Basics of Indian Cooking- 5 Indian Spice Blends

The Basics of Indian Cooking is back! We’re talking about essential Indian spice blends that you need for cooking. 

Indian whole spices and blends

We created the Basics of Indian Cooking series to introduce the world to the essentials needed to make the most perfect Indian cuisine. So far, we’ve talked about the Basics of Indian Cooking (SPICES) Part 1 and the Basics of Indian Cooking (SPICES) Part 2, which detailed ten of the most popular spices used when cooking Indian dishes.

Since you know all of the basics of individual spices, we’re going to move on to the next level — Indian spice blends! There are essential Indian spices that you need to know about, so that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

List of topics discussed in this post:

I want to cover some of the most popular Indian spice blends. In this post, we’re going to discuss:

  1. Tips for Making Indian Spice Mix
  2. The Difference Between Curry Powder and Garam Masala
  3. Types of Indian Spice Blends
  4. Garam Masala Powder
  • Tikka Masala Powder
  • Sambhar Masala Powder
  • Chai Masala Powder
  • Chaat Masala

Of course, there are many more Indian spice blends to consider when making traditional Indian cuisine, but these five are the perfect place to start. 

Tips for Making Indian Spice Mix:

So, if this is your first time making an Indian spice mix, don’t be intimidated! It’s a lot easier than you might think. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks when blending Indian spices:

  • Make sure your spices are as fresh as can be – check expiration dates to make sure you’re starting off with fresh spices
  • Try and buy your spices whole if you can – these will have the most flavor once crushed
  • Have proper storage on hand for your Indian spice blends, like a traditional Indian spice box.
  • Develop a plan of which Indian spice blends you’re going to make and when so as to not overwhelm yourself.
  • Although it’s helpful for some ingredients, you don’t have to go to an Indian spice store to get your ingredients! If you don’t know where to buy Indian spices online, Amazon is a great place to start. Target also carries many of the ingredients you’ll need.

Difference between Curry Powder and Garam Masala:

Curry powder can fancily be termed as the potpourri of spices. Simply put, it is a ‘dry mixture of spices’ that goes into making any curry.  On supermarket shelves, this mixture includes turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger, and black pepper.

This modern version was concocted and brought to Britain from India by soldiers returning home during the British rule of India. The idea was to mix the common ingredients that went into making the most popular versions of Indian curry and achieve the same taste on the British soil.

Garam masala, although also a mixture of spices, is known for a sharper, bolder taste that includes green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg, and black cardamom. Originating in Northern India kitchens, you can use it to flavor your dish during cooking or even at the very end to pack a punch. 

Types of Indian Spice Blends:

There are many different types of Indian spice blends, but I’m going to focus on five of the most common: Garam Masala Powder, Tikka Masala Powder, Sambhar Masala Powder, and Chaat Masala. If you’ve had Indian cuisine before, it’s likely that you’ve tasted one of these Indian spice blends without even realizing it! 

Garam Masala Powder:

A bowl of garam masala

Garam Masala Powder is a bold Indian spice blend often used at the end of the cooking process to pack a big punch. It’s usually composed of green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg, and black cardamom. Originating in Northern India, Garam Masala goes great with meat and fish dishes, but you’ll also find it in some vegan and vegetarian dishes. 

Here are some of the most common recipes to try with Garam Masala:

Tikka Masala Powder:

Tikka masala powder in a bowl with spoon

Tikka Masala Powder is one of the more mild Indian spice blends, made up of coriander, paprika, turmeric, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and black pepper. It’s used in many tomato-based curries, including some of the more famous Indian cuisine recipes. If you’ve had Indian cuisine before, much like the Garam Masala Powder, you’ve probably had Tikka Masala Powder without even realizing it! 

Here are some of the most common recipes to try with Tikka Masala Powder:

Sambhar Masala Powder:

Sambhar Masala Powder originated in Southern India. What makes it stand apart from the crowd is its dynamite ingredients – including some dal! Sambhar Masala Powder is typically made up of toor dal, chana dal, coriander, fenugreek, pepper, cumin seeds, dry red chilies, and turmeric. You can use this powder in stews, chilies, or other vegetable/gravy dishes.  

Here are some of the most common dishes to try with Sambhar Masala Powder:

Chai Masala Powder:

Chai Masala powder in a bowl with spoon

Chai Masala Powder is an aromatic blend of Indian spices that are used to enhance traditional Indian teas. A sweeter blend, this powder is made up of cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, black peppercorns, fennel seeds, ginger, and nutmeg. A warm, toasty blend, odds are you might have had a version of this powder in your Chai Tea Latte drink at Starbucks!

Here are some of the most common recipes that use Chai Masala Powder:

Chaat Masala:

Chaat Masala is typically made of amchoor, cumin, coriander, ginger, salt, black pepper, asafoetida, and chili powder. It’s used most widely as a garnish for vegetables and salads as well as on snacks, and vegan dishes like lentils. This flavorful Indian spice blend is both sweet and hot, making it a fun addition to any meal. 

Here are some of the delectable dishes that can  use Chaat Masala:

Now that you know about some of the most delicious, widely-used Indian spice blends, what are you going to do with them?! Tag us in your pictures and let us know in the comments how you love to use your favorite Indian spice blends. 

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