What mixes well with cardamom?

Cardamom is a versatile spice that can complement both sweet and savory dishes. Its complex flavor profile featuring notes of citrus, mint, and pine makes it a great addition to baked goods, curries, rice dishes, and more. When using cardamom, it’s helpful to understand what ingredients and flavors best complement its unique taste. This article will explore what mixes well with cardamom and provide recipes showcasing delicious cardamom combinations.

What is cardamom?

Cardamom refers to spices made from the seeds of plants in the ginger family Zingiberaceae. The two main varieties are:

  • Green cardamom – More common, with citrusy and eucalyptus notes
  • Black cardamom – Smokier in flavor, with more earthy camphor and mint notes

Green cardamom is used more often in sweet dishes, while black cardamom is popular in savory Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. The seeds are enclosed in small pods that are crushed or ground to release the aromatic oils and flavor.

Cooking with cardamom

Cardamom has been used in cooking and medicine for centuries in Asia, the Middle East, and Northern Europe. The combination of sweet and savory aromatics make it a versatile ingredient. Here are some tips for cooking with cardamom:

  • Use freshly ground cardamom seeds for the best flavor. The pre-ground spice loses potency over time.
  • Lightly crush the pods and remove the seeds, rather than adding the pods directly to a dish.
  • Add ground cardamom early in cooking for maximum flavor infusion.
  • Complement, don’t overwhelm – a little cardamom goes a long way.
  • Pair it with ingredients that highlight its notes of citrus, mint, smoke, pine, and floral.

Cardamom is commonly used in both sweet and savory dishes from India, the Middle East, Scandinavia, and the UK. Popular uses include curries, stews, bread, cakes, coffee, and tea.

Sweet recipes pairing well with cardamom

Cardamom’s complex flavor layers beautifully with many sweet ingredients. Its citrusy flavors complement fruit and baked goods, while the earthy notes pair well with nuts, chocolate, and warming spices. Here are some examples of sweet foods and recipes that mix delightfully with cardamom:


  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Mangoes
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • Figs
  • Dates
  • Dried fruits like raisins, apricots, cherries

The citrusy qualities of cardamom nicely complement many fruits. Try adding a pinch to fruit salads, smoothies, chutneys, and baked desserts.

Granola and breakfast cereals

The combination of oats, nuts, and warm spices like cinnamon and cardamom is beautifully balanced. Add some crushed pods or ground seeds to your next batch of homemade granola or muffins.

Coffee and tea

Spice up your next cup of coffee or chai tea latte with a dash of cardamom. Its woody notes pair perfectly with the richness of coffee and black tea. Add ground seeds or steep whole pods in the brew.

Cocoa and chocolate

The minty qualities of cardamom offset the bitterness of dark chocolate wonderfully. Try adding it to cookies, cakes, fudge, or hot chocolate.

Cakes, cookies, and pastries

Cardamom is used extensively in Scandinavian, Middle Eastern, and British baking. It adds complex flavor to sweet doughs like coffee cakes, shortbread, jams, and more.

Carrot cake with cardamom cream cheese frosting

This spice cake has layers of cardamom flavor from the cake batter as well as the tangy cream cheese frosting.

Cake ingredients:

  • 1 1⁄4 cups (300ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp (6g) ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp (4g) ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (9g) baking soda
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups (260g) grated carrots
  • 1 cup (110g) chopped walnuts or pecans

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 12 oz (340g) cream cheese, softened
  • 5 tbsp (70g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cup (360g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp (2g) ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp (4g) vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease two 8-inch cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and sugar until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add spices and beat again.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternately with the grated carrots. Fold in the chopped nuts.
  5. Pour batter evenly into cake pans and bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
  7. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add powdered sugar, cardamom, and vanilla and beat on low until combined. Increase speed to high and beat for 2-3 minutes until fluffy.
  8. Frost the cooled cake layers, then stack them on top of each other. Garnish with more chopped nuts if desired before serving.

The floral cardamom flavor shines through the carrot cake layers beautifully. It also prevents the rich cream cheese frosting from becoming too heavy.

Savory recipes pairing well with cardamom

While best known for enhancing sweets, cardamom also shines in many savory dishes. Its warm, earthy flavors complement spices, herbs, proteins, and vegetables popular in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Some savory pairings that work well with cardamom include:


  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Black pepper
  • Paprika
  • Turmeric
  • Fennel
  • Fenugreek
  • Curry powder

Many warming spices feature in dishes that highlight cardamom. It pairs exceptionally well with coriander, cumin, ginger and black pepper.


