green cardamom pods
The bright green, football-shaped pods above are whole, freshly dried green cardamom. keithferrisphoto/Getty Images

Cardamom (or cardamon) is a spice with a strong, perfumey, resinous aroma and a sweet flavor. It is commonly used in Indian and Arabic cuisines, both in sweet and savory foods and in drinks. It can be found in notable dishes, spice mixtures and drinks such as many curries, garam masala, masala chai and Turkish coffee.

Green cardamom is one of the world's most expensive spices by weight. It is sold as whole pods, broken or crushed pods, seeds only (which are contained in the pods) and ground / powdered form.

Types of Cardamom

The main type of cardamom variety is green cardamom (a.k.a. Elettaria or true cardamom). It is used in sweet and savory foods. Green cardamom has a thin, papery, green pod filled with small, blackish seeds.

The less common type of cardamom is black cardamom (a.k.a. Amomum, brown cardamom, kravan, Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom or Siamese cardamom). It is often used in biryani and other savory dishes. It has a thick, large, rough, blackish-brown pod filled with black seeds. It smells smokier and, some say, tastes mintier than green cardamom.

Both types of cardamom are part of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family.

Cardamom Pods vs. Ground Cardamom

Cardamom starts to lose its flavor and aroma as soon as it is ground, so it tastes much better if you buy cardamom pods and cook with the whole/crushed pods or grind them yourself. If you'd like to grind your own cardamom, try this cardamom grinding trick.

Cardamom Recipes

Cardamom is used in many different types of foods and drinks around the world. Although its early history kept it around India, the Middle East and Greece, it has since become a popular spice in many parts of the world, particularly around Christmastime, when it is used in recipes for cakes, cookies and other goodies.

Here is a sampling of recipes that are flavored with cardamom.

Also Known As

Elettaria, green cardamom, true cardamom, black cardamom, Amomum, brown cardamom, kravan, Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Siamese cardamom, cardamon