulate the production of happiness hormones.

Does taking cardamom accelerate fat burning?

The topic of weight loss and dieting deals with many methods to accelerate fat burning. However, there is no scientific evidence to support a higher fat burning rate by taking cardamom.

Does cardamom help my digestion?

Yes, especially due to the components borneol and cineol, it has an antispasmodic effect in the stomach. Also, cardamom essential oil promotes salivation and gastric and bile juice secretion, which makes food easier to digest.

The simplest way to aid digestion is to chew cardamom seeds.

What does cardamom cost?

As already mentioned, cardamom is extremely precious. Nevertheless, some cardamom products are available for one or two euros.

The price depends on the production and the quality of the cardamom. So it is quite possible to discover such cheap cardamom in the supermarket.

If the loss of flavour and quality due to mass production is worth the low price, you should buy it here. All others who really want to enjoy the spice to the fullest are advised to buy a higher-quality version. On average, the price is between 2 and 25 euros.

Did you know how long cardamom can be kept?

Capsules will stay fresh for over a year, provided they are stored in an airtight container. The ground variety should be consumed as soon as possible. Otherwise, the valuable essential oils would soon lose their effect.

Decision: What types of cardamom are there and which is the right one for you?

Different products are produced depending on the preparation. The two best-known ones are presented in more detail below:

  • Cardamom ground
  • Cardamom capsules

What distinguishes ground cardamom and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

The ground version is basically a very fine spice powder. It is classically obtained by grinding the capsule-like cardamom fruits.

Since the spice develops its aroma best when heated, cardamom should be added to the dish as early as possible. Chai tea or Arabic coffee is often refined with a little green cardamom.

Did you know that cardamom has healing powers according to Ayurvedic teachings?

On the one hand, this magic spice is said to help clarity of mind, and on the other hand, it ensures healthy digestion. To achieve this, one chews cardamom capsules, as this allows essential oils to unfold and flow into body and mind. Bonus: Chewing cardamom gives us fresh breath

Spice connoisseurs know that the spice powder can also be easily made at home using a simple grinder. To achieve the best possible aroma, it is essential that the fruits are neatly peeled.

If this is too much work for you, you can use the already ground version. It is important to use an airtight, well-sealed container to preserve the aroma.

Advantages
  • easy to dose
  • dissolves excellently in liquids, therefore suitable for tea, coffee or even ointments
Disadvantages
  • less intense flavour
  • essential oils are lost

What are the advantages and disadvantages of cardamom capsules?

The seed capsules are harvested directly from the ginger-like plant and sold. Further processing steps between harvest and sale are not necessary. For this reason, the cardamom capsule retains its pure freshness and intensity.

However, cardamom is mostly available in the ground version, which makes it a little trickier to get cardamom capsules.

Nevertheless, the little extra effort is worth the reward, because the small seed capsules have a lot going for them besides their great aroma: the essential oils they contain have an expectorant effect, are antibacterial and help with digestive complaints and/or stomach problems.

All this works best if the capsules are opened just before consumption and the seeds are crushed with a mortar (or other kitchen utensil).

In some Indian dishes, the capsules are even cooked whole. The earlier they are added to the dish, the longer and better the flavour can develop.

Advantages
  • provide essential oils
  • expectorant and antibacterial
Disadvantages
  • difficult to get
  • effort to use

In Arab countries, cardamom is known as a mood enhancer. It is also said to have an aphrodisiac effect.

Cardamom is also available as seeds and oil. Cardamom seeds develop their aroma best if you roast them in a pan without fat for a few seconds on medium heat shortly before use. You can then grind them yourself in a mortar or add them directly to the dish, depending on the recipe.

Cardamom oil is used in natural medicine. The essential oil is often added in small quantities to massage oil in order to relieve stomach complaints with massages.

Cardamom ground Cardamom whole Cardamom seeds Cardamom oil
For seasoning vegetable pans Make your own spice mix Ideal for liqueurs for pickling Add a few drops to massage oil and massage in the stomach area
As an ingredient in winter cake batter As a whole in tea spice mix and pour over boiling water As a topping for winter pastries (e.g. Swedish cinnamon). E.g. Swedish cinnamon rolls As aromatherapy for fragrance lamps

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate cardamom products

In the following, we will show you which criteria you can use to compare and evaluate cardamom products. This will make it easier for you to get an overview and decide on a suitable spice.

