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7 Substitutes for Grains of Paradise

Grains of paradise are used as a flavor in numerous recipes. However, it can be hard to find in stores, and if you are wondering if anything can replace this spice, then you are at the right place! This article will tell you about several substitutes for grains of paradise, that are already in your kitchen.
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Substitutes for Grains of Paradise
Fact of the Matter
The name 'grains of paradise' comes from a marketing myth in the Middle Ages, where traders would tell customers that these seeds grew in paradise, and had to be collected from the rivers that flowed out of it.
Grains of paradise are small, cardamom-sized seeds which taste like pepper, and have a lingering hotness and an aftertaste of cardamom. This spice finds good use in steaks, grilled meats and vegetables, salad dressings, egg-based dishes, besides many others.

Originally grown in Africa, this spice was popular in the Middle Ages as a substitute for pepper, until finally pepper became cheaper and this spice was slowly pushed off the shelves. Even today, it is more common in parts of Western and Eastern Africa as compared to the West. Also called Melegueta pepper, these are generally available in seed form, and are supposed to be crushed before use.

With so many culinary uses, it's better to have other alternatives in mind, as given below.

Grains of Paradise Substitutes

Cardamom
As a Substitute in:
Sausages, meats, curries, cakes, and beverages.
Appearance
Cardamom is available in green- or brown-wrinkled pods which are half to two centimeters in length, containing blackish seeds. White pods are also available. Buying whole pods retains flavor for a longer period of time. However, the seeds may be sold loose or ground.

Flavor
Cardamom is generally strong, smoky, minty, and may be spicy-sweet or hot depending on the variety. Green cardamom is cooler than its black or white counterparts. The seeds are more intense in flavor, while the pod covers carry little to no flavor. Cardamom stored in airtight containers will retain its flavor for a long time, even years.

Cardamom

Other Uses
Indian curry powders, dals, masalas, cakes, pastries, cookies, sausages, beverages, sweet breads, for flavoring tea and coffee, making sweets and desserts, meat, poultry, shellfish, duck, lentils, sauces, peas, and rice.

Black Peppercorns
As a Substitute in:
Curries, sauces, lamb, seafood, steaks, seafood, chicken, soups, and pickling mixtures.
Appearance
Black peppercorns are spherical, dried fruits, about one-fourth of an inch in diameter, are red in color when ripe, and shrivel and darken on drying. The fruit contains a single seed. It can also be used in a powdered form.

Flavor
Black pepper is very strong, pungent, and aromatic in flavor, with a rich feel. If stored as whole as a peppercorn, the flavor is retained for a longer period of time. The black variety is the strongest, yet, with a tinge of sweetness.

Black Peppercorn

Other Uses
Meats, salads, stocks, pickles, sauce preparation, flavoring beverages, with fruits, Indian garam masala, curries, Cahun and Creole recipes, steaks, seafood, soups, and eggs.

Sansho Powder
As a Substitute in:
Soups, cooked vegetables, fish, pork, duck, steaks, and poultry.
Appearance
Golden green to brownish powder or husk fragments of the prickly ash tree.

Flavor
Sansho powder has a sharp, tangy, and lemony flavor, with an electric, tingling sensation that feels like numbness. This spice has a strong aroma.

Sansho

Other Uses
Sushi, noodles, soups, cooked vegetables, fish, pork, chicken, duck, gravies, and grilled meats.

Pink Peppercorns
As a Substitute in:
Sauces, duck, fish, poultry, soups, vegetables, viniagrettes, salad dressings, curries, beverages, and baked items.
Appearance
Semi-dried, hollow, pink berries of the Peruvian pepper tree, with thin, fragile skin, and a beautiful appearance.

Flavor
Pink peppercorns have a strong, fruity, citrus-like, and peppery flavor, but are not hot (since they are not true peppercorns). The spice has a sweet fragrance.

Red Pepper

Other Uses
Sauces, with fruits and desserts, duck, fish, poultry, noodles, soups, vegetables, salad dressing, for meat burger fillings, popcorn, curries, beverages, and viniagrettes.

Green Peppercorns
As a Substitute in:
Seafood, sauces, salad dressings, poultry, vegetables, and steaks.
Appearance
Green-colored, spherical, dried fruits with a wrinkled cover, and of the same size as black peppercorns. This is also available pickled in brine solution or in a powdered form.

Flavor
Green peppercorns are spicy, pungent, and acidic, with a fresh and lively flavor, and a peppy aroma. They are less hot and pungent as compared to black peppercorns.

Green Peppercorn

Other Uses
Thai recipes, seafood, sauces, fruity-tasting food like salads, spreads, poultry, vegetables, pepper steaks, sandwiches, and salsas.

Pepperwort
As a Substitute in:
Salads, soups, stews, sauces, pork, pasta, and potato cakes.
Appearance
Large- to small-sized greenish leaves of various shapes. Reddish brown small seeds may also be used.

Flavor
The herb has an acidic, hot flavor, with a lingering aroma. The hotness doesn't last very long.

Pepperwort

Other Uses
Salads, soups, stews, sauces, with cheese and egg sandwiches, frittate , eaten as sprouts, pork, pasta, potato cakes, chutneys, and for garnishing.

Four Peppercorn Mixture
As a Substitute in:
Viniagrettes, meats, vegetables, pasta, egg dishes, salad dressings, and sauces.
Appearance
Colorful combination of pink, white, black and green peppercorns. Available in disposable grinders and packets.

Flavor
It has a complex, fresh flavor and delicious aroma. Distinctive flavor of each peppercorn variety is noticeable―boldness of black, mildness of white, sharpness of green, and fruitiness of pink peppercorns.

Pepper Mix

Other Uses
Dips, spreads, viniagrettes, meats, vegetables, pasta, egg dishes, salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.

Other Substitute Mixtures
Pepper-cardamom-ginger
Mix black pepper with a bit of cardamom and ginger.

Cardamom-peppercorn-mountain pepperberry
Mix six seeds from a brown cardamom pod with four black peppercorns and one mountain pepperberry. Grind in mortar and pestle.

Pepper-ginger
Mix black pepper with a little bit of ground ginger.

Pepper-allspice
Mix two parts of black pepper with one part of allspice.

The common thing that most of these alternatives share with grains of paradise is the pungent aroma and spicy flavor, though some have a lemony tinge as well. Due to this similarity, most substitutes can be used as a general replacement for Melegueta pepper in most dishes.
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Published: August 18, 2014
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