Vanilla Bean Cardamom Pudding

My internet connection has been intermittently down all week, and I neglected my posting duties. So, rather than writing, we took some hikes, (it was gorgeous…sunny and 65) and I diligently worked on perfecting this pudding. Someone had to do it…and oh, the suffering…waiting by the fridge for the pudding to set…digging into spoonful after luscious spoonful, contemplating whether there was enough cardamom…and finally the perfect ratio of vanilla bean to cardamom just in time for a much-anticipated dinner with a long-time friend and her new sweetheart.

Vanilla Cardamom Pudding

Can you see the vanilla flecks in there?

Recently, Jennifer inspired me with her homemade butterscotch pudding. Until now, my experience of homemade pudding consisted of some temperamental tapioca and of course, the dubious stuff out of the box. I’d never made a cornstarch thickened pudding from scratch. Since the ingredients are sugar, cornstarch, and some sort of flavorings (vanilla, or cocoa powder, or spices), and you just add milk…why would I make it from a box?! It’s so simple! With only a few minutes active work, and some time to chill in the fridge, you have a ridiculously easy (almost idiot-proof) treat without any artificial junk. Plus it’s as velvety and delicious as it is easy to make.

Homemade pudding is so painless and uncomplicated with infinite possible variations, I’ll make sure to have these staples around for unexpected guests and larger retreat catering jobs. I’ve made this a few (four) times to get the flavorings just right. Vanilla and cardamom have never been so happy together, than in this silky confection.

Cardamom has become our new favorite sweet spice. I enjoy it very much in savory Indian dishes, but in the last two or three years, I have developed a whole new appreciation for it’s heady contribution to everything from apple crisp to now, pudding. Where I used to use cinnamon (which has become…almost pedestrian) I now experiment with cardamom.

Using the whole vanilla bean rather than just extract lends an intense depth of flavor. This particular combination of a half vanilla bean and four cardamom pods (for four servings) is perfectly spiced for me. Both flavors come though clearly without being overpowering. It’s another one of these great recipes that are easy and wonderful for a classic dessert, or an exceptional one to really wow dinner guests. It brings out the kid in all of us.

As a little reminder, whenever you make a recipe that has only a few ingredients, it’s important to make sure they are high quality and fresh. Often, cheap brown sugar is just white sugar with brown coloring (not optimal). Real brown sugar still has the incredible flavor and minerals of molasses and will take your pudding in a richer butterscotchy direction.

The cardamom should reach out and grab you when you open the container, and the vanilla bean should be supple and practically oozing it’s deceptively tiny black seeds. Also, with the prevalence of genetically modified corn, I suggest you find corn starch that isn’t. As always, I recommend using as many local/organic/sustainable ingredients as possible.

Vanilla Bean Cardamom Pudding (makes 4 servings)

2 C. whole milk
4 whole green cardamom pods
1/2 a vanilla bean
1/3 C. packed brown sugar
3 Tbs. corn starch
scant pinch of salt
(to heighten and bring together all the flavors)

It is an easy recipe, but you do need to be watchful that you don’t scorch the pudding. To take out a little insurance, I recommend a heavy bottom saucepan and lowish heat.

Using your fingers, crack and pry open the green cardamom pods and drop them into the pan. Take your half vanilla bean and slice it all the way down lengthwise to expose the gorgeous black seeds. Scrape them into the pan, and drop the bean itself in as well. The whole thing will infuse flavor, but you need to release the seeds.

Pour in the milk, and stirring, turn the heat on medium-low. Within about 5 minutes, the milk/cardamom/vanilla mixture will be hot and tiny bubbles will form around the edge of the pan. Turn off the heat, put the lid on and let the spices steep in the hot milk for about 10 minutes.

Strain the milk into another vessel to remove the little black cardamom seeds, green pods, and 1/2 vanilla bean. You’ll still have plenty of little vanilla seeds, and they just add character. Put the brown sugar, corn starch and salt in the saucepan, and whisk in the flavored milk.

Turn the heat back on to medium-low, whisking gently and consistently, but not frothing. In about five minutes, the mixture will go from milk consistency to thicker, closer-to-pudding consistency. At this point, turn off the heat. Divy the pudding into individual fun servings or one big bowl. Chill in the fridge until cold and set, at least 2-3 hours. You can happily eat it unadorned, but it’s truly luxurious with a dollop of fresh whipped cream with a little vanilla extract and sweetened with agave syrup or sugar. It really elevates a familiar kid treat, that you could proudly serve anyone. Yum!

