When you’re craving sweetly spiced foods this fall, there’s a superstar you need to add to your spice rack: Cardamom.
This intensely sweet and aromatic spice with hints of lemon and mint comes from seed pods from plants in the ginger family. It’s native to India and Indonesia and shines in countless savory dishes from those countries, like masala murgh and rendang.
It’s also used beautifully in sweets and desserts, especially in Middle Eastern and Nordic countries, as well as in drinks like Turkish coffee and masala chai.
There are two main varieties: black and green cardamom. Green, or “true” cardamom, is the type used in Nordic and Middle Eastern dishes, and it pairs well with sweet dishes. Asian recipes typically call for black cardamom, which grows in the eastern Himalayas and has a smokier taste. It’s used in both sweet and savory dishes.
Cooking with Cardamom 101
Most recipes will specific whole (in the pod) or ground cardamom. Cooking with whole pods will give more flavor, as ground cardamom loses some fragrance and punch.
To use, start by toasting whole pods in a dry skillet for several minutes. Let them cool, then peel open the pods to remove the seeds (you can save discarded pods to add flavor to beverages like chai).
You can grind seeds with a mortar and pestle, spice grinder, or even your coffee grinder — just be sure to wash it out well.
To flavor your coffee, you can mix a few toasted seeds into coffee beans in your coffee grinder.
Cardamom has a host of health benefits in addition to its beautiful flavor. It acts as a diuretic, has anti-inflammatory effects that may help fight chronic disease, and has been used for thousands of years to aid digestion. Cardamom is also served after meals to sweeten the breath and has been found to reduce the number of bacteria in saliva that can cause bad breath.
Studies in humans have yet to catch up, but studies in animals show it can also lower anxiety and decrease elevated liver enzymes.
Getting Started: Cardamom Recipes from Around the World
Cardamom has a huge fan following in Nordic countries, particularly in Swedish desserts such as these almond rusk cookies just right for pairing with coffee or tea.
Gorayba, buttery shortbread cookies infused with cardamom, are a melt-in-your-mouth Arabic treat.
Masala murgh pairs cardamom with chicken, ginger, turmeric, and garlic for a delightfully savory Indian dish
Cardamom takes center stage in this Indian chai recipe.
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