3 Antioxidant-Rich Recipes Packed with Cardamom, a Delicious Spice Known To Help Fight Inflammation

Photo: Stocksy/Susan Brooks-Dammann
Whether you use cardamom in cozy baked treats, grind it into a salad, infuse it in a tea, or for any other use, it’s bound to take a starring role in your culinary creations given its delicious taste and abundant aroma. Better yet, in both Ayurvedic and Western medicines, cardamom shows promise to yield diverse wellness wins, ranging from better blood sugar balance and improvements in liver health and inflammation to fresher breath.

If you've never tried cooking with cardamom at home, we got you covered. Keep reading to discover what it is and what it tastes like, as well as the key cardamom benefits it stands to offer. Plus: a few cardamom-infused recipes to get a taste of it for yourself.

Experts In This Article
  • Vandana Sheth, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and diabetes specialist in Los Angeles, California

What is cardamom?

Native to Southern India, cardamom most often refers to the seeds of the Elettaria cardamomum plant, which belongs to the ginger family. “Cardamom comes from green-colored pods that are aromatic and hold dark-colored flavorful seeds inside,” explains Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND, a registered dietitian nutritionist and cookbook author based in Torrance, California. “To release the seeds, you can use the flat side of a knife to press gently, a rolling pin, or a mortar and pestle.” (Sheth adds that another type of cardamom exists, which has larger black pods with a different flavor and aroma.)

If you’ve never had cardamom, Sheth says that it “has a menthol-like and fruity flavor with a complex aroma.” Flexible to use in both sweet and savory dishes as well as in teas and coffee, the spice is most popular in Indian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines. In terms of Indian delicacies, Sheth says that you can find it in the likes of masala chai (spice-infused Indian tea), rice pulav (fragrant basmati rice flavored with spices), and palak paneer (creamed spinach and homemade cheese cubes), among many other delicious drinks and dishes.

How cardamom benefits your health

“According to Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom may help with blood sugar management, lowering blood pressure, and improving liver health,” Sheth explains. While she notes that more studies are necessary to speak to the ways that cardamom benefits health with certainty, a growing body of research points to the perks of these herbaceous pods, largely on account of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

For instance, in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the journal Medicine in 2020, researchers found that participants with type 2 diabetes who supplemented with three grams of cardamom daily for 10 weeks had decreased their HbA1c, measures of insulin resistance, and blood pressure compared to a placebo group. In yet another double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism in 2018, patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease who supplemented with two 500-milligram capsules thrice daily for three months experienced statistically significant improvements in biomarkers related to fatty liver and to combat inflammation.

Moreover, as we covered earlier, cardamom is often used as a natural mouth freshener given its hints of menthol. However, it goes beyond simply masking halitosis: Per a 2020 study, the spice’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities may help protect against periodontal infections. And finally, Sheth says that cardamom may promote digestion—even more so if it’s included in a gut-friendly, nutrient-rich recipe. (See below!)

3 tasty recipes that use cardamom

1. California prune bread with pecans and cardamom

Photo: California Prunes

Developed by visual food storyteller James Collier, this “lovely loaf” recipe works as well for breakfast as it does for dessert. Better yet, you can rest assured that you’re doing good by your health with every bake and bite. A half tablespoon of ground cardamom goes a long way to complement the sweetness of California Prunes, the latter of which are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, contain zero added sugar, and impressively pack more antioxidants per serving than dried blueberries and cranberries.

Get the recipe: California Prune bread with pecans and cardamom

2. Indian masala chai (spiced milk tea)

Photo: Piping Pot Curry

If you ask me, winter is the perfect time to enjoy a warm cup of chai. Sure, you can buy a premixed blend at your local grocer, but the fresher the better. Get inspired to DIY with this authentic Indian masala chai recipe by Meeta Arora of Piping Hot Curry, which calls for grated ginger and freshly ground, anti-inflammatory whole spices—cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns—to add warmth and depth to your brewed tea that you simply can’t mimic with processed alternatives. While you can use dairy or alt milk, Arora prefers a ratio of two-thirds water to one-third milk and advises making a more equally balanced ratio if you enjoy thicker chai.

Get the recipe: Indian masala chai (spiced milk tea)

3. Cardamom-infused fruit salad

For a refreshing and flavorful take on fruit salad, check out Sheth’s own recipe—which employs cardamom (aka “elaichi” in India) and yields four servings—from her cookbook, My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes. Whether enjoyed as a snack or dessert, it’s a tasty way to perk up your palate and load up on protective antioxidants.

1 banana cut into wheels
1 apple, cored and cut into cubes
1 orange, peeled, segmented and cubed
1 cup berries
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Place all the fruit pieces into a bowl.

2. Add ground cardamom and lime juice. Mix well while being gentle.

3. Serve immediately or cool and serve when ready as is or with a scoop of ice cream.

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