In summary, these are the following criteria:

  • Quality
  • Shelf life
  • Price

In the following, you can read about the respective criteria and find out why it makes sense for you to buy cardamom based on the criteria or not.

Quality

You can recognise high quality by the grass-green colour of the cardamom capsules. The seeds inside are properly matured when they are dark grey to dark black in colour.

After grinding cardamom with a mortar, it is recommended to sort out the tasteless pods. To preserve the freshness of cardamom, always buy small quantities.

Shelf life

Because the spice loses its aroma quickly, it is advisable to always buy fresh and frequently small quantities. Otherwise, the aroma may fade or the essential oils may lose their strength. Storage is best in a sealed container in a dark place.

Price

Cardamom or is considered the third most expensive spice. The larger and greener the cardamom pods are, the more expensive the spice can be sold.

Before buying cardamom, you should know what you want to use the spice for in order to buy the perfect amount in the right form.

Facts worth knowing about cardamom

What does cardamom, cardamomum or cardamomi actually mean and how is it spelled correctly?

The name cardamom (κάρδαμο) comes from the Greek word for heart and stomach, which at the same time points to its effect. Its botanical name is Elettaria Cardamomum. The various spellings overlap with translations from the Latin, English and German spellings.

The word is rarely used in common parlance and does not always find its correct spelling in every text. According to the Duden, the correct German spelling allows for two variants: Cardamom and Kardamon.

How does cardamom grow and what does the plant look like?

Cardamom is a perennial plant of the ginger family that grows up to four metres tall. Its fruits smell spicy-sweet and slightly like eucalyptus. Cardamom is harvested between October and December.

The subtropical growing areas are often in Tanzania, Madagascar or Guatemala, the largest exporting country. The fruits of the plant and at the same time the spice cardamom are one to two centimetres long and have three-fold capsules with four to eight seeds in each compartment.

What are the ingredients of cardamom?

The main components of cardamom are cineole with a share of 20 to 40 percent and terpinyl acetate with a share of 30 to 35 percent.

Other ingredients are borneol, camphor, limonene, linalool, linalyl acetate and sabinene as well as fatty oil with one to four percent, starch with 20 to 40 percent, sugar with five percent, proteins with ten percent as well as an unidentified yellow dye and plenty of manganese and iron.

Why do people in Arab countries use cardamom in coffee?

The taste of coffee is popular with many, but not everyone can tolerate it because it contains a lot of acid and the stomach can be sensitive to it.

Cardamom has a soothing effect on the stomach and is therefore added to the coffee powder and infused to neutralise the acidity.

This makes the coffee more digestible. The combination of coffee and cardamom is also said to have a healing effect on headaches.

How do I grind cardamom correctly?

Grinding cardamom (and other spices) is less complicated than you might think. There are several ways:

  • Mortar
  • Coffee grinder
  • Spice-pepper mill
  • Rolling pin/pasta wood

Depending on which kitchen utensil you use to grind, the coarseness or fineness of your end product will also vary.

Two tips that make the process easier: thorough peeling and brief roasting before grinding ensure a finer result.

How else can I use cardamom?

Most people instinctively associate spices with refining food. Yet it is astonishing how wide-ranging their field of application actually is.

It is already clear from the text that cardamom in particular can have a positive effect on digestion. In the case of flatulence, indigestion, bloating, nausea and mild cramps in the gastrointestinal tract, the healing effect of cardamom is even medically recognised.

This can be attributed to the following: Cardamom is said to stimulate salivary glands, stomach and gall bladder to produce more secretion. The increased amount of secretion ensures a more active digestion.

The most effective herbal tea is one that contains not only cardamom but also fennel and caraway. Alternatively, you can take about two grams of a tincture containing cardamom daily. This amount corresponds to the ideal dose for a normal-weight adult person.

According to folk medicine, the healing spectrum of the cardamom plant extends even further. It is said to alleviate diarrhoea or nausea in pregnant women.

Furthermore, the all-round spice ensures fresh breath. This can be useful not only for bad breath in general - cardamom is said to be so strong that it can cover up a huge smell of alcohol. Incidentally, the spice supposedly not only helps against alcohol odour, but also against a hangover.

Ayurvedic medicine holds cardamom seeds in particularly high regard. Due to their cooling effect on the human body, they are used as a home remedy to reduce fever.

Some other areas and problems for which cardamom can provide relief:

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Shivering/cold feeling
  • Asthma
  • Cough

A link between cardamom consumption and weight loss has not yet been established.

Image source: 123rtf/51066780

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