A footnote about buying spices. Most of the time I buy spices in bulk. They are fresher, often organic, save on packaging since I just refill an old jar, and I can buy just the quantity I want. When I am in the mood to buy a lot of spices and dried herbs at once, or get mixes I just can’t buy locally, I always buy from Penzeys. They are a family run company, specializing in spices and herbs. They have a wonderfully informative catalog with recipes submitted by customers and history and geography lessons. Their prices are very reasonable for such high quality, so I highly recommend them. I just wish they sold organic versions as well.

16 thoughts on “Vanilla Bean Cardamom Pudding”

  1. This is a dessert I will love! I have never used cardamon before. Can a split vanilla bean just be put back into the bottle until ready for use in another dish–does it keep well? Where do you buy your spices–brand?

  2. JEP – Thanks! I’m so glad you asked about the spices, since I had intended to include that in my post. I’ve added more about the spices to the body of my post, so that should answer your question regarding where I buy them.

    As for the vanilla bean, you can do a few things. First I just want to clarify what your question means exactly. I cut the vanilla bean in half, (without splitting it lengthwise yet) and just put the other half away for another dish at some other time. Then I took the half I wanted to use for the recipe and split it lengthwise and scraped out the seeds. What I did in this recipe was to add the seeds and split bean into the milk to get all the flavor. If you just wanted to add the seeds, you could reserve the 1/2 bean (now without seeds) and put it in a container of sugar to flavor your sugar with the scent of vanilla, put it in your bottle of vanilla extract for more vanilla flavor, or save it in the jar for something where you want to steep just the 1/2 bean (still without seeds) in something (like the syrup for my poached pears) 😉
    Did that answer your question? I hope I was clear. Thanks for starting the line of conversation!

  3. Now those are my kind of spices! Simply love that combo. Indeed the whole vanilla bean gives greater flavor and we always have cardamom in the pantry. Last week I used both these to make Cacao Madeleines. Hope you are doing well. Oh and if I find any places to buy organic spices for excellent prices I’ll be sure to pass the info along to you.

  4. I didn’t know pudding had no eggs in it.. Aside form gelatin-set ones, the other pudding I’ve made is chocolate 🙂
    It looks good, but I have to confess I have no idea what cardamom tastes like!

  5. hi bri,

    okay, i am totally making this pudding tout suite! i usually use the cardamon for curry but your idea sounds delicious! i love it when spices are so versatile.

    bonus: i have all the ingredients in the house already – yippee!

    it is 13 degrees here and snowing. glad one of us got out for a hike! 🙂

  6. I love the flavor of cardamom, it’s fantastic. The first time I had it was in an Indian restaurant in their “kheer” dessert. Thanks for this!

  7. Ingrid – Thanks! It’s great to see you. I’ll have to check out the cocoa madeleines. The combination of cardamom and vanilla is a winning one.

    Manggy – You can make pudding with or without eggs, but the cornstarch does make it pretty silky. And without gelatin, it’s vegetarian (you know, for your vegetarian friends) 🙂 If you’ve never had cardamom, you are in for a treat. You’ve never had Indian food? It’s so common in Indian food, but only certain dishes call for cardamom on it’s own, or in a form that you would be able to taste it distinctly. Thanks for your comment!

    Gigi – Thanks for your comment (and enthusiasm). I’d love to hear what you and the hubs think of it since it so simple and tasty.
    Yep, we are spoiled with our weather. Sorry it’s so cold in your neck of the woods. All the more reason to make some warm comfort food. 🙂

    Jennifer – I thought you’d like this recipe. With your affinity for spices and world cuisine, let me know what you think of this one. Great to see you!

    Patricia – Cardamom comes in so many forms (ground, whole green pods, bleached white pods, whole seeds). It’s a wonderful spice to experiment with and this recipe is a great way to ease into it.

    Hillary – Me too! I love keer. I should make it, since it’s my second favorite Indian dessert (first is gulab jamun).

  8. Bri–oh, I totally must have not read the recipe directions very well & thanks for explaining the process, again! Real whole vanilla beans are sooo worth the expense!

  9. JEP – Hey, no problem. I’m glad it was clear. Sometimes I’m not sure how many assumptions I’m making when I write a post. Yes, whole vanilla beans ARE worth it. Although, my local grocery store was selling them for $10 a piece. Too spendy. A local health food store had them for $3 a piece. Much more like it. Plus, Penzeys is a great resource and they have them for about $2 each.

  10. Vanilla Sunshine

    Tasty! I was trying to find the basics of a baked cardamom pudding to pair with lingonberry-orange compote, but I may use this method instead..seems much quicker!

  11. Hi! I just made this exactly as indicated and it is incredible. A beautiful, delicate flavor. I plan to pair it with either candied pumpkin seeds or saffron-olive oil cookies at a dinner party tomorrow.

  12. Melissa ~ Thrilled you’re so pleased with the outcome. Sounds like you have really lovely ideas for your pairings!! Have a wonderful dinner party and let us know what your guests think.

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