Garam Masala Recipe – Step by step guide to make super flavorful & authentic Garam Masala that is easily customizable to your taste. Garam Masala is a traditional aromatic spice blend used in Indian cooking. It not only flavors and adds zing to your Indian food but also provides you with numerous health benefits. Once you begin to make your own, you will realize how aromatic homemade garam masala is. I guarantee you will never like the store bought bottled stuff again.
Supermarket shelves are loaded with so many kinds of garam masala and unfortunately most of them lack the real thing – that’s the aroma! I have never come across anything like the homemade for the simple reason that ground spices oxidize and lose their flavor overtime. Also there is never a balance of spice, pungent, sweet and bitter tastes & flavors.
With homemade garam masala, we have the option to blend the spices in small batches and store them well so they remain much more fragrant for longer. Also it is easily customizable to balance all the flavors & tastes.
What Is Garam Masala?
The term ‘garam’ in Hindi means ‘warm’ or hot and ‘masala’ means a ‘spice mix’. Garam masala translates to a blend of warming spices. It’s a magic blend that provides warmth to the body, thereby detoxifying and balancing the whole body system.
Ayurveda wisdom taught our ancestors that proper incorporation of spices into our diet can preserve the overall well-being by balancing the body, mind and spirit. So spices have been an integral part of traditional Indian cooking for centuries.
But using spices appropriately is the key. In this post along with the grama masala recipe, I share with you how to use spices the right way to suit your taste and body conditions.
In India, every home has a different recipe to make Garam Masala and Chai Spice blend depending on the regions, food habits and personal taste. This Punjabi garam masala is super flavorful and goes so well to make any vegetarian and Non-vegetarian Indian dishes from both South Indian and North Indian Cuisines.
Adding even a little of this garama masala to your everyday dishes makes a huge difference. It totally enhances the flavors, taste and brings so much life to your dishes.
Do read the complete post on how to clean spices and make garam masala powder.
Pro Tips to make Garam Masala
- Cleaning the spices thoroughly is very important for hygienic reasons even if you are using organic spices. In fact organic spices are more prone to infestations & are not chemically treated or at least minimally treated to meet the organic food standards. Cleaning also increases the shelf life of your garam masala.
- Roasting the spices or sun drying them brings out the aroma of the essential oils in the spices. Always roast them on a very low heat so they retain the flavours.
- Choosing the right combination and amount of spices to suit your body and taste is very important. Improper combination or using a lot of pungent spices in your spice blend can be bad for digestion in the long run and can also cause dehydration.
- The recipe shared here will give you a well-balanced garam masala that is flavorsome. It is not too pungent and not acidic. However you are free to make some tweaks when you want a particular spice to shine in more in a dish. Example: Add more ground cumin, ground cardamoms or ground fennel depending on the recipe.
- There are 2 sets of spices used in the recipe. The first one forms the base of the spice powder and is just good to use even without the second set.
- The second set has optional ingredients and I have mentioned in the recipe card why they are used. I use both the sets. But you can choose any or all depending on the availability or preference or body type.
Know Your Spices
The pictures below help you identify the spices we use in this garam masala powder recipe. I have also described below why each of this spice is used, what kind of flavor it imparts to the food and the effect of that spice on our body.
Coriander seeds form the base of any garam masala. They add volume/body to your dishes. They have a mild sweet aroma and citrusy flavour so it helps to cut down and balance the pungency of other spices. These seeds helps in digestion by strengthening the digestive fire, avoids flatulence, bloating and calms down acidity. Coriander seeds also help to balance Pitta dosha in the body.
Cumin seeds are a great digestive and detoxifying aid. They help to get rid of toxins from the body. Cumin also imparts a good earthy and pungent aroma to the garam masala.
Green Cardamoms apart from adding a sweet floral scent to the foods, they also help in indigestion, improve appetite and balances all kinds of doshas (disturbances in body), if used in moderation. For this recipe you can use the whole pods as the peels have some amount of flavour as well. If you want you may peel and use only the black seeds.
Cinnamon comes in 2 varieties – Real or Ceylon cinnamon and cassia. In India, cassia is widely used. Cassia is best used whole for flavouring curries or stews. But ground cassia may be bad for health if consumed in larger quantities due to coumarin, a toxic compound. So use Ceylon cinnamon for this recipe. Please use google search for more info on Cassia Vs Ceylon Cinnamon.
If using cassia you will need lesser in this recipe. Below I have a picture of how cassis looks. The barks are really thicker than the Ceylon cinnamon.
Cloves help in metabolism and is a warming spice. It can flush out toxins from the body and are dangerous if consumed in excess. If you have acidity, stomach ulcers or dehydration, stay away from them. Please check the recipe notes.
