How to Make (and Use!) Garam Masala

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This easy garam masala recipe will bring out the best aromas and flavors in your Indian dishes. You can have a homemade spice blend ready in 10 minutes!

If you’re looking for an easy and authentic garam masala recipe, we’ve got you covered. You can make this blend with a handful of Indian spices and herbs, like coriander, cumin and green cardamom.

What Is Garam Masala?

Garam masala is a spice blend widely used in Indian cooking to enhance the aroma and flavors of curries and other dishes. In Hindi, garam means warm and masala means blend. This blend originated in northern India, using spices that warm up the body during cold winters. Over the centuries, it became an everyday spice across India because of its power to elevate almost any dish.

Typically, garam masala is made of roasted coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black cardamom, black peppercorns, cinnamon, green cardamom, cloves, star anise, mace, bay leaves and salt.

Garam Masala vs. Curry Powder

You may be surprised to learn that curry powder isn’t a thing in India! In fact, curry powder is a Western creation, with milder flavors than you’d usually find in India. Curry powder’s distinct yellow color comes from its blend of ground turmeric with coriander, cumin and ginger root.

In comparison, garam masala has a much stronger flavor and smell. Another key difference: Curry powder is often incorporated into sauces, soups and marinades, while garam masala is used as a final seasoning.

Where to Buy Garam Masala

I recommend making your own blend at home—I find that store-bought versions are nowhere close to a homemade garam masala! But in a pinch, try the Taste of Home Test Kitchen’s go-to: McCormick’s Garam Masala Blend, which is available at most grocery stores and on Amazon.

Garam Masala Ingredients

Garam Masala IngredientsAnvita Bhatnagar Mistry for Taste of Home

Garam masala is made of three kinds of spices: the base ingredients; the earthy, smoky spices; and the aromatic spices.

Base ingredients for a garam masala recipe

  • 1 cup coriander seeds, which release a sweet floral aroma when toasted
  • 4 teaspoons cumin seeds add sweetness and bitterness

The earthy, smoky flavors

  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns for a sharp, earthy flavor
  • 1 cinnamon stick for a sweet, woody flavor
  • 2 bay leaves for a pungent, sharp and bitter taste
  • 2 to 3 black cardamom pods give a smoky, minty flavor

Aromatic spices

  • 8 to 10 green cardamom pods produce a zesty citrus flavor that can be both sweet and spicy
  • 8 cloves add strong, pungent and astringent flavors
  • 1 star anise gives the spice mix a sweet licorice flavor
  • 2 mace blades add a sweet, woody, pungent aroma

Garam Masala Recipe

Garam Masala SkilletAnvita Bhatnagar Mistry for Taste of Home

Making garam masala takes just three steps. You roast the spices, let them cool and then grind them.

  • Step 1: Heat a skillet on medium heat and dry roast the spices for about 5 minutes, until aromatic. The spices should be roasted about 70 percent, not entirely.
  • Step 2 : Allow the spices to cool completely.
  • Step 3: Grind the spices using a coffee grinder or spice grinder—an essential Indian cooking tool—until they have a smooth mixture.

How to Use Garam Masala

Garam masala is a finishing spice you can add before serving a dish to enhance the flavor and aroma. It works well with so many Indian dishes, like chana masala, tikka masala, rice bowls, and dals. Often, you can use garam masala as a substitute for whole spices while cooking.

The benefit of having a homemade version handy for recipes that use garam masala is that it’s made with the right blend of whole spices. Store-bought spice mixes often have a larger proportion of paprika, cumin and coriander because those are less expensive to include. To me, that means the store-bought blend lacks the complex, layered flavor of a homemade garam masala recipe.

How to Store Garam Masala

Garam MasalaAnvita Bhatnagar Mistry for Taste of Home

It’s best to store garam masala in airtight jars because moisture can spoil the texture, smell and color. The shelf life of ground spices is about three months. After that, spices start losing their flavor. If you make large batches of garam masala, refrigerate it in airtight containers for up to six months.

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Anvita Bhatnagar Mistry
Anvita is a co-founder, author, photographer and cook for the food blog TheBellyRulesTheMind.net. Her food philosophy is, you are what you eat, so eat healthy to whatever extent possible. Having lived in India, Australia, the United States and now Germany, Anvita has had the opportunity to appreciate food from different continents and build a diverse palate. She loves to travel and is currently exploring the food scene in Europe with her husband and son. For Anvita, comfort food is Indian food, as it takes her back to her roots.