Cardamom gelato

Cardamom pods

Cardamom is perhaps the most intensely aromatic spice there is. The little silvery-green, papery pods that shelter the fragrant black seeds might not look so exotic, but break one open and your nostrils will be permeated by the most intoxicating scent. That first whiff of fresh cardamom seed is likely to make an unforgettable imprint on your mind.

A native of India, the cardamom plant is part of the ginger family. There are two genera: green cardamom (or “true cardamom”) and black cardamom. The most commonly available variety is green cardamom; that’s the one I used for today’s recipe.

As with all spices, it’s preferable to cook with whole cardamom pods, rather than the pre-ground kind, for the simple reason that the instant the seeds are exposed to air, they start to lose their precious fragrance.

To infuse the gelato, simply crush the cardamom pods and seeds with a mortar and pestle — a task that takes only a few minutes, and yet will make this gelato the most aromatic you’ve ever tasted. (Your kitchen will be infused with the heavenly scent too!)

In Indian cooking, cardamom is used to flavor desserts and drinks as well as savory dishes and, in some regions of India, the famous garam masala. (For an enticing garam masala recipe with cardamom, check out my September 2010 feature for Vegetarian Times.)

To me, cardamom is the most wonderful complement to fall fruits such as plums or pears. I often serve my cardamom gelato with roasted plums — but to be honest, it is also utterly delicious on its own. Served with a sprinkle of crushed, salted pistachios, each spoonful is likely to linger on your palate and in your imagination for some time to come.

Cardamom gelato

Cardamom gelato

makes 2 pints
active time: 20 min

  1. 1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
  2. 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  3. 3/4 cup organic sugar
  4. 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  5. 1/2 cup crème fraîche

  1. Step 1: Place the cardamom pods in a mortar. With the pestle, pound on the pods until they crack open and the seeds are released. Remove the pods and coarsely grind the seeds by moving the pestle in a circular motion. Set aside.
  2. Step 2: Place 3 cups of milk in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the milk reaches boiling point, add the cardamom seeds, reduce heat and fast-simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover pan and let stand for 15 minutes to infuse the milk. Strain milk in a fine sieve, discard the seeds and pour milk back in the pan.
  3. Step 3: Place the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Reheat infused milk over medium-high heat. As soon as the milk comes to a boil, quickly whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil again and then reduce heat to achieve a fast simmer. Continue whisking constantly for 5 to 6 minutes until the mixture has slightly thickened (it should be the consistency of heavy cream). Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours in the refrigerator or 45 minutes in the freezer.
  4. Step 4: When the gelato is well chilled, whisk in the crème fraîche until well blended. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream or gelato maker and freeze according to the instructions of your machine. Transfer the gelato to a container and freeze for 2 to 3 hours before serving. (The gelato should have firmed up, but should still be a bit soft.)
  5. Cook’s note: The gelato will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks, but is best eaten the day it’s made. Remove from freezer and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes until softened before serving.

Cardamom pods

dessert, gelato, cardamon

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Tony August 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Delicious. I made this last week, and my fiancee loved it (and is requesting it again, actually). I did make minor changes, though- I upped the cardamom by a lot (I made 1.5 quarts, so I multiplied the recipe by 1.5). Instead of 1 1/2 tablespoons, I used 2 1/2 tablespoons, ground them and kept them in the mixture the entire recipe. It led the flavor to be REALLY cardamom heavy, so if you’re not that big into it, not for you. But, that much cardamom lends a eucalyptus-like menthol-y flavor, which is really tasty. Good stuff.

    • Reply Viviane August 22, 2012 at 8:20 am

      Tony, thank you for your comment and for letting me know about your gelato adventures. I must tell you though that I test the recipes numerous times before I publish them and always recommend that you should make it as written the first time around. Balance of flavors and finesse is always my goal and I try to deliver this is every recipe I publish. Happy gelato making and eating!

  • Reply jean December 28, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    This just sounds so good! A must try.

  • Reply Preena @ A Teaspoon Of Turmeric November 22, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Wow, this looks so good! I usually make a Chai Masala Vanilla infused ice cream, but cardamom on it’s own would be good too.

  • Reply Justine November 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Oh my gosh, I MUST make this. I LOVE cardamom!

  • Reply Trish November 22, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I love cardamom. I bet it’s fabulous in a gelato. The pistashios make it especially appealing to me. And with plums and cognac-yum! Bookmarking. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply briarrose November 22, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Delicious. Love the pistachio garnish.

  • Reply Jenny Nguyen November 22, 2010 at 3:49 am

    Cardamom sounds amazing with ice cream! Thanks for sharing this. Gotta say, I love your blog, have been visiting silently for a while now 🙂 Keep up the good work…

    • Reply Viviane November 22, 2010 at 9:10 am

      Jenny! Thank you so much for your comment… I must say, that just warms my heart!

  • Reply Cookin' Canuck November 21, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Cardamom really is a unique, special spice. This is a wonderful way to use it – what a treat!

    • Reply Viviane November 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm

      Dara, Stephanie! Thank you for stopping by and for your comments… I’m delighted you both love cardamom. A very special spice it is!

  • Reply Stephanie November 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    The cardamom must really make this special – and the addition of the pistachios! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet } November 20, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    What a fantastic and unique gelato. Cardamom is one of those spices that is so wonderful and exotic. I must make this!!! Thank you for sharing.

  • Question or comment? I'd love to hear from you!