Note: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Tangy, spicy, and salty, chaat masala is the magical spice blend that makes Indian street food irresistible. Add a tiny sprinkle of this powder to fruits, salads, and snacks for that extra burst of flavor. And the best part? You can easily make your own chaat masala in under 15 minutes with this easy-to-follow recipe.
The connection between chaat and chaat masala
For an Indian street food enthusiast like myself, the mere mention of the word “chaat” is enough to make the taste buds tingle with anticipation. Chaat, sometimes called chat, refers to a mouthwatering array of savory delights served at roadside stalls across India.
These delectable offerings include a wide variety of dishes. Picture crunchy and savory snacks like bhelpuri, sev puri, pani puri, and samosas—each a flavor-packed masterpiece in its own right. What elevates these mouth-watering snacks to culinary perfection is the pairing with spicy green cilantro chutney and tangy-sweet tamarind chutney.
But there’s one more element that takes these dishes from delicious to divine—chaat masala. This zesty spice blend, primarily composed of three key ingredients: black peppercorns, black salt, and dry mango powder (known as kala namak and amchur powder in Hindi, respectively), is the secret behind the irresistible allure of chaat.
The combination of tanginess from the mango powder, heat from the black pepper, and the umami flavor of black salt create a flavor explosion that makes chaat not just addictive but also incredibly popular.
What does chaat masala taste like?
Chaat masala is a distinctive Indian spice blend known for its tangy, salty taste with a subtle hint of heat.
What is chaat masala made of?
Chaat masala typically consists of three key ingredients: dry mango powder, black salt, and black peppercorns.
Dry mango powder (Amchur or Amchoor powder): The element responsible for the masala’s signature tanginess.
Black salt: The secret star of chaat masala, black salt, also known as Himalayan or pink salt, contains sulfur compounds that contribute to the umami flavor.
Black peppercorns: Introducing a subtle touch of heat, black peppercorns contribute to the masala’s well-rounded flavor.
Along with those 3 key ingredients, there are a few others that play a role in crafting this flavorful mixture:
- Cumin seeds – Infuse warmth and earthiness, complementing the tangy and savory notes.
- Whole coriander seeds – Add fresh, citrusy flair, enhancing overall flavor.
- Carom seeds (ajwain) – Bring a hint of thyme-like fragrance, adding depth to the masala’s complexity.
- Dried ginger powder – Adds citrus and peppery notes to this spice blend.
- Dried mint leaves – Contribute a refreshing, cooling element, balancing spice and tang.
- Asafoetida – known for its distinct aroma and savory taste.
Note: You can easily find all these ingredients in Indian grocery stores or Indian supermarkets worldwide.
How to make chaat masala
Creating your own chaat masala is a straightforward process. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Dry Roasting: Begin by dry roasting cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns. Heat them over medium heat for approximately one to two minutes, until they turn aromatic.
- Cooling: It’s essential to let the roasted spice mixture cool down. Grinding spices when they are hot can release moisture, affecting the shelf-life of the spice blend.
- Grinding: Once the mixture has cooled, grind it with the remaining ingredients. This includes dry mango powder (amchur), black salt, carom seeds (ajwain), dried ginger powder, dried mint leaves, and asafoetida. Grind it to a fine powder. Transfer it into an airtight container and store it away from direct sunlight.
Store chaat masala in an air-tight container in a cool, dark, and dry place away from direct sunlight. It preserves well for 3-4 months – after this period, it will start to lose its flavor and aroma.
What is the difference between chaat masala and garam masala?
Chaat masala and garam masala are two Indian spice blends that often share shelf space in the Indian kitchen, but couldn’t be more different in flavor and use. Let’s dive into the distinctions between these aromatic mixes to demystify their uniqueness.
- Ingredients – The most significant difference between the two lies in the inclusion of black salt. Chaat masala features black salt as an essential ingredient, whereas garam masala rarely incorporates it. This black salt imparts a distinct sulfurous aroma and taste to chaat masala.
- Timing – Chaat masala is typically sprinkled on cooked food to enhance its taste and flavor. In contrast, garam masala is added during the cooking process, allowing its flavors to infuse the dish as it cooks.
- Flavor profile – Chaat masala is tangy, thanks to the dry mango powder. It also prominently features flavors like cumin, coriander, and asafoetida (hing). On the other hand, garam masala skips dry mango powder and asafoetida. Instead, it contains aromatic spices and herbs such as black cardamom, green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and more, lending this popular Indian spice blend a more intense and heady flavor distinct from chaat masala.
- Salt – Another noteworthy distinction is that chaat masala often contains added salt, while garam masala does not.
What can you substitute for chaat masala?
While some may suggest garam masala as an alternative to chaat masala, it may not quite hit the mark due to its lack of tanginess. Here’s a quick workaround for recreating the flavors in a pinch: Combine mango powder and black salt in a 2:1 ratio. This blend will capture the essence of chaat masala’s tangy and umami notes. To introduce some heat, incorporate either chili powder or pepper powder to taste.