  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Lemongrass
  • Bay leaves

Fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, and mint provide a nice contrast to cardamom’s deep flavor. Bay leaves also complement it well in long-cooked stews and curries.


  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Fish like salmon and halibut
  • Shrimp
  • Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans

Cardamom pairs excellently with meats, seafood, and vegetarian proteins. It is often used in meat curries and stews. The spice also enhances the flavor of basmati rice pilafs when cooked with broth, vegetables and protein.


  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Greens like spinach and kale
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Pumpkin

Cardamom complements vegetables like onions, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, and potatoes particularly well. It is also delicious in fall vegetable dishes featuring squash and pumpkins.

Curried Chickpeas with Cardamom Rice

This vegetarian curry dish features fragrant spices and herbs like coriander, cumin, and cardamom paired with nutritious chickpeas and rice.


  • 1 tbsp (15ml) olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp (6g) grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp (3g) ground coriander
  • 2 tsp (3g) ground cumin
  • 1 tsp (2g) garam masala
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1⁄4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable broth
  • 2 cups (330g) cooked chickpeas
  • 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
  • 1⁄4 cup (10g) cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Cooked basmati rice, for serving


  1. In a skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Cook the onions for 5-7 minutes until beginning to soften.
  2. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric and cayenne. Cook for 1-2 minutes until very fragrant.
  3. Stir in vegetable broth, chickpeas, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes for flavors to develop.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and cilantro.
  5. Serve chickpea curry over cooked basmati rice spiced with 1⁄2 tsp ground cardamom.

The cardamom in the rice balances beautifully with the curry spices in the chickpea dish. They come together to create layers of aromatic flavor.

Other flavor combinations that work with cardamom

While fruits, sweets, and curries showcase cardamom wonderfully, there are several other interesting flavors that pair well with it:


Rosewater complements cardamom’s floral notes. Try adding both to yogurt, ice cream, milk puddings, and even cocktails. Start with just a drop or two of rosewater as it’s intensely flavored.

Pistachios and walnuts

Nuts are frequently combined with cardamom in pastries, granolas, and savory dishes. The woody, herbal qualities of pistachios and walnuts taste fantastic with cardamom’s piney kick.


Vanilla is used in many baked goods featuring cardamom like cakes, cookies, and pastries. Its sweet flavor accents cardamom without overpowering it.


Lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges all make stellar partners for cardamom. Citrus oils boost cardamom’s own subtle citrusy notes. Add lemon zest to cakes, grapefruit to scones, and orange juice to poached pears.


Honey balances cardamom’s dry spiciness with its warm, floral sweetness. Drizzle over oatmeal, stir into tea and coffee, use in salad dressings, or marinate chicken in a honey-cardamom glaze.


Cardamom’s versatility extends to pairing with aged cheeses like parmesan, pecorino, and manchego. A pinch enhances flavorful cheeses without overpowering them.


The interest cardamom brings to cocktails earned it the nickname ‘grains of paradise’. It’s excellent in gin, vodka, rum, bourbon, and whiskey drinks. Try muddling the seeds in drinks or rim glass with cardamom sugar.

Tips for selecting and storing cardamom

To get the most flavor from your cardamom, follow these guidelines when purchasing and storing it:

  • Smell cardamom pods in stores and select ones with the strongest, sweetest aroma.
  • The pods should not appear shriveled or cracked.
  • Whole cardamom pods keep better than pre-ground spice.
  • Store pods or ground seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
  • Cardamom maintains its potency best when stored up to 1 year.
  • Grind or crush pods just before using for maximum freshness and flavor.

With proper storage, cardamom will retain its unique flavor and fragrance for many months.


Cardamom’s complex taste features cool mint, sharp pine, peppery kick, and tangy citrus notes that add interest wherever it’s used. Both sweet and savory dishes benefit from a touch of its heady flavor. While best known for its role in Indian cooking and baking, there are many possibilities for cardamom pairings.

Fruits like oranges, mangoes, and berries taste fantastic when accentuated with cardamom. The spice also shines alongside chocolate, coffee, rosewater, vanilla, and citrus. Savory pairings like curries, rice pilafs, and roasted vegetables are enhanced by cardamom as well. With a plethora of complementary flavors, cardamom’s allure and versatility is hard to beat.

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