Garam Masala is a fragrant blend of locally grown spices from the Indian subcontinent, similar in concept to the French herb de Provence or Chinese five-spice powder. The basic composition of this blend differs by region, since the climate and soil-type varies all over India. Plus, almost every household has their own spin on homemade, authentic garam masala based on their taste preference.
The curry powder mixes that are available in supermarkets in the US are similar to the garam masala spice mix, except the curry powders often also have turmeric and are thus yellow in color. The authentic garam masala spice mix in India typically does not contain turmeric and is usually brown in overall color.
How to Make Garam Masala Spice Mix
The garam masala ingredients are typically a ground mix of whole Indian spices like cumin, coriander seeds, cloves, cinnamon bark, cardamom, etc. I start by lightly roasting whole spices to release their flavor and aroma. Then, I cool the spice blend and grind it to a fine consistency, using a coffee grinder. If stored in a cool and dry place, this homemade garam masala stays fresh for months.
Ground vs. Whole Spices
This blend is my grandmother’s recipe for Garam Masala. Most of my curry and Indian recipes on this blog call for garam masala as one of the main flavoring components. Some traditional Indian recipes ask for whole spices, to add a stronger aroma and flavor to the dishes. These whole spices are not pleasant to bite on, so they have to be fished out before serving. I prefer to use this blend instead to make my life easier.
Homemade garam masala beats store-bought any day. But for busier times, I always have a store-bought back-up in my pantry. I have tried many brands and find the Frontier Garam Masala blend to be a close substitute. I feel it’s well-balanced and no single spice overpowers the others.
Popular Indian Recipes with Garam Masala
I have 60+ popular Indian recipes; many of them use this garam masala mix and many of them have instructions for making in the instant pot or the stove-top.
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Garam Masala Recipe
Spices for Basic Garam Masala
- 3 tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
- 2 tsp Green Cardamom seeds or 2 tbsp green cardamom pods
- 1 tsp Whole Cloves (about 20)
- 1 tsp Black Peppercorns (about 25)
- 2 inch Cinnamon Stick flat cassia bark broken into ½-inch pieces
- 2 Bay Leaf torn onto small pieces
- 1 tsp Fennel Seeds (saunf)
- 1 Black Cardamom Pod
Add after grinding the spices
- ½ teaspoon Nutmeg freshly grated, add after blending
- Check all spices and remove any rotten pieces or dirt. Check cloves and remove any stems without buds. Break the cinnamon into smaller pieces, and clean the dirt between the grooves using a damp kitchen towel.
- Add all spices to a large skillet. Lightly toast these spices, on medium-heat, for about 2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds or so. The spices are done when they start releasing their aroma. Turn off the heat. Transfer to a plate to stop the toasting. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Using a coffee or spice grinder, grind this mix in 3-4 batches. Give it a good shake in between to prevent spices from clumping. Grind it to a fine texture.
- Grate nutmeg using a microplane and add to the spice-mix. Store in an air-tight container, in a cool and dry place.
- Stick with making a small batch. This recipe makes 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of seasoning mix. The ground spices tend to lose their flavor after a few months, which can alter the flavor balance of the whole blend.
- Cool the toasted, whole spices completely before grinding. If the toasted spices are still warm when you add them to the spice grinder, the warmth will turn the spices into a paste rather than a powder.
- Store in a cool, dark place. Place the ground garam masala spices a small mason jar, label, date and store in your spice cabinet for up to 3 months.
- If you're in a pinch, a good alternative to Garam masala is to combine 1 part ground cumin to 1/4 part ground allspice. This works as a good substitute for this wonderfully complex spice mix.
- Homemade garam masala beats store-bought any day. But for busier times, I always have a store-bought back-up in my pantry. I have tried many brands and find the Everest Garam Masala blend to be a close substitute.