Garam Masala Recipe

March 31, 2020 By Aneesha |

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Learn how to make authentic Garam Masala from scratch in 15 minutes. This fragrant blend of locally grown spices from India includes ten whole spices that are toasted to release their aroma and oils, then ground. Use it to season lentils, chicken, meat, vegetables, curries and more!

garam masala in small white bowl with ground Indian spices in backgroud

Authentic Garam Masala Recipe

Most of my Indian recipes on this blog call for garam masala as one of the main flavoring components.

Since traditional Indian cuisine requires the use of many whole spices, this ‘ground’ blend works as a great way to incorporate those spices into so many recipes. And like most things traditional, nothing beats the taste and quality of ‘homemade’.

For almost two decades now, I’ve been using my Mom’s simple and easy 15-minute recipe to create a Homemade Garam Masala that is far more fragrant and flavorful than any store-bought brand! She uses only 10 ingredients to create this magical seasoning.

This is a ‘Punjabi-style’ Garam Masala (north-Indian) which is versatile enough to be used for homestyle curries, like Gobi Aloo and Rajma, as well as restaurant favorites, like Biryani, Butter Chicken and Korma.

homemade Indian spice mix in small white bowl

What Is Garam Masala?

Garam Masala, which literally means warm (garam) spice (masala), is a fragrant blend of locally grown spices from the northern region of the Indian subcontinent. It is used for its sweet and warming spice flavor, not spicy heat.

It is similar in concept to the French herb de Provence or Chinese five-spice powder. Its basic composition differs by region since the climate and soil-type vary all over India. Plus, almost every household has their own spin on it based on their taste preference.

What is Garam Masala Good for- Ayurvedic Properties

The word garam means “to warm the body”. In Ayurveda, it is believed that when there is not enough heat in our body, our bodies can be slow to remove toxins. These warming spices are believed to increase the body temperature in Ayurvedic medicine. Other healing benefits of garam masala include:

  • Boosting immunity
  • Promoting weight loss
  • Aiding digestion
  • Lowering blood sugar
  • Decreasing inflammation

The Difference Between Garam Masala and Curry Powder

An authentic Garam masala spice mix in India typically does not contain turmeric and is usually brown in overall color.

Curry Powder, on the other hand, is yellow in color due to turmeric being one of the key ingredients. Technically speaking, curry powder is not Indian, but a British recipe that was created in the 1800s. There is no such thing as ubiquitous curry powder in Indian cuisine.

Another difference between the two is that Garam Masala powder contains stronger spices like cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom, as compared to Curry powder, which consists of mild spices like coriander, cumin, fenugreek and turmeric.

garam masala in small white bowl with ground Indian spices in backgroud

What is Garam Masala Made of

Garam masala is made of a ground mix of whole Indian spices. Some recipes can contain over 30 spices, but I make this one using only 10 whole spices.

The best places to purchase whole spices are Whole Foods, Sprouts, Indian grocery stores, online or specialty food markets that have spice bins. Here are the different spices we’re using today:

  1. Coriander Seeds (Dhaniya): The seeds of cilantro plant, its flavor is earthy and slightly sweet with floral hints, that release best when toasted.
  2. Cumin Seeds (Jeera): Great for digestion, it’s warm, somewhat smokey flavor and aroma reach optimal flavor when toasted.
  3. Green Cardamom Seeds (Chhoti Ilaichi): Known as ‘true cardamom,’ green cardamom seeds are black, whereas the pod is green. With hints of lemon and mint, it is the most popular variety of cardamom you will find on grocery store shelves. Purchase the black-hulled seeds or green cardamom pods. Feel free to use the entire pod, simply note the measurement difference in the recipe card.
  4. Whole Cloves (Laung): Pungent, strong and sweet with a bitter after-flavor, these are aromatic flower buds and a little goes a long way with these! Tip: Make sure to discard any clove stems without buds.
  5. Black Peppercorns (Kaali Mirch): Whole black peppercorns give the best results for this recipe mix.
  6. Cinnamon Sticks (Dal Cheeni): There are two types – Cassia and Ceylon (considered ‘true’ cinnamon). For authenticity, purchase flat cassia bark, a natural bark from the cinnamon family that is different than the cinnamon ‘quills’ found in the grocery store.
  7. Bay Leaves (Tejpatta): An aromatic herb, dried bay leaves are easy to find in the spice section of most grocery stores, and add earthy flavors to this blend.
  8. Fennel Seeds (Saunf): Known as ‘saunf’ in Hindi, the best quality seeds are bright green and will have a sweet, anise aroma. They stay good in your spice cabinet for up to 6 months.
  9. Black Cardamom Pod (Motti Ilaichi): Smokey with hints of cooling menthol, these larger pods are dark brown. A bit more difficult to find, look for the black variety in Indian grocery stores or online.
  10. Nutmeg (Jaiphal): Nutmeg is the shelled dried seed of the genus Myristica (an evergreen tree), whereas Mace is the covering of this seed. Always purchase a jar of whole nutmeg and grate fresh with a Microplane. Note: Nutmeg doesn’t need toasting, so always add that to the final blend.
whole Indian spices in skillet

