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Zesty, tangy, and salty, chaat masala is the magical spice mix that makes Indian street food irresistible. A tiny sprinkle of this mix adds oodles of flavor to fruits, salads, and snacks. Make your own in under 15 minutes with this easy-to-follow recipe.
The mere mention of the word chaat can make your mouth water if you are an Indian street food connoisseur like I am. Chaat or chat (as spelled by some) refers to the savory food items served at the roadside stalls in India.
A variety of dishes are broadly referred to as chaat. It mostly consists of crunchy and savory snacks such as bhelpuri, sev puri, pani puri, samosas, etc that are served with spicy green cilantro chutney and tangy and sweet tamarind chutney.
Most of these dishes call for a special spice blend to be sprinkled on top just before serving to add that extra oomph to the dish. That spice blend is called chaat masala – a zesty spice mix primarily made from black salt and dry mango powder called kala namak and amchur powder in Hindi respectively.
The tang from the mango powder and the umami flavor from the black salt leads to a flavor explosion which is what makes chaat so addictive and popular.
What is chaat masala made of?
The dry mango powder gives this masala its tang, the peppercorns add a touch of heat while the sulphur in the black salt gives it an umami-like flavor. There are other ingredients used as well such as:
The process to make them is simple – dry roast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns for about a minute or two over medium heat till it turns aromatic. The spice mixture is then cooled and ground with the rest of the ingredients to make this masala.
What is the difference between chaat masala and garam masala?
Chaat masala and garam masala are not to be confused. They are both spice mixes, but that is where the similarities end. Both the masalas are a combination of different spices; these give them a completely different flavor and smell profile.
- Ingredients – The major difference between garam masala and chaat masala is the presence of black salt. While it is an essential ingredient of the chaat masala, it is almost never used in garam masala. It is the black salt that gives the chaat masala its sulfurous smell and taste.
- When it is added to food – chaat masala is sprinkled on top of cooked food to enhance the taste and flavor, while garam masala is added to the food while it is being cooked so it can release its flavor into the food.
- Flavor profile – Chaat masala has a tartness to it, which comes from the addition of dry mango powder, known as amchur. It also has predominant flavors of cumin, coriander, and asafoetida (hing). Garam masala does not have amchur or asafoetida in it. Instead, it contains highly aromatic spices and herbs such as black cardamom, green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, etc. which give it a stronger and more heady flavor that is not present in the chaat masala.
- Salt – Another difference is that chaat masala almost always has salt added to it, and garam masala does not.
What can be used instead of chaat masala?
I know some folks would suggest garam masala, but I don’t think it makes a good substitute for chaat masala since it lacks the tanginess. If you are in a rush, you could combine mango powder and black salt in a 2:1 ratio to recreate the flavors. To add a bit of heat, use either chili powder or pepper powder, as needed.
If you are out of mango powder, lime juice is a good substitute but without using black salt it is going to impossible to get the strong sulphuric aroma.
Is chaat masala unhealthy?
While feasting on chaat every day can be detrimental because they mostly consist of deep-fried snacks, chaat masala in itself is not unhealthy. On the contrary, the spices included in this blend are actually good for you. For instance, ginger, black peppercorns, black salt, and coriander support the digestive system and help reduce flatulence and bloating while asafoetida, cumin, and mango powder are good sources of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
What is chaat masala used for?
The use of chaat masala is not just restricted to savory snacks. It can be used in a variety of foods including cut fruits, salads, sprinkled over raitas, potatoes, popcorns, fries, tandoori chicken, seekh kababs, chicken, or paneer tikka, and a whole host of other dishes.
How to use chaat masala
Chaat masala is usually a finishing spice but in some appetizers, it is added to the marinade as well. Here are some of the recipes that use chaat masala 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! The recipe includes both Instant Pot and oven version.
- Boondi raita – crispy chickpea flour balls soaked in spice-infused creamy yogurt, that’s what this delicious boondi raita is made of. 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 for whenever hunger strikes. A healthy alternative to chips, this crispy and light snack made from puffed lily seeds is ready in 10 minutes.
Homemade Chaat masala 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.