Black pepper are used to impart smoky flavour and pungent taste. Apart from cloves, black pepper also provide heat to your garam masala.
Fennel seeds also known as saunf is an optional ingredient. Apart from being aromatic these tiny seeds also balance the heat and pungent flavors from the other spices. These have a mildly sweet flavour and aids digestion and is a cooling spice.
Star Anise also known as biryani flower is a spice that totally elevates the flavor of your garam masala. It adds sweet tones without making your food sweet. It also avoids indigestion and is great to use especially in heavy dishes.
Mace is known as javitri in Hindi. It is a lacy membrane (outer covering) that surrounds the nutmeg seed & looks similar to a flower. It has several strands/ blades or petals. You will need to use only 3 strands. Using 3 strands of mace in this recipe makes the spice powder a bit stronger in aroma. If you do not like the flavor you may cut down.
Nutmeg is the magic seed spice that adds wonderful sweet and delicate aroma. It is believed that this spice can calm down the nervous system and improve blood circulation.
Black cardamom also known as Badi elaichi or masala elaichi is one spice which is not used by many people in ground spice mix. A lot of people love using it whole in the tempering. It is very pungent, strong and has a unique smoky aroma. You may avoid it if you do not like the strong flavours.
Bay leaf is known as Tej patta, meaning pungent leaf. The leaves that are used in Indian cooking are the Indian variety and are different from the European bay leaf which are from the Laurel tree. Here is the picture
How To Clean Spices
Before you make the garam masala, it is essential to clean and toast the spices. You may do the toasting in your oven or on the stovetop in a pan. I have the instructions below for both.
Stones and debris have to be picked from all the spices first. We generally crush few coriander seeds to check if there are worms inside. Yes many a times we can find them even if picked up from the best stores.
Break open the nutmeg and check for worms. Sometimes, nutmeg turns hallow inside after being eaten up by the worms
For hygiene purpose cinnamon has to be cleaned. It could have a kind of larvae, fungi or infestations in the inner parts. While growing they form into curls (swirls) with several layers. Break open the quills and wipe off with a dry or damp cloth.
Bay leaf too could have deposits of mud or larvae behind the leaves. Wipe off with dry or damp cloth or kitchen tissues.
How to make Garam Masala (Stepwise Photos)
1. To a heavy bottom pan, add the following spices. Roast them on a low heat, stirring constantly, till crispy, crunchy and aromatic. Transfer to a large tray/ plate.
- 4 medium dried bay leaves (1 gram, tej patta, torn)
- 2 tablespoons green cardamoms (17 grams) (elaichi)
- 2 tablespoons cloves (12 grams) (laung)
- 1 tablespoon pepper corns (9 to 10 grams) kali mirch
- 8 grams cinnamon approx. 3 inch – 8 pieces (dalchini)(prefer ceylon cinnamon, cut down to half if using cassia)
- ½ small nutmeg (2 grams) ( jai phal)
- 3 star anise (4 grams, chakri phool)
- 3 to 4 black cardamoms (3 to 4 grams) badi elaichi
- 3 strands mace (javitri)
2. Add ¼ cup (30 grams) cumin seeds and roast on a low flame, stirring constantly until slightly darker but not burnt. You will smell them aromatic & they turn crunchy when they are ready. Transfer to the same large tray/ plate for cooling.
3. Add ½ cup (35 grams) coriander seeds and stir until slightly dark/ browned but not burnt. They are done when crunchy and aromatic. Transfer to the same tray for cooling.
4. Add 1 tablespoon (8 grams) fennel seeds to the pan and roast just for 2 mins until aromatic. We don’t deep roast fennel seeds. Transfer these as well to the same tray and cool down.
In Oven: Spread the spices on a clean baking tray and place it in the oven. Place the tray in the middle rack and turn on the oven with the temperature set to lowest. Roast until the spices become aromatic. In my oven it is 40 C (100 to 105 F).
5. Your spices are ready to grind when they cool down.
6. Add them to a grinder jar.
7. Grind to a fine powder. Grind in intervals of 40 to 60 seconds. Scrape the sides of the jar as you go. If you do not have a large grinder, grind the spices in 2 batches. If you do not have a powerful grinder, simply sieve the spices after grinding them once. Later grind the coarse spices again.
Cool down completely and store the garam masala in an airtight glass jar.
How to Blend Spices Quickly
Tip: May be this is not the right way to blend a spice mix but I love this method to speed up the process. Dry roast the spices and cool them.
Chill them in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours. Transfer them to the grinder jar and powder it. You will be surprised at how fast the powder gets done.
The color of the garam masala powder could slightly vary depending on the kind and quality of spices used. This is the sieved powder made from 2 batches.
