Nutmeg and cardamom are popular culinary spices that bestow their rich flavors and aromas on many recipes. So, let’s have a closer look at nutmeg vs cardamom and the ins and outs of these spices.
Nutmeg is known for its nutty, warm, sweet flavor and characteristic aroma, while cardamom is recognized as an intensely fragrant, warmly-sweet spice with menthol-like, piney, slightly citrusy undertones. Nutmeg and cardamom derive from two different plants, and they differ in terms of their appearance, usage in cooking, and health benefits.
Scroll down for in-depth information on how these two spices differ and to know how common they are.
Nutmeg vs Cardamom- SpiceRally DrillDown
|Flavor profile||Less pungent than cardamom. Nutmeg has a nutty element with a warm, woody, slightly astringent, sweet mouthfeel.||– In general, all types of cardamom hold a more piquant flavor than nutmeg.|
– Green cardamom is warmly sweet with piney, slightly citrusy, and minty undertones.
– Black cardamom has smokey and more intense flavor elements.
– White cardamom is warmer and slightly floral with mint and lime touches.
|Aroma profile||Has a zesty-sweet facet with piquant and earthy base notes. But nutmeg is less intense in flavor than cardamom.||Generally, all types of cardamom hold a stronger aroma than that of nutmeg. They have an appealing, warm, spicy, and sweet scent.|
|Base flavor||Spicy and warm||Spicy and warm|
|Appearance||– Whole nutmeg comes in an elliptical shape and shiny, deep brown color shell. The seed is pale brown, oval, hard, and has a soft surface.|
– Ground nutmeg is recognized for its powdery consistency and reddish-brown color.
|– They are identified by their small seed pods: triangular in cross-section, pointed, and spindle-shaped. They come in a papery, flimsy outer shell, and inside contains tiny, black seeds.|
– Green cardamoms are smaller, green pods, while black cardamoms are larger, dark brown pods, and white cardamom pods are cream-colored.
|Forms used||– Ground nutmeg|
– Whole seeds
– Nutmeg butter
– Essential oil
– Nutmeg extract
|– Whole cardamom pods|
– Ground cardamom
– Cardamom essential oil
– Cardamom extract
– Cardamom capsules
|Availability||Both whole and ground nutmeg are widely available in grocery stores, online shopping sites, and supermarkets.||– Green cardamom and ground cardamom are widely available in supermarkets, grocery stores, and online vendors. |
– But black cardamom and white cardamom can be a bit challenging to find. However, they can be purchased from Asian or Indian stores.
|Purpose in cooking||Ingredient, condiment||Ingredient|
|Usage in cooking||– Widely used as a baking/ seasonal spice in sweets, desserts, baked goods, and savory preparations.|
– Incorporated into beverages like eggnog, wine, cocktails, and masala chai.
– It is an excellent flavoring for rich meat, fish, and seafood curries.
Adds depth to vegetable dishes.
– Used in many spice rubs, marinades, seasoning blends, and spice mixtures.
|– It is an excellent addition to desserts, candies, Asian-inspired sweetmeats, and baked goods.|
– Green cardamom and black cardamom are used together in many well-known Indian spice blends and seasoning mixtures.
– Incorporated into ground meat mixtures when making sausages, burger patties, or meatballs.
– Whole white cardamom pods are used in slow-cooked soups, braises, and stews.
– Green cardamom is widely used in beverages.
|Health benefits||– Have the potential to fight against colon cancer.|
– Aids with dental and oral-related conditions.
– Strengthens gut health, mainly relieving indigestion.
– Detoxifies the kidneys and liver.
– Improves libido and treats insomnia.
|– Diuretic properties and antioxidants might help in lowering blood pressure.|
– Alleviates digestive issues, including ulcers.
– Treats bad breath and prevents cavities.
– Contains antibacterial properties and treats infections.
– Improves breathing and oxygen use.
|Storage & Shelf Life||– Store ground nutmeg in a tight-fitting spice jar/ container away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. When stored properly, ground nutmeg will stay flavorful and aromatic for about six months. |
– The whole nutmeg seeds can also be kept inside tightly-sealed containers, and they will remain fresh longer than ground nutmeg
|– Every variety of cardamom in their whole ground forms should be stored in air-tight spice containers/ jars and kept away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.|
– Whole cardamom pods will stay flavorful for about 3-4 years, while ground cardamom tends to lose its potency sooner than the whole pods.
|Part of the plant||Seed||Seed|
|Scientific name||Myristica fragrans||– Elettaria cardamomum (Green cardamom/ true cardamom)|
– Amomum subulatum (Black cardamom)
– Amomum kravanh/ Amomum compactum (White cardamom)
|Genus/ Genera||Myristica||– Elettaria|
|Origin||Indonesia||Indian subcontinent, Indonesia|
Elaborating On The Difference Between Nutmeg And Cardamom
As you see, nutmeg and cardamom are entirely two different spices, even though you could find them together in many sweet and savory dishes. They are both popular as warm baking spices but possess distinct flavor and aroma profiles. And they have their own way of flavoring dishes with their unique properties.
You will never get confused by the looks of these two spices. They are divergent in terms of appearance since they derive from two different plant parts. Nutmeg is basically the seed kernel of the nutmeg fruit, while cardamom comes as a seed pod.
Cardamom seeds are the most flavorful, and you can usually find many seeds inside one cardamom pod, while you will only get one seed in one nutmeg fruit. After all, nutmeg seeds are considerably larger than cardamom seeds.
In addition, you can find three different main varieties of cardamom, whereas we only have one type of nutmeg in household use. Another key difference is the price difference between these two spices. Cardamom requires more labor-intensive work than nutmeg. Therefore cardamom tends to be more expensive than nutmeg in the spice market.
Can These Two Spices Be Used Interchangeably?
When it comes to substituting nutmeg in place of cardamom, you should first consider what type of cardamom is used initially. The reason is that black cardamom and white cardamom have distinct flavor profiles from green cardamom and are very different from nutmeg.
So, you might have a chance of substituting nutmeg in place of green cardamom, but using nutmeg instead of black cardamom or white cardamom could not be recommended since it can change the taste of the overall dish. So, you can work with nutmeg that only requires green cardamom as a secondary ingredient in a particular recipe.
Things work the same way if you need to use cardamom in place of nutmeg. Using a pinch of ground green cardamom is best if you don’t have nutmeg around, and that will not disappoint you. But do not use black or white cardamom as their flavors are completely different.