Garam Masala - The Magic Spice

The Spruce
  • 14 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 4 mins
  • Yield: 12 servings
Ratings (67)

The ubiquitous "curry powder" that most people associate with Indian food is actually 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 recipe variations as there are families in India! The word garam means warm in Hindi while masala means spice mix, making garam masala a warming spice mix. 

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, cooling the ingredients and then grinding them into a powder. Some recipes contain additional 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 time, make a batch ahead and store for several months in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place. 

What You'll Need

  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black cumin seeds (shahjeera)
  • 3/4 tsp. cloves
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon (2x1-inch pieces)
  • 3/4 tsp. crushed bay leaves
  • 3/4 tsp. badi elaichi (black cardamom), 3 to 4 large pods
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dry ginger

How to Make It

  1. Heat a heavy skillet over a medium heat and gently roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, black cumin, cloves, cinnamon and crushed bay leaves, until they turn a few shades darker. 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.
  1. Turn off the heat and allow them to cool completely on a plate. Remove the badi elaichi seeds from their skins and mix them with all the other roasted spices. Add the dry ginger.
  2. Grind them all together into a fine powder in a clean, dry coffee grinder.
  3. Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place.