Cardamom powder is a versatile spice that can be used to add flavor to both sweet and savory dishes. Derived from green cardamom pods, the ground powder has an intensely aromatic, sweet and slightly spicy flavor.
Cardamom originates from India and Guatemala, and has been used in cooking for centuries. It plays a starring role in dishes from India, the Middle East, North Africa and Scandinavia. The spice also features prominently in spice blends like garam masala and baharat.
Using Cardamom Powder in Savory Cooking
Cardamom is commonly used to add warmth and spice to curries, stews, soups and marinades for meat and vegetables. Its sweet, peppery and menthol notes pair well with ingredients like chili peppers, cumin, cinnamon and cloves.
Some classic savory dishes that are flavored with cardamom powder include:
- Curries: Try adding a teaspoon of cardamom powder to massaman, panang, tikka masala or vegetable curry recipes. It works well with spinach, potatoes, cauliflower or pumpkin curries too.
- Soups: Add a pinch of cardamom and infuse flavor into broths, bisques and creamy blended soups. It brings a lovely aroma to sweet potato, carrot or tomato-based soups.
- Stews and braises: The warm spice of cardamom nicely seasons lamb, beef or chicken stews and braises. Its sweetness balances the rich, fatty meat flavors.
- Marinades and rubs: Blend cardamom powder with other dried spices like garlic powder, paprika and cumin to make homemade meat or fish marinades. Or make a dry rub to season roasts, chops or kebabs before grilling.
- Rice or grains: Roasted cardamom powder enhances the flavor of rice pilafs, biryani or pearl barley side dishes. Try adding it to rice cooked with coconut milk for extra fragrance.
Key Takeaway: Cardamom powder shines in curries, stews, soups, marinades and rubs, pairing well with spices like cumin, cinnamon and cloves.
Uses for Cardamom Powder in Baking
The intensely aromatic, floral and sweet characteristics of cardamom mean it works beautifully to enhance all kinds of baked goods:
- Breads: Cardamom is delicious in homemade breads like brioche, challah, naan and sweet breads or buns flavored with fruit or chocolate.
- Cakes and muffins: Add a teaspoon of ground cardamom to spice up classic carrot cake, banana bread, zucchini muffins or fruit and nut tea cakes.
- Cookies: Give sugar cookies, shortbread, biscotti or gingersnaps more depth with a pinch of aromatic cardamom powder kneaded into the dough.
- Pastries: Both sweet and savory pastries benefit from the addition of cardamom powder. Try it in baklava, strudels, hand pies or empanadas.
- Puddings and custards: The spice enhances creamy desserts and puddings, like crème brûlée, rice pudding or bread and butter pudding. It also deliciously flavors homemade ice cream bases before churning.
- Pie fillings: Mix cardamom into apple, pear, mixed berry or pumpkin pie fillings. It helps intensify the sweet fruit flavors.
Pairing cardamom with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and orange or lemon zest makes a wonderfully warming spice combination for baked goods. The powder also goes well with rose water, vanilla, pistachio and almonds.
Key Takeaway: Cardamom powder enhances the flavor of all kinds of baked goods, from breads and cakes to custards, pies and pastries.
How to Cook With Cardamom Powder
If you decide to grind your own, here is a quick guide:
- Lightly toast the pods in a dry skillet to intensify the volatile oils and aromas. Shake the pan frequently so they don't burn.
- Allow to cool slightly, then crack the pods open to remove the tiny dark brown or black seeds inside. Discard the pods.
- Grind the seeds to a fine powder in a spice grinder, mini food processor or with a mortar and pestle.
Store cardamom powder in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. As with all ground spices, it will start to lose potency after a month or two. Try to buy pods and grind what you need for the freshest flavor.
When cooking with cardamom powder, start by adding just a small amount, then adjust to taste. Its flavor can overpower other ingredients if you use too much.
For savory recipes, add the powder once aromatic ingredients like garlic or onions have started sautéing. For sweet bakes, mix it into the dry ingredients first before adding wet ingredients.
A little cardamom powder goes a long way so err on the side of using less until the flavor balance seems right. You can always add more later if needed.
Cardamom Powder Drink Recipes
As well as cooking, cardamom powder can be used to make fragrant, spiced drinks from tea to hot toddies and cocktails:
- Chai tea: It's the cardamom that gives chai its signature flavor. Add 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon per cup of brewed black tea along with spices like cinnamon, ginger and clove.
- Iced coffee: Stir a pinch of cardamom into freshly brewed iced coffee or cold brew for extra spice and aroma. Top with your choice of milk or cream.
- Hot toddies: Muddle 3-4 cracked cardamom pods and add to whiskey, rum or brandy toddies along with lemon juice and honey or maple syrup.
- Cocktails: The powder or whole pods pair well with citrusy flavors. Use in margaritas, mojitos or gin and tonics for a spicy twist.
Cardamom Powder Health Benefits
Using cardamom powder in cooking and drinks has the added bonus of providing some potential therapeutic health benefits:
- Its volatile oils and antioxidants may help fight inflammation. This could alleviate muscle and joint soreness.
- Some early research suggests compounds in cardamom may help protect the liver, improve blood circulation and aid digestion.
- Like ginger, cardamom seems to have anti-nausea effects. The pods can be chewed to relieve motion sickness, morning sickness and nausea.
- The aroma of cardamom has been used aromatherapeutically to combat stress, anxiety and depression as well as boost mood and focus.
So sprinkling dishes and drinks with this fragrant, spicy powder could be beneficial in more ways than one!
Is cardamom powder the same as ground cardamom?
Yes, cardamom powder and ground cardamom are the exact same thing. They both refer to cardamom seeds that have been finely ground to a powder.
How should I store cardamom powder?
Keep cardamom powder in an airtight glass jar, away from heat, light and humidity to retain its volatile oils. Store for 1-2 months maximum for the best flavor.
What can I use if I don't have cardamom powder?
A blend of allspice, cinnamon and ginger makes an acceptable stand-in for recipes that call for cardamom powder. Start with small amounts and adjust to the flavor profile you want.
Can I use green and black cardamom powder interchangeably?
No - they have quite different flavor profiles. Black cardamom is smoky while green is sweet and floral. Stick to the type specified in each recipe.
Is cardamom powder spicy or sweet?
It's both spicy and sweet! Green cardamom powder has an intensely aromatic, sweet and slightly spicy flavor with hints of eucalyptus and citrus. It balances well in both savory and sweet recipes.
With its highly aromatic flavors, cardamom powder makes a fantastic addition to curry dishes, stews, baked goods and hot drinks.
Always try to grind the seeds from whole green cardamom pods yourself for maximum fragrance and flavor. Start with small amounts of the powder when cooking as a little goes a long way.
Pair cardamom powder with complementary spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger for wonderfully warming sweet and savory dishes to enjoy.