Garam Masala is an aromatic blend of ground spices common in Indian cuisines. The name translates to "warming spices" or "hot spices", and often includes dozens of ingredients. If you're a fan of Indian food, this is an ingredient you need in your spice cabinet.
Garam Masala Recipe
Garam masala makes your taste buds dance with pleasure. If you appreciate a spicy, savory blend, garam masala is a spice powder blend for you. Of course you can use a store bought blend, but when you make it at home, the spices are so much fresher and vibrant, and make a big difference to all of your homemade Indian recipes.
What is garam masala?
Garam masala is an exquisite blend of ground spices common in Indian cuisines. Indian cooks use it in small amounts at various cooking stages to layer in and develop flavor. It is often used as a finishing spice.
The literal meaning of "garam masala" translates to "warming spices" or "hot spices", so look for the blend to bring spicy heat. Be careful with the amount you use, as it can be a bit overwhelming.
There is no single way to make it, and recipes vary from cook to cook, though it is typically made from a singular (albeit long) list of ingredients. Depending on those ingredients, garam masala can be hot and spicy, or it can be more aromatic, or a combination of the two.
Ingredients in Garam Masala Powder
Garam masala ingredients and flavors vary from region to region, reflecting personal tastes and available ingredients. For example, the spice is mixed with black pepper in the northern regions of India. In the Southern regions, garam masala is mixed with red chilies to add more flavor. All in all, some blends can be made with more than 32 ingredients.
Typical ingredients in garam masala include some or all of the following:
- Cardamom Pods - I'm using green cardamom pods for this recipe, but both green and black cardamom are often used.
- Cumin Seeds
- Coriander Seeds
- Fennel Seeds
- Black Peppercorns - White peppercorns are also commonly used.
- Cinnamon Stick
- Bay Leaf
- Other Common Ingredients - Dried chili pepper, cassia bark, curry leaf, nutmeg and star anise.
How to Make Garam Masala
Toast the spices. Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add all of the spices. Dry toast the spices in the hot skillet about 1 minute, or until they slightly darken and become fragrant. Do not let them burn.
Grind the toasted spices. Transfer the toasted ingredients to a spice grinder (or use a mortar and pestle) and grind them into a fine powder.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Dry toasting. Dry toasting the ingredients before grinding adds complexity and another layer of flavor to your finished spice blends, especially with garam masala. You can skip the toasting and go straight to grinding, but I highly encourage toasting the ingredients first.
- Use your favorite spices. If you have additional spices available, try to add some proportions as well to mixture. Experiment to your personal tastes. You never know when the experiment will become your new favorite.
Keep garam masala spice in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, this spice blend will stay potent for up to 3 months.
Garam Masala Substitute
If you are out of garam masala, take the same amount of curry powder and use it in your dish. The taste and aroma will be similar, but the warming effect may vary. Curry powder works as an alternative because it is a pure Indian spice.
Also, chaat masala is another great substitute. The taste is a bit different but if you are making an Indian dish, chaat masala will do just fine as the taste is tart, sweet, and salty. However, while adding chaat masala, don’t add it all in one go because it can change the taste of the dish. Try to add it gradually and keep tasting until you find the perfect spice balance.
But what if you don’t have curry powder or chaat masala in the cabinet? Try making your own garam masala using cumin and allspice.
To make your own garam masala, take one part of cumin and 1/4th of the allspice and the blend will work great for a simple seasoning. The taste will not be the same as garam masala because garam masala is a blend of so many spices, but it can work in a pinch.
What is the difference between garam masala and curry powder?
Garam masala is a finishing spice which is normally sprinkled on the cooked food to add the flavor and aroma. On the other hand, curry is a thin paste used in vegetables and meat. As mentioned, garam masala is used more as a finishing seasoning, curry is used in the cooking process.
What does "masala" mean in Indian cooking?
Indian cuisine is famous for its flavor and aroma but there are some terms which are not understandable by non-natives. One such word is "Masala", which people often confuse what it really means. Masala is basically a Tamil word which is an extension of Masalai.
The term masalai was given to the paste of blended spices. The original word is "masalai" but with the language travel, it transformed into masala.
If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Homemade Garama Masala Recipe (How to Make Garam Masala)
- 10 green cardamom pods seeded and husks removed
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 8 cloves
- 2 blades mace
- 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add all of the spices.
- Dry toast the spices in the hot skillet about 1 minute, or until they slightly darken and become fragrant. Do not let them burn.
- Transfer the toasted ingredients to a spice grinder (or use a mortar and pestle) and grind them into a fine powder.
- Use immediately. Store in an airtight container and keep in a cool, dark place.