What is Garam Masala?

A harmonious blend of India’s most popular flavors, Garam Masala is a spice mixture that adds warmth, sweetness, and a bit of heat. From curries to lentil dishes, if you have tasted the delicious wonders of Indian cuisine, you have experienced Garam Masala!

Garam masala translates to “warm spices” in Hindi, bringing warmth to the body. Although Garam Masala is a staple across households, restaurants, and street vendors, each blend is unique to the person making it. Many families have their unique mix influenced by their community and passed down through generations!

Keep reading to learn more about this popular spice blend and how to use it in Indian cooking!

History Behind Garam Masala 

The most common type of Garam Masala originated in Northern India to bring warmth to cold winters. Some traced its first use to the Mongol Empire in the 13th century. 

The spice blend is used throughout India, Pakistan, and Iran, varying throughout each region due to different cuisine, climate, and culture.  

Garam Masala Ingredients

Garam masala can be made from a combination of different spices; some blends can contain a mix of five spices, while others mix as many as thirty spices. The most common Garam Masala recipes include:

  • Cinnamon cloves
  • Coriander seeds
  • Cumin
  • Star Anise
  • Mace 
  • Nutmeg

Variations can add green cardamom, fennel seeds, black peppercorn, turmeric, and various other spices. Check out our guide on essential Indian herbs and spices to discover endless possibilities. 

The magic happens when the combination of spices is toasted on a pan to bring out their rich aromas, ground into a fine powder, and combined with vegetables or meat. 

What does Garam Masala taste like?

Fragrant and flavorful, Garam Masala provides both complex and comforting flavors. The taste of Garam Masala can vary depending on who is making it, but it consistently provides warming, aromatic characteristics. It usually meshes sweetness, floral notes, and a bit of heat without becoming too fiery hot. 

How to Make Garam Masala?

Homemade garam masala is guaranteed to bring warmth to any dish. Here is a quick rundown of how to make your own. 

Due to the immense variation in Garam Masala, don’t feel limited by a recipe. Explore different flavors and customize your blend to your taste. The best authentic garam masala blends are made from whole spices, bringing intense and robust flavors.

Next, toast your whole spices in a pan on low heat. This will slowly release the potent flavors of each herb and prolong the shelf life of your garam masala. 

Before you blend the spices into a fine powder, be patient and wait for the mixture to cool fully. Adding your ingredients to a spice grinder too fast can add moisture and affect its shelf life.

Once your blend becomes powder form, add it to your masala dabba (Indian spice box) and use it to warm up your favorite Indian dishes!

Garam Masala Recipes

The rule of thumb for Garam Masala is it should be cooked to bring out its aromatic qualities. Here are some of your favorite dishes that use Garam Masala:

Tikka Masala

Tikka Masala sauce can blend garam masala with fragrant spices and dairy and tomato sauce. With bold and earthy flavors in a tomato-based sauce, Tikka Masala can be used as a marinade or a sauce for meat (Chicken Tikka Masala) and veggies.

Our Vegan Tikka Masala recipe creates the same experience for vegans and vegetarians.  

Chana masala

Chana Masala, also known as chole masala, or chholay, is a popular chickpea dish cooked in a fragrant and spicy tomato sauce anchored by a blend of garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. 

Vindaloo

Vindaloo is made up of vindaloo sauce, which is usually made from caramelized onions, curry paste, coconut milk, vinegar, ginger, chilies, jalapeño, garlic, chickpeas, lentils, and other spices like garam masala, salt, pepper, paprika, and turmeric. 

Other Recipes to Try With Garam Masala:

From Our Recipe Book to Yours

We developed our recipes to bring authentic, flavorful, and regional Indian cuisine into the homes of people who love good food. We hope our recipes and tips inspire you to explore the rich flavors of Indian food. 

To learn more about Indian spices, check out our blog to read articles like our guide to Indian food and our guide to Indian spices

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