8 Amazing Black Cardamom Benefits & Uses

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Cooking with black cardamom can give your meals some spicy flair, in addition to giving your body a healthy boost.

What is Black Cardamom?

Black cardamom is a very popular spice in India and other Asian cuisines and is derived from the seed pods of the black cardamom plant, which is one of the many species in the Zingiberaceae family. This perennial flowering plant produces seed pods that are often dried over an open flame, giving them a roasted and savory spiciness, quite different from the slightly sweet flavor of green cardamom.

In India, this spice is referred to as kali elaichi or badi elaichi. Black cardamom is also known as hill cardamom, greater cardamom, Nepal cardamom or brown cardamom, among others. There are two main species of black cardamom – Amomum subulatum and Amomum Tsao-ko. The former species generates slightly smaller seed pods and is more commonly found in Indian, Nepalese and Pakistan cooking, whereas the latter species produces larger pods that are normally found in Chinese cuisine. These pods can be used in the whole form as a general flavoring agent (like a bay leaf), or it can be opened, the seeds removed, and ground into the popular powdered form. Depending on your intended use, these black cardamom pods may be processed and stored in different ways. [1]

Black cardamoms on a dark counter

Black cardamom has a deep smoky, spicy flavor. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Culinary Uses of Black Cardamom

If you are searching for new ways to use black cardamom in your diet, look no further than adding these seed pods to soups, curries, stews, and daal. As mentioned, you can cook with the whole seeds of the seed pod, or you can crush those seeds for a more intensely spicy kick in your dishes. Due to the drying process, it is quite smoky and tangy, so you don’t need much to give flavor to a dish.

Dry rubs, marinades, and barbecue sauces are also improved by the addition of black cardamom, and you can even mix these pods in with lentils, rice or pasta to make your basic meals more interesting. You will want to combine this spice with others that can counter its strong smokiness or even something to cut in with some acidity, such as lime juice. Generally, you should use the spice in moderation, due to its potency, but it is surprisingly versatile. Avoid using this spice in sweet dishes, even though green cardamom is often used for that purpose.

Black Cardamom Substitute

If you don’t have black cardamom on hand for a given dish, there are a few viable alternatives in the kitchen, including green cardamom, coriander seeds, allspice, or cinnamon and cloves.

Green Cardamom

While green cardamom is definitely sweeter than black cardamom, it does have certain overlapping flavor elements that will make it a decent substitute than its black cousin. However, you cannot replace them in the opposite direction (black for green), as the smoky nature of the black variety could completely ruin a sweet, more delicate dish. [2]

Coriander Seeds

In terms of consistency and flavor, coriander seeds may be the best replacement for black-tinged cardamom. The seeds have elements of both savory and sweet notes, and they fit well with many of the most popular recipes that commonly call for black cardamom.


This unique spice tastes like a combination of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon; while those tend towards the sweet side of things, it can work as a substitute for black cardamom, provided you add a bit of pepper in as well.

Cinnamon & Cloves

The smoky, warm flavor of these two spices combine beautifully to mimic the rich taste of black cardamom. Be sure to use a limited amount, however, because these spices can also be overpowering when used in excess.

Black Cardamon Health Benefits

The most important health benefits of black cardamom include its ability to improve gastrointestinal health, protect the respiratory system, boost the immune system, & prevent certain cancers, among others.

Skin Care

High levels of antioxidants, as well as glutathione, help to neutralize free radicals and prevent signs of aging, such as wrinkles, blemishes and age spots. [3]

Chronic Disease

Antioxidants and volatile compounds in black cardamom are able to prevent oxidative stress and lower your risk of chronic disease, including conditions like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and even some neurodegenerative diseases. [4]

Oral Health

Some people chew on cardamom seeds in order to benefit from the antibacterial and anti-fungal effects, including its impact on bad breath and potential cavities. [5]


Not only does black cardamom help to relieve inflammation in the respiratory tracts, but also attacks the underlying infections that were causing blockage and congestion in the first place. [6]


Studies have found this spice able to stimulate the kidneys and liver, helping to flush the body of excess toxins. [7]

Immune System

There is good evidence to show that black cardamom has a powerful antibacterial and antiviral effect on those who regularly consume it, which boosts the immune system against foreign pathogens. [8]


Active ingredients in this spice stimulate the release of key gastric juices, which can balance the acidity in your gut, reduce inflammation, and improve nutrient uptake from the food you eat. [9]

Heart Conditions

Research has shown that this spice is able to lower blood pressure, while also causing a reduction in blood clotting; this can prevent heart attacks and strokes, as well as coronary heart disease. [10]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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