Garam Masala - The Magic Spice

    14 min
Ratings (19)

The ubiquitous 'curry powder' that most people associate with Indian food, is not Indian at all! It is in fact, a western version of Garam Masala. This easy-to-make spice blend is the heart of most Indian dishes. A combination of different whole spices, it probably has as many recipes as there are families in India! The word Garam means warm in Hindi while Masala means spice mix. Garam masala is therefore a warming spice mix. the word 'warming' refers to the 'heating properties' ascribed to the ingredients, by Ayurveda.

Different regions of India have different versions of garam masala. Some are made without dry roasting the ingredients while others are made after dry roasting then cooling the ingredients and grinding them to a powder. Some contain 'extra' ingredients that others don't.

Once you get a feel for the taste it gives your cooking, experiment and alter your Garam Masala recipe to suit your needs.

Garam masala is best made fresh just before you begin cooking, but if you haven’t got the patience (like me!), make a batch ahead and store for several months in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place. 

This is my recipe for a basic Garam Masala. Feel free to tweak it to suit your palate and the dish you are cooking.

What You'll Need

  • 4 tbsps coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 ½ tsps black cumin seeds (shahjeera)
  • ¾ tsp cloves
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon (2 X 1” pieces)
  • ¾ tsp crushed bay leaves
  • 1 ½ tsps dry ginger
  • ¾ tsp badi elaichi/ black cardamom (3-4 large pods approx)

How to Make It

    • Heat a heavy skillet on a medium flame and gently roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, black cumin/ shajeera/ cloves/ cinnamon and bay leaves, till they turn a few shades darker.. We leave out the black cardamom/ badi elaichi as roasting it destroys the 'sweetness' in the seeds. We also leave out the dry ginger. Stir the spices occasionally. Do not be tempted to speed up the process by turning up the heat as the spices will burn on the outside and remain raw on the inside. The roasting activates the essential oils in the spices, making them more potent and flavorful. When they are ready the spices will be very slightly darker and aromatic.
    • When the spices are roasted turn off the heat and allow them to cool completely on a plate.
    • Once the roasted spices are cooled, remove the badi elaichi/ black cardamom seeds from their skins and mix them back with all the other roasted spices. Also add the dry ginger.
    • Grind them all together, to a fine powder in a clean, dry coffee grinder.
    • Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place.