Korarima is an interesting little spice. It has strong similarities to the green cardamom, but with its own quirky high notes.
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What is Korarima?
Korarima, or Ethiopian Cardamom (Afromomum Corrorima) is a member of the ginger family, as are the more common green and black cardamoms. It is an essential ingredient in Ethiopian cooking as well as the kitchens of the immediate region.
Whenever an Ethiopian recipe calls for cardamom, it is korarima that the recipe is referring to, not cardamom, as many assume.
Korarima pods are much larger than green cardamom pods, and look a little like the Indian black cardamom. It is the seeds of the Ethiopian cardamom that are used, whether whole of ground to a powder.
In the image above, you see the korarima seeds in focus. I’ve placed some black peppercorns on the bottom left and some green cardamom seeds and pods on the right, to give you an idea of size. You can see that the Ethiopian cardamom seeds are a little more brown in colour and bigger than the green cardamom seeds.
What does korarima taste like?
It is not dissimilar to the green cardamom, hence the name “false cardamom”. To me, everything that the green cardamom is, the korarima is more so! It has a stronger and sharper floral aroma, with a strong camphor presence, with hints of cloves, pepper, nutmeg and even, to my nose, eucalyptus.
How is the Ethiopian cardamom used?
It is one of the most important spices in many, many recipes and is used in Ethiopian spice mixes like the famous berbere and is also used to flavour coffee, just like the regular green cardamom is used to flavour coffee in the Middle East, like the Arabic Qahwa.
Ethiopian Cardamom Substitute
Naturally, if you can’t get korarima, the common green cardamom will have to suffice. However, my suggestion would be to add a touch nutmeg, cloves and black pepper. But just a tiny, tiny touch, for the merest whisper of these spices. If the recipe already calls for them, then increase the amount use ever so slightly.
Where can I buy Ethiopian False Cardamom?
If you don’t happen to have an African shop nearby that stocks these, like me, you’ll definitely be able to get them online.
In the US, if you don’t have an African shop nearby, do an online search, and I bet you will find a store or two that stocks them.
Korarima, the Ethiopian Cardamom
- Korarima seeds, amount as your recipe calls for
- Grind in a spice mill before using. Or pound using a pestle and mortar.
12 thoughts on “Korarima, Ethiopian Cardamom (False Cardamom)”
Hi! Is it possible to substitute it with the black cardamom or is it a completely different flavour?
Thank you for this website!
Hi Catalina, that’s a completely different flavour, black cardamoms have a strong smoky aroma.
Regular green cardamom seeds are the closest thing to it. And as mentioned in the article, plus just a tiny, tiny, pinch of cloves, nutmeg and black pepper.
And it’s my pleasure, I’m pleased to hear that you like the site.
what is the process used to separate the brown seeds from the pods and the white stuff around it? Making Niter Kibbeh and can’t just grind it in with the seed like you can with Berbere. Manual effort takes for ever. Can you soak them in water and they separate and float or do you have to pick each seed out one by one from the white surroundings.
Hi Brandon, I’m afraid there is no easy way if you’re starting with the pods. It’s exactly like extracting cardamom seeds from the pods for grounding. When I’m using the pods, I tend to just rub them in my hands to get as much of it off as possible, then grind them in a spice mill. I usually buy them in seed form, as you can seed from the image.
I could actually make a spice encyclopedia with your posts combined to keep handy in the kitchen for reference, Lin. Thank you for mentioning the substitutes because when I made berbere, I had to do a lot of research to get the flavour right without Korarima.
Ethiopian spice! Your post is like enabling me to enjoy culinary traveling without physically traveling! I don’t think I had coffee from Ethiopia or from Africa, come to think of it!
Wow! Such a interesting and aromatic spice. I never heard about this spice, but you described it very nicely. It seems superb.
Thank you, Aaichi! I’m a big fan of it!
Just came from your Berbere post. I am going to hunt this spice down, like you said, should get it online. I remember my mum using this you know, so thank you for reminding me, I’d forgot about it!
Aww, that’s really so cool. I love it when one of my posts reminds people of childhood recipes and ingredients!
I can’t wait to try these, I love finding new aromatic herbs to stock up on and your description does is justice!