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I am preparing a chili for a contest. The recipe calls for cardamom (along with chili powder and cumin). I have never cooked with it before. From my research, it seems this spice is used more commonly with Indian cuisine.

I do love Indian food. In fact, a good Indian friend at work tells me he does use cardamom, but most usually for sweets. His suggestion was to use garam masala instead of cardamom. But I wonder if the combination of cardamom and chili powder (and possibly cloves) will make my beef chili work.

Has anyone used this spice for anything other than sweets? Does anyone have strong feelings about using it or omitting it in a beef chili?

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    This seems either unclear what you're asking or just primarily opinion-based. It's clearly something that a lot of people like in non-sweet dishes (all over the place in Indian cuisine, and it's in the recipe you found) and the only way you can really find out if you'll like it is to try it; all we can say is "sure sounds good to me". Is there anything specific you're trying to find out? – Cascabel Oct 22 '14 at 20:00
  • Yes. What I asked - about others' experience with this spice in chili. I counseled my Indian friend, and he didn't think it was wise. Therefore, the recipe I found is questionable. Would my question not be useful if a Seasoned Advice user (or many users) had this very experience? – Jason P Sallinger Oct 22 '14 at 20:42
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    I have had cardamom in coffee (not sweetened), and it was very good. It's a fairly smoky spice, and I think it would add a neat dimension to a meat chili. – Erica Oct 22 '14 at 22:24
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    By the way...the chili is sitting here beside me, warming until lunch. It came out very well. – Jason P Sallinger Oct 23 '14 at 11:39
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    One thing about cardamon: Don't overdo it. It's a very strong spice that can easily dominate the taste and it's not good as dominant taste. It gives a very specific tint to a taste when added in moderation, but it can spoil your dish if you add too much - and in its case a very moderate amount can be too much. In case of coffee, one pinch is right, three pinches and the coffee turns icky. – SF. Oct 26 '14 at 14:02
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Cincinnati Chili often has cardamom, along with cinnamon and cocoa. Cardamom is used in savory and sweet foods all over the world, not just in India.

If you have reason to want to try this particular recipe, then try the recipe as written. There are thousands of beloved recipes for all kinds of chili. There is no reason to say, "That one looks good, I'll do it just like that but omit a certain ingredient 'cause it makes me nervous."

Your friend's advice is a bit odd to me because Garam Masala usually contains cardamom (sometimes black, green and brown)

My advice is to either try the recipe as written, or find another with which you're more comfortable.

Or come up with your own. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to chili.

BTW, I love cardamom in savory. I make a Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho) that I crave if I haven't had it for a while. It wouldn't be right without cardamom.

  • Since this is a contest, I am worried that the flavor will have too much of an Eastern taste. But at the same time, I don't want to make the standard Western chili favor profile. – Jason P Sallinger Oct 22 '14 at 20:45
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    @JasonPSallinger That is exactly the challenge of these kinds of competitions. Some judges (I would be one) want outside the box, others want what they know, done well. What I would not do is make an "outside the box" recipe, but shy away from the most "outside the box" ingredient. That's just asking for it to not excel on either level. BTW, if your cardamon is ground and it doesn't say otherwise, it's green (at least in the US). Cardamom other than green will specifically say. Only the pods are truly green – Jolenealaska Oct 22 '14 at 20:53
  • Jolene, this is the motivation I needed. Perfect advice. If you craft an answer, the cred is yours. – Jason P Sallinger Oct 22 '14 at 21:13
  • oops. I see this was your answer. And so you shall... ting – Jason P Sallinger Oct 22 '14 at 21:14
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Given your description, I assume that you are speaking of green cardamom.

I, however, use black cardamom in my chili. It is a radically different spice from the green, and imparts a smokiness to the chili. I highly recommend exploring that. So, yes, for me it is a staple.

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Black and Green Cardamom

  • Judging from the appearance of the cardamom in the container, it looks like it might be black. Unless green cardamom also appears with a greyish tint. – Jason P Sallinger Oct 22 '14 at 20:43
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    Green cardamom is smaller (about 1 cm) and had a semi-pliable husk. Black cardamom is significantly larger (1-2 cm) and has a hard outer husk that needs to be cracked. Green smells sweet, soft, and pleasant. Black smells like a sharp smokey-menthol shot into the nose: A recoil from the jar is not uncommon. – Grey Dog Oct 23 '14 at 0:27

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