Black cardamom

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Black Cardamom or Brown Cardamom is often regarded as the poor cousin of green cardamom pods and sometimes unfairly called Bastard Cardamom or False Cardamom. However, black cardamom is a useful and authentic spice in its own right. Do not substitute green cardamom for black cardamom as they are different in flavour profile, with, for example, black cardamom no use in sweet dishes unlike green cardamom. Indeed from a Ayurvedic perspective, black cardamom is "heating" and green cardamom "cooling".

Black cardamom pods are 2.5 cm (1¼ inch) long ovals and have a deep red colour when ripe [1]. The black cardamom seed casing contains around 40 dark-brown and hard seeds. The dried black cardamom pods are dark brown and rough with a fibrous outer surface; when you peel back this leathery outer layer, you uncover the small tar-coloured seeds, while releasing a really strong, camphorous aroma.

Black cardamom smells more medicinal than green cardamom with a hint of pine smoke. Black cardamom's flavour is smoky, deeply earthy, with strong spicy notes of pepper and eucalyptus. Black cardamom tastes closer grains of paradise than green cardamom.

Black cardamom is used in many Indian dishes and in chutneys and pickles. In particular, black cardamom is used whole in meat stews and vegetable curries, e.g. Punjabi and Rajasthani lamb dishes or chicken korma (murg mumtaz).


  1. Katzer, G. (n.d.) Black Cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.), Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages. Retrieved 28 October 2015.

Further Reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN 9780778804932.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN 9781465435989.