White cardamom is a spice that comes from the seeds of various plants in the ginger family. Its herbal, citrusy, slightly sweet flavor is equally used in sweet and savory dishes.
- Amomum krervanh (scientific name)
- Kapulaga putih (Indonesian)
- 白寇 / bái dòu kòu (Chinese)
- Siam cardamom
- Javanese caradamom
What is White Cardamom?
White cardamom is a fragrant spice made from the dried seed pod of the plant botanically known as Amomum kravanh or Amomum compactum. The whitish-brown pod resembles a chickpea with its round, pale husk, and the tiny inner seeds are dark brown with intense flavor.
Different Types of Cardamom
Cardamom pods can be green, white, or black. All can be used in cooking. They come from plants that are the same family but different species, and they have different flavors.
- Green cardamom. Green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is the variety most commonly sold in your local spice market. It’s also the variety most commonly used in Indian cooking. It works well in both sweet and savory dishes and can be used whole or ground.
- White cardamom. White cardamom (Amomum kravanh or Amomum compactum) is the variety most commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking. Unfortunately, white cardamom is commonly falsified and different companies bleach lesser-quality green cardamom pods and label them as white. Don’t confuse white cardamom with bleached white green cardamom pods. This cardamom is bleached mainly for aesthetic reasons. This type of “white cardamom” is mostly for recipes that benefit from being uniformly white, such as breads and cakes.
- Black cardamom. Black cardamom (Amomum subulatum) has a wrinkled, thick shell. It goes through a drying process that imbues it with a very pronounced smoky flavor. Most of the smokiness resides in the shell of the pod, while the seeds bear more in common with the green cardamom’s aroma.
What Does White Cardamom Taste Like?
White cardamom is milder in flavor than green and black cardamoms. The brown seeds inside have a sharp, citrusy, floral aroma, and they impart a warm flavor with notes of lemon and mint. The main use of cardamom is to strengthen the taste and aroma of food.
Green and white cardamom can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Since green cardamom is more pungent, you will need to use half amount the recipe calls for.
Where To Buy
Compared to other types of cardamom, finding white cardamom can be a little more difficult in some grocery stores. Look for the spice at Asian grocery stores specializing in Southeast Asian or Indian products.
How To Store
When stored in an airtight container away from light and moisture, whole white cardamom pods can last for up to 3 years. Once the seeds are ground, they begin to lose their flavor quickly. Ground cardamom should be used within six months. For best results, use ground cardamom close to its purchase date, or better yet, start with whole pods. You can easily grind the seeds down using a mortar and pestle.
Cooking With White Cardamom
Cardamom always starts out in the form of a pod. Sometimes, a recipe may call for a whole crushed cardamom pod to be added during cooking, and discarded afterwards, much as you would do with bay leaves. The pods are best used in soups, curries, and braised meat dishes.
The pods contain small seeds that are usually dried and ground to make a powder. These seeds contain the essential oils that give the spice a more intense aroma.