Learn how to make Garam masala – the quintessential spice blend that makes Indian curries and biryanis come to life. This warm and earthy spice blend comes together in 5 minutes and is so much better than store-bought.
What is garam masala?
The warm and robust flavor that envelopes your mouth when you take a spoonful of your favorite tikka masala gravy is courtesy garam masala. Hence the name where garam stands for warm/hot and masala means spice mix.
The versatility of garam masala is such that it allows you to cook a plethora of curries and even biryanis without needing a ton of other spice blends. A very good example would be this easy shrimp biryani or this simple yet flavorful rajma masala.
What does garam masala have in it?
Indian food is known for the use of whole spices and often these spices are dry roasted to create a spice blend. While South India relies on Sambar powder, Kundapur masala powder to flavor their curries, the rest of India uses garam masala. What goes in the spice blend depends on what’s locally available to that region and therefore there is no one recipe.
A basic garam masala recipe would include coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cardamom seeds, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and bay leaves. The store-bought ones also include spices such as stone flower (daggad phool), star anise, mace, dry ginger powder for a more robust and complex flavor.
While these additional spices are included in my recipe, I have marked them as optional because skipping them will not make a huge impact on the essence of the blend.
Though this spice mix can be stored for up to six months, make it in small batches because like any spice mix it loses flavor over time.
How is garam masala different from curry powder
Alright let’s get this straight – no one in India uses curry powder and it is NOT a substitute for garam masala. Curry powder was created by the Britishers in a bid to recreate the curry flavored dishes that they had in India.
While garam masala and curry powder do have a few spices in common, curry powder also includes mustard seeds, turmeric, and fenugreek seeds. The end result is nowhere close to garam masala.
How to use Garam masala?
Freshly made garam masala is a lot more potent than store bought, so use half the quantity you would normally use.
Think of garam masala as a finishing spice that is added almost at the end of the cooking. Usage of garam masala is not restricted to curries or biryanis, sprinkle it on your salads, add it to your marinades or use it as dry rubs for meat before grilling.
Recipes that use garam masala
How to make garam masala
It is a two-step process – Roast all the ingredients except dried ginger powder and nutmeg powder and blend them to a fine powder. As simple as that 🙂
If you are someone who likes to make their own homemade spice blends, I have a few tried and tested recipes that I am sure you’ll love –
- Authentic Sambar Powder – This aromatic spice blend transforms ordinary lentil-vegetable dishes into delicious, wholesome stews called sambar that is often served along with rice, idli or dosa.
- Udupi Rasam Powder – Check out this easy recipe for rasam powder – a zesty, aromatic spice blend from South India that makes rasam (a tangy lentil-based soup) taste so darn good.
- Kundapur Masala Powder (Taal powder) – This spice blend will help you cut your cooking time for most Mangalorean dishes substantially – that’s why most folks stock it at home.
Garam masala recipe
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns see note
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks each 3 inches long
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds from green cardamom pods
- 4-5 Indian bay leaves tej patta
- 1 tablespoon stone flower daggad phool - optional
- 2 star anise - optional
- 1 whole mace ~4-5 blades - optional
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger powder - optional
- 1 whole nutmeg grated (~1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder)
- Place all the ingredients except dried ginger and nutmeg powder over medium heat in a heavy bottomed skillet. Roast the ingredients for 3-4 minutes until toasted and aromatic.
- Transfer to a plate to cool for about 10 minutes. Add ground nutmeg and dried ginger powder. Blend to a fine powder.
- Store in an air-tight container for about 6 months away from heat and moisture.
- This recipe yields a mild version of garam masala. To increase the heat, increase the amount of peppercorns to 2 teaspoons.