Note: If you’re out of mango powder, citric acid powder is a good substitute. Just note that without black salt, replicating the unique sulfurous aroma of chaat masala may be a challenge.
Is chaat masala unhealthy?
Chaat masala on its own is not considered unhealthy. The spices used in this blend offer various health benefits. Here’s a breakdown of why chaat masala can be beneficial:
- Digestive Benefits: Chaat masala often contains ginger, black peppercorns, black salt, and coriander, all of which can support your digestive system. They may help reduce flatulence and bloating, making it easier for your body to process food.
- Minerals and Vitamins: Ingredients like cumin and mango powder in chaat masala are good sources of essential minerals and vitamins. Cumin, for example, is rich in iron and may help improve iron absorption in the body—source: Healthline.
- Antioxidants: Some components of chaat masala, like coriander, contain antioxidants that can help combat free radicals in your body, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
It’s important to note that the health benefits of chaat masala depend on its usage and pairing. Chaat dishes often feature deep-fried snacks, which, if overconsumed, can be unhealthy due to their high calorie and fat content. Enjoying chaat in moderation is key, but chaat masala, with its beneficial spices, can enhance your dishes when used wisely.
How to use chaat masala? What is chaat masala used for?
Chaat masala is a versatile spice blend that can be used in various ways to enhance the flavor of your dishes. It’s primarily known as a finishing spice, but it can also be incorporated into marinades for some appetizers. Here are some common methods of using chaat masala in Indian dishes:
- Finishing spice: Sprinkle chaat masala on top of finished dishes just before serving. This adds a burst of tangy and spicy flavor to the dish. It’s commonly used on street foods like papdi chaat, dahi vadas, aloo tikki, etc.
- Marinades: For appetizers like tandoori chicken, seekh kababs, or paneer tikka, you can incorporate chaat masala into the marinade. It infuses the protein with a hint of spice and tang as it marinates, giving a delightful twist to the final dish.
- Yogurt-based dishes: Stir chaat masala into yogurt-based raitas to elevate their taste.
- Sprinkled over fries: Whether it’s homemade potato fries or sweet potato fries, a sprinkle of chaat masala can take them to the next level.
- Fruit chaat: Try it on cut fruits like watermelon, apples, or pineapple for an unexpected tangy kick.
- Potatoes: Whether roasted, mashed, or fried, chaat masala complements the earthy taste of potatoes.
- Grilled meats and vegetables: Use chaat masala as a seasoning for grilled meats, seafood, or vegetables to infuse them with its distinctive flavors.
- Snacks: Sprinkle chaat masala on snacks like popcorn, roasted nuts, or chickpeas for a unique and flavorful snack experience.
Remember, chaat masala is potent, so a little goes a long way. Start with a small amount and adjust to your taste preferences. It’s a fantastic way to add a unique Indian twist to a wide range of dishes!
Recipes using chaat masala
Here are some of the recipes from Indian cuisine that use chaat masala powder as a flavor enhancer –
- Corn bhel – Try this non-traditional way of making corn bhel or corn chaat, and you’ll be hooked. While most Indian street food demands a mandatory drizzling of tamarind chutney and green chutney, this no-fuss corn bhel recipe doesn’t require either.
- Grilled Veggie Sandwich – You’ll fall in love with this Bombay sandwich – bread slathered with butter and green chutney, layered with veggies, and then grilled to perfection. Learn how to make this sought-after Indian street food at home.
- Tandoori Chicken – This quick and easy Tandoori chicken recipe makes the most flavorful and authentic chicken that is crisp on the outside and succulent on the inside – just like it is supposed to be!
- Boondi raita – This delicious boondi raita is made by soaking crispy chickpea flour balls in creamy spice-infused yogurt. Serve it with biryanis or with rotis and a side dish – it is the perfect way to wrap up your meal.
- Phool Makhana – Roasted phool makhana or fox nuts is an addictive treat that is perfect for movie nights or whenever hunger strikes. A healthy alternative to chips, this crispy and light snack made from puffed lily seeds is ready in 10 minutes.
Authentic Chaat Masala Powder Recipe
- 3 tablespoons cumin seeds jeera
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds dhania
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon carom seeds ajwain
- 4 tablespoons dry mango powder amchur
- 2 tablespoon black Salt kala namak
- 1 teaspoon dry ginger powder optional
- 1 teaspoon dried mint leaves optional [see note]
- ¼ teaspoon asafoetida hing
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Add cumin seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns to a cast-iron skillet kept over medium heat.
- Roast the ingredients for 1-2 minutes until toasted and aromatic.
- Transfer to a plate and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
- Add the cooled spices along with the remaining ingredients to a blender.
- Blend to a fine powder.
- Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place for about 3-4 months.
Disclaimer: Approximate nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.
This recipe was originally published on 8/18/2020, and the text and images were updated on Oct 29, 2023.