Black cardamom

Black cardamom
Black cardamom fruit as used as spice
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Zingiberaceae
Genus: Amomum
Species: A. subulatum, A. costatum
Binomial name
Amomum subulatum, Amomum costatum[citation needed]
(A. subulatum) Roxb. (A. costatum) Benth. & Hook.f.

Black cardamom, also known as hill cardamom,[1] Bengal cardamom,[1] greater cardamom,[1] Indian cardamom,[1] Nepal cardamom,[1] or winged cardamom,[1] brown cardamom, thảo quả and tsao-ko) comes from either of two species in the family Zingiberaceae. Its seed pods have a strong camphor-like flavor, with a smoky character derived from the method of drying.



The pods are used as a spice, in a similar manner to the green Indian cardamom pods, but those have a different flavor. Unlike green cardamom, this spice is rarely used in sweet dishes. Its smoky flavor and aroma derive from traditional methods of drying over open flames. It is also called badhi elaichi in Hindi.[2]


There are at least two distinct species of black cardamom: Amomum subulatum (also known as Nepal cardamom) and Amomum costatum or A. tsao-ko. The pods of A. subulatum, used primarily in the cuisines of India and certain regional cuisines of Pakistan, are the smaller of the two, while the larger pods of A. costatum (Chinese: wiktionary:草果; pinyin: cǎoguǒ; Vietnamese: thảo quả) are used in Chinese cuisine, particularly that of Sichuan; and Vietnamese cuisine.

Culinary uses

A commercial pack of black cardamom

Black cardamom pods can be used in soups, chowders, casseroles, and marinades for smoky flavor, much in the way bacon is used.

In India and Pakistan

In India and Pakistan, black cardamom seeds are often an important component of the Indo-Pak spice mixture garam masala. Black cardamom is also commonly used in savory dal and rice dishes. In Tamil, it is called maratti mokku (மராட்டி மொக்கு)or (காட்டு ஏலம்) In Manipuri, it is called elaichi achouba. It is also used in making traditional tea (chai).

In China

In China, the pods are used for long-braised meat dishes, particularly in the cuisine of the central-western province of Sichuan.

In Vietnam

The pods are also often used in Vietnam, where they are called thảo quả and used as an ingredient in the broth for the noodle soup called phở.


Black cardamom is often erroneously[3] described as an inferior substitute for green cardamom by those who[who?] are unfamiliar with the spice. Although the flavor differs from the smaller green cardamom, black cardamom is sometimes used by large-scale commercial bakers because of its cheapness.[citation needed]


The largest producer of the black cardamom is Nepal followed by India and Bhutan.

Medicinal uses

In Chinese medicine, tsao-ko is used to treat stomach disorders and malaria.[4]


Packages warn not to eat the product uncooked or as a snack food.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "USDA GRIN taxonomy, entry for Amomum subulatum". 
  2. ^ Spice Pages: Black Cardamom (Amomum subulatum)
  3. ^ Spice Pages: Black Cardamom (Amomum subulatum)
  4. ^ Herb: Cao Guo (Tsaoko Fruit), Fructus Amomi Tsao-ko Sacred Lotus Arts 2008
  5. ^ From Golden Flower brand, December 2007: "User warnings: Do not eat as a snack. Raw food. Please wash under tap water at least 5 minutes before cooking. Please cook in hot boiling water at least 30 minutes before consuming."

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