The Difference Between Green And Black Cardamom

With a nickname like the "queen of spices" (via MasterClass), you'll definitely want to get to know cardamom and its many uses. If you've never tasted the spice itself, it's likely that you already know it from Indian dishes seasoned with the garam masala mixture of spices. The warm, herbal flavor of cardamom can be used to flavor anything from cakes and breads to teas or rice. Although commonly found in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, cardamom was also widely adopted by the Swedes, who use it to flavor different doughs and baked goods, as well as in poaching and pickling liquids (via Swedish Food).

Cardamom is a member of the ginger family and comes in two varieties: green and black. According to Kitchn, green cardamom is the more common variety and has a bright and balanced flavor. It is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Green cardamom, also called "true cardamom" has warm, herbal notes and, according to MasterClass, evokes the aromas of eucalyptus, mint, and pepper. Black cardamom, which is actually brown in color, is less common than green and has a smoky, earthy flavor that lends itself better to savory dishes. Serious Eats says the intensity of black cardamom makes it ideal for recipes that call for long, slow cooking.

According to MasterClass, cardamom grows natively in subtropical Asia and is a well-known ingredient in Indian food. While you'll find it in many Moroccan, Thai, Lebanese, and Turkish dishes, it's also popular in Scandinavian countries where the ingredient is used in baked goods like the Finnish pulla.

Green and black cardamom are used differently

Cardamom is an expensive spice, second only to saffron and vanilla in price by weight (via MasterClass), and it is sold in whole pods, as seeds, or as a ground powder. The whole pods contain several seeds. Home cooks can grind these pods themselves and use both the ground seeds and pods in their recipes or use a mortar and pestle to retrieve the seeds from the pod. According to NDTV, recipes calling for black cardamom usually instruct the cook to use the whole pod or pods to flavor the dish but discard the tough husks before serving.

Many recipes call for the easy-to-use cardamom powder, the spice commonly sold in stores. It can be made from dried, ground seeds or whole ground pods and seeds. This second powder is less expensive, but also considered to be of lesser quality than powders made from only seeds. If using powder, it's best to consume it as close to the purchase date as possible, as the essential oils that impart its flavor can lose potency over time. 

Curious about cardamom? BBC Food offers a recipe for Punjabi chicken curry that features green cardamom pods, while a boldly spiced basmati rice from Eat Live Cool features whole black cardamom pods.

Both green and black cardamom are flavorful, useful, and deserve a spot in your spice cabinet.