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 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. To make homemade garam masala, whole spices are lightly toasted to release their flavor and aroma. They are then cooled and ground to a fine consistency.
- 1/2 cup Coriander Seeds
- 1/4 cup Cumin Seeds
- 1 tablespoon Whole Cloves
- 1 tablespoon Peppercorn Whole
- 1 tablespoon Green Cardamom Pods
- 2 Black Cardamom Pods Whole
- 1 large Star Anise or 2 small ones
- 1 tablespoon Fennel Seeds
- 3 inch Cinnamon Stick broken into 1 inch pieces
- 4 Bay Leaf torn onto small pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg freshly grated
- 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. Add all spices to a large skillet, except nutmeg. 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 roasting. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Using a coffee/spice grinder, grind this mix in 3-4 batches. Give it a good shake in between to prevent spices from clumping. Grind to a fine texture. Add freshly grated nutmeg and mix everything. Store in an air-tight container, in a cool and dry place.
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates. If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.