How To Make Yogurt With Cardamom Pods

This 4-minute recipe is a condiment, dipping sauce, marinade, dessert and everything in between

At Westward in Seattle, where Will Gordon is the executive chef, the culinary team prepares for weekend brunchers who come by car, bike and kayak—such is lakeside life. Year-round, "even in the dead heat of summer," he says, they can't get enough of his comforting lamb hash served with a versatile cardamom yogurt. 

"I'd be lying if I said we had an official recipe for this," Gordon says of a Secret Weapon so perpetually useful his team learned how to whisk it together in a snap. Gordon quickly stirs together plain Greek yogurt thinned with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and a little salt. He adds just enough toasted and ground green cardamom pods so that their spice and floral notes play against the funk and tang of the dairy. "Those things go very well together," he says of the simple combination (see the recipe).

Why cardamom? Recognizing that both the hungover and hung-onto parents need something to perk them up in the morning, he looked for something not "too cheffy but a little off-center," to add to the plate. He found that in cardamom, a spice he loves because "it's simultaneously exotic and familiar."

Gordon warns that the key to this recipe's simplicity is restraint: Overeagerness throws everything off. "It's very versatile if you use it subtly," he says. Regarding the spice, he cautions that "you have to be careful not to add too much or it will be the only story in your dish." To make the profile taste more like a raita, he suggests adding coriander, garlic and citrus. Ready for more? Here are a few of Gordon's favorite ways to move beyond restraint.

Hash It Out

To recreate its original use, streak it to the side of a plate containing any meaty hash. "I like it as a condiment, because I like having bites that eat differently," Gordon says. "But also, it does have a fairly distinct taste. Maybe only 89 percent of people like it."

Wake Up Granola

Swap out plain yogurt with Gordon's spiced version, then make it even more cheffy with granola, honey and dried fruit. "It goes well with all dried fruits," he says of cardamom. In warmer months, think tropical flavors. In the winter, channel mulling spices and go with apples and cranberries.

Dip It

For each cup of yogurt, add the zest of one lime and one crushed clove of garlic, and use as a crudités dip for summer vegetables like tomatoes, green beans and zucchini. In colder months, make a hot potato dish by boiling potatoes in highly salted water until they get a salt crust, then dip them in the yogurt "so they soak it up."

Power Marinade

"I like cardamom with meat or poultry, because its strong flavor goes well with something gamy—things like lamb, chicken or duck," Gordon says. To use his recipe as a marinade, combine two-thirds part cardamom yogurt with one part olive oil, then add some black pepper and crushed garlic cloves. Toss the meat in the morning to use at night—don't let it sit much longer, or the acid in the yogurt will start to change the texture of the protein. When you're ready to cook, rinse the meat quickly and grill, pan-sear or broil it. "You want some caramelization," Gordon coaches. "The combination of grilling, cardamom and yogurt is evocative of tandoori." Add spices along the masala or fenugreek way, and you've got a leg up.

Surefire Condiment

"It works as a condiment or cooling element with any sort of vegetable stew," Gordon says. Think any masala or curry dish, or any entrée that packs a good amount of heat. While you technically could just stir it in, that would negate its cooling purpose and change the visual compound of the plate. 

Standout Strawberries and Cream

Rinse in-season strawberries—or ripe stone fruits like peaches—and put them in a bowl. Next to them, lay out two more bowls: one filled with cardamom yogurt and the other with brown sugar. "On a sunny day when fruit is perfect, that's dessert," Gordon says of dipping fruit from yogurt into sugar and then right into the mouth. "It's a two-second preparation." 

Beyond Bread Pudding

Make a bread pudding—any bread pudding—and season the dairy base with grated orange zest, star anise and cloves. Follow the recipe through to serving, then plate and drizzle with the cardamom yogurt and maple syrup. Feeling fancy? Mix the yogurt and mascarpone cheese in a one-to-one ratio (or skewed according to your taste preferences) and fluff that on top for a bit more tang. Then drizzle some maple love on top. Boom.