Smoked Chocolate and Tequila Ice Cream

Smoked Chocolate and Tequila Ice Cream

Ok, so I am sure you are looking at your screen thinking “Tequila Ice cream? Really?”. I know I certainly had some doubts when I saw this recipe on Serious Eats. However, my culinary curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give it a try. Final results: Un. Real. (that is unreal with a dramatic pause in between) This Smoked Chocolate and Tequila Ice Cream pairs an intriguing lineup of spices with bittersweet chocolate, tequila and two different caramels. While I can’t say this is an easy recipe, I would highly recommend giving it a go. With each rich and creamy bite, the flavors seem to dance across your palate creating a completely unique ice cream experience. Continue reading for the recipe.

Smoked Chocolate and Tequila Ice Cream Smoked Chocolate and Tequila Ice Cream
Adapted from Serious Eats.

3 cups half and half
1 cinnamon stick
5 black cardamom pods, crushed*
2 small pieces of star anise
1 tablespoon whole coffee beans
1 cup turbinado sugar
6 tablespoons good quality tequila
¼ cup water
¼ cup raw honey
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
6 egg yolks

Smoked Chocolate and Tequila Ice Cream

Place half and half, cinnamon, black cardamom, star anise and whole coffee beans into a large saucepan. Bring mixture to just below a simmer over medium heat (the liquid should just begin to bubble). Remove the saucepan from the heat and let steep, uncovered for 45 minutes.

Return the pan to the heat and cook until the liquid is just below a simmer.

In another saucepan, mix the turbinado sugar, 2 tablespoons of tequila and water and cook over a medium heat. The mixture will eventually come to a bubble and then start turning a light caramel color (no need to stir). This caramelization process takes about 8 minutes. Slowly pour the warm caramel** into the saucepan with the half and half and spices, stirring to combine.

Add the raw honey into the saucepan used to caramelize the sugar, and cook over a low heat. Caramelize the honey using the method outlined above. This should take about 5 minutes. Slowly pour the honey caramel into the pot with the half and half mixture, stirring to combine.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until the color lightens and the consistency thickens a bit. Slowly, while whisking, add ½ cup of the hot half and half mixture to the yolks. Take your time here so you don’t scramble the yolks. Once the ½ cup of hot milk is whisked in, add the remaining half and half mixture (this process is known as tempering).

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Place bittersweet chocolate chips in a medium bowl and have a fine mesh basket strainer ready.

Return the custard mixture (half and half and egg yolks) to the same saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. You will know the custard is thick enough when you see steam rise from the surface and the custard coats the spoon.

Pour the hot custard mixture through a strainer into the bowl with the bittersweet chocolate chips. Discard the spices. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the custard. Place the bowl in the ice bath and stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of tequila. Continue stirring frequently until the mixture has cooled. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator. Its best to let the ice cream base chill overnight; however, you can take it out after 4 hours if you are strapped for time.

Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.***

Makes 1 quart.

*Black cardamom gives this dish its smokiness. The flavor does not compare to green or white cardamom pods, so I can’t suggest them as substitutes. I managed to find a small box of black cardamom pods at Whole Foods. You can also purchase them online. I highly recommend taking the time to seek this spice out – it is wonderful!

**Please use extreme caution when working with hot caramel. It is considered culinary napalm!

***Since this ice cream has a good amount of tequila in it, it might not freeze to a completely solid state. My version was fairly soft and melted quickly. This certainly doesn’t affect the taste, but I did have difficulties photographing a good scoop! If you like a harder ice cream, try adding less tequila or more bittersweet chocolate chips.


  1. says

    WOW! I totally love the sound of this ice cream, and am so going to try and track down black cardamom pods (although think this will be difficult in South Africa). I was captivated by this recipe, not only becuase its ice cream which I love and make, but I thought you used ‘smoked chocolate’. We recently did a test and cold smoked some excellent Belgian couverture, which is something I had never seen or heard of before. The results were intriguing.
    Thanks again for such inspiration

  2. says

    I love unique ice cream experiences! But I’ve never made ice cream before, so I should probably start with the basics and then work my way up to something this unreal. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. says

    This looks like it tastes awesome. I appreciate your notes at the end as well. I wouldn’t have thought about how it freezes with tequila in it. >.< I would have just been angry at myself. lol

  4. Brandon Matzek says

    @Sam You might try looking online for black cardamom pods. When I first saw this recipe, I thought the chocolate was smoked somehow, but it ends up it just gets the flavor from spices. I would love to try actually smoked chocolate though. Thanks!

    @Amy I would definitely recommend starting with something easy. I started with vanilla ice cream and fruit sorbets. Once you learn some of the basics (steeping, tempering, thickening), then start branching out! I love experimenting with ice cream flavors. Such a fun and creative process.

  5. says

    WOW! What an awesome combination of flavors and spices. Not only would I not have thought about putting tequila in ice cream, I also wouldn’t have thought of pairing it with chocolate! I have put tequila in margarita cupcakes before and that was awesome, so I am definitely not opposed to using it to spike other sweets 😉 … great recipe!

  6. says

    Honestly, while looking at the screen I wasn’t saying “Tequila Ice Cream” since I’m not a big ice cream fan, but I start drooling the moment I read “smoked chocolate” yummyyyyyyy , what can i say, I love chocolate

  7. says

    What amazing flavors! This certainly looks challenging but I can imagine the combination must have a great deal of depth. I don’t know if I have tried black cardamom, what is the type of cardamom that is usually sold ground?

  8. Brandon Matzek says

    @Gree I believe ground cardamom is made from the seeds of green cardamom pods. I’ve seen black cardamom sold at local ethic markets and Whole Foods (also known as brown cardamom). also sells black cardamom.

    @Amanda Yes! This is definitely a rich, decadent ice cream.

    @Evelyne Sounds delicious!

  9. Brian Cavanagh says

    I’ve made ice cream professionally. This recipe looks good. By adding the tequila in during the cooking process, I wonder if the tequila flavor could be preserved while reducing the alcohol so the ice cream could freeze. Since I just made some jalapeno-infused tequila, I am thinking of using some of that for the tequila flavoring, since the original version of chocolate from the Aztecs and Mayans was flavored with chili powder & cinnamon. A spiced chocolate bisque (soup) which has some things in common with this ice cream recipe can be found at Cannelle et Vanille (a blog) under “spiced chocolate bisque and churros”. For those who are new to ice cream making, I’ve found a great book with easy to medium recipes by David Lebowitz: “Perfect Scoop”. He had non-chef friends test recipes using home ice cream makers and his recipes, then adjusted the recipes before they went in the book.

  10. Brandon Matzek says

    @Brian Thanks for the detailed comment. I am planning on making this ice cream again next Summer. Perhaps I will try adding some tequila during the initial cooking of the cream. Someone else suggested adding more chocolate at the end. Chili powder would be an interesting addition. The recipe as it stands right now is very bold and flavorful, so I am wondering if the addition of a new spice might be too “over the top”. I would probably switch out the black cardamom for chili powder (cayenne) changing the flavor from smoky to spicy (more along the lines of a mayan mocha). FYI – Love Aran at Cannelle et Vanille and David Lebowitz. I have featured several adaptations of David’s work on Kitchen Konfidence. Everything I’ve made from Perfect Scoop has turned out spectacular. Thanks again!


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