Ground vs. Whole Spices

I highly recommend purchasing spices in their whole form versus the pre-ground variety. Whole spices contain all of their aromatic essential oils that make a homemade spice mix so special.

Even more so, whole spices hold on to flavor and aroma for up to one year. As soon as you crack through their protective shell, the flavors start to dissipate after a few months.

For optimal shelf life, store the whole spices in a cool, dark place (spice cabinet) and use the amount called for in the recipe.

Also, you’ll notice that I never use whole spices in any recipe. That’s because unless you’re actively looking for them in your dish, it’s easy to accidentally bite into one of them, which is not pleasant at all, and can ruin your palette for the meal. So, I save myself the step of fishing them out after cooking and use this ground-up masala spice instead.

Toasting Spices

Toasting whole spices releases the oils from them, thereby releasing aroma and flavor. You can think of toasting as a way to ‘wake-up’ the spices. Once toasted and cooled, this spice mix stays fragrant and flavorful for months.

Toasting also takes away the ‘edge’ from most potent spices, like cloves and cinnamon, making them more pleasant to taste in a dish.

How to Make Garam Masala From Scratch

This simple masala spice mix requires a large skillet, spice grinder and only 15 minutes!

whole cloves in glass bowl, whole Indian spices in skillet, toasted spices in spice grinder, ground garam masala in spice grinder
  • Remove any rotten pieces or dirt from all spices. Make sure to remove any clove stems without buds. Break the cinnamon sticks into smaller pieces and clean the dirt between grooves (Pic 1).
  • Add all spices to a large skillet and lightly toast on medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds or so. The spices are done when you can smell them. Turn off the heat. Transfer to a plate to stop the roasting and cool for 10 minutes (Pic 2).
  • Using a coffee/spice grinder, grind the spice mix in 3-4 batches. Grind it and give it a good shake in between to prevent spices from clumping. Grind to a fine texture (Pics 3 & 4).
  • If adding fennel seeds, black cardamom and nutmeg, follow the steps below and mix together. Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.
  • Stir in ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the final blend. (picture below)
small glass bowl of nutmeg over spices
Adding freshly grated nutmeg to ground-up spice blend

Recipe Tips:

  • Stick with making a small batch. This recipe makes 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of seasoning mix. You can easily scale it up based on your consumption levels. The ground spices tend to lose their flavor after a few months, which is why I always make enough for 1-2 months.
  • 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 to be a close substitute. I feel it’s well-balanced and no single spice overpowers the others.
indian spice mix in small white bowl with teaspoon

How Do you Use Garam Masala Seasoning

Garam Masala is can be used in curries and even grilled meat. Many of my 80+ popular Indian recipes use this homemade garam masala spice blend. Here are a few of my favorites:

More Indian Kitchen Essential Recipes

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garam masala in small white bowl with ground Indian spices in backgroud

Garam Masala Recipe

Learn how to make an authentic Homemade Garam Masala that includes a fragrant blend of Indian spices to season lentils, chicken, meat, curries and more!
4.34 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate Recipe
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 tablespoons
Calories: 29kcal

Ingredients

Spices for Basic Garam Masala

Add after grinding the spices

  • ½ teaspoon Nutmeg freshly grated, add after blending

Equipment

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Notes & Recipe Tips

Recipe Tips:

  • 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. 
 
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tablespoon | Calories: 29kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 6mg | Potassium: 100mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 19IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: garam masala recipe, garam masala spice, masala spice
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HEY! NICE TO MEET YOU!

Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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