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Garam Masala

Hey Chef; what’s Garam Masala?

By Chef B,
Editor and Contributor

Garam Masala ingredients

Garam Masala is one of the most commonly used spice blends in North Indian and Moghul cuisine.


Masala is also known as "massala" literally means “any mixture" and is a term used in many South Asian cuisines (including Indian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani cuisines) to mostly describe a mixture of spices.
Masala can either be a combination of dried (and usually dry roasted) spices, or a paste (such as Vindaloo Masala) made from a mixture of spices and other ingredients—often garlic, ginger, onions and chilli paste. It is used extensively in Indian cooking to add spice and flavor.

Garam Masala

The word garam refers to spice intensity, not heat; garam masala is pungent, but not "hot".

Across South Asian regions, the composition varies greatly. Some common ingredients are black & white peppercorns, cloves, malabar leaves, long pepper (also known as pippali), black cumin (known as shahi jeera), cumin seeds, cinnamon, black, brown, & green cardamom, nutmeg, star anise and coriander seeds.

After preparation, the mixture is often made into a paste by adding water, vinegar, or even coconut milk.

Many commercial mixtures may include other less expensive spices like dried red chili peppers, dried garlic, ginger powder, sesame, mustard seeds.

With a little diligence you can buy a good quality Garam Masala used in Indian cuisine, but it is even more flavorful, fragrant, and fresh if you make the Indian spice blend yourself.

Tandoori Masala

Tandoori Masala typically includes garam masala with the addition of garlic, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, and other spices and is moderately hot. By tradition this is a mixture of spices specifically for use with a tandoor, or clay oven. The cayenne pepper, red chili powder or kashmiri red chilli powder will give it a fiery red hue and a higher amount of Turmeric produces an orange color.

The real secret to a great garam masala is to suit your taste so don’t be afraid to experiment, and remember if it smells good, it will taste good!

Garam Masala Recipe