How to use Garam Masala
As I mentioned, even a pinch of this makes any food flavorful. But if you are using to make any spicy curries, biryanis, veg curries, paneer recipes or meat curries, then 1 to 1½ tsp of this with an equal amount of coriander powder goes right for a 3 to 4 serving dish.
However it is just a general guideline but IMO, the amount of garam masala to use largely depends on the quantity of onions, tomatoes and veggies used.
When to add Garam Masala?
It depends on the dish you are preparing. It is good to follow the recipe instructions of dish. In Indian cooking usually garam masala is added at one of the 2 stages of cooking. Sometimes it is added twice.
A lot of recipes call for adding it along with red chili powder when you make the curry base. This way the whole dish is simmered along with the garam masala so it imparts delicious flavors.
The other way is to add it just before finishing off the dish. We usually do this for stir fry dishes or in recipes where garam masala is used twice.
Garam masala consists of ground spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamoms, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, bay leaf, mace and black pepper. Some versions even consist of fennel seeds, red chilies and black cardamoms.
It is spicy but not hot.
No Garam masala is not the same as curry powder. Garam masala is from Indian Cuisine and Curry powder is a British invention. The spices and their quantities used in a curry powder are different from garam masala. Curry powder has a mild flavor and garam masala is pungent and has strong aroma of spices.
The closest substitute to a garam masala is kitchen King masala, meat masala and Biryani masala. Though the flavors are different both these work well in most of the recipes. However you may use other spice blends like pav bhaji masala, misal masala and sambar masala in some recipes.
Wrong proportions of spices in a garam masala can be really bad for the stomach and body. Like too much black pepper, cloves or mace in the spice blend can cause side effects like stomach cramps, acidity and dehydration. Garam masala must be consumed in moderation to prevent side effects.
Yes you can eat daily but in moderation.
It is best to store it in glass air tight containers for best shelf life. It keeps good at room temperature for 3 to 4 months and for 1 month in a humid environment. If humidity is too high in your kitchen, refrigerate it. Masala powder keeps good for 6 months in the refrigerator and for 1 year in the freezer.
Garam Masala Recipe
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ½ cup (35 grams) coriander seeds (daniya)
- ¼ cup (30 grams) cumin seeds (jeera)
- 2 tablespoons (17 grams) green cardamoms (elaichi)
- 2 tablespoons (12 grams) cloves (laung)
- 1 tablespoon (9 to 10 grams) black pepper corn (kali mirch)
- 8 grams (8 pieces) cinnamon (∼ 3 inch each, use Ceylon cinnamon, cut down to half to use cassia)
Spices for aroma (optional, but recommended)
- 4 medium (1 gram) dried bay leaves (tej patta)
- 3 (4 grams) star anise (chakri phool, helps in digestion)
- 1 tablespoon (8 grams) fennel seeds (saunf, avoids acidity)
- ½ small (2 grams) nutmeg ( jaiphal, helps in digestion)
- 3 to 4 (3 to 4 grams) black cardamoms ( badi elaichi, for flavor, refer notes)
- 3 strands mace (javitri/japatri, for flavor)
- Cleaning spices is an important step as it increases the shelf life of your garam masala. So Clean the bay leaf and inner part of cinnamon stick with a dry or damp cloth to remove dirt. or dust.
- Break open the nutmeg and check for worms.
- Pick and discard stones and debris from all the spices.
- A word of caution- do not toast the spices on high heat or burn them. Heat a pan & add cardamoms, bay leaf, star anise, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves and pepper.
- Roast them on a low heat without burning until they begin to smell good & turn crunchy. Transfer to a large tray/plate.
- Add coriander seeds and roast on a low heat until they turn slightly deep golden or light brown but not burnt. They smell good & turn crunchy when they are ready. Transfer this as well to the plate.
- Add fennel seeds & dry roast until aromatic. They don't need to be toasted for long. Transfer these to the same cooling tray. Add cumin & repeat roasting until cumin begins to smell good & the color changes slightly deeper but not burnt.
- Transfer to the same plate and cool completely.
How to Make Garam Masala
- Add all these spices to a spice grinder jar. Grind to a fine powder, in intervals of 40 to 60 seconds.
- If you do not own a powerful grinder, sieve the garam masala and powder the coarse spices again. If you have a small grinder, grind in 2 batches.
- Store this garam masala powder in an air tight dry glass jar.
- For best results, weight the spices on a scale.
- Color: The color of the garam masala may differ depending on the kind and quality of spices.
- Black cardamoms give a very pungent flavor and taste. If you are not used to the strong flavor it can be reduced to 2.
- The nutrition values are for the entire recipe.
- How to use: If you plan to use the garam masala in your everyday cooking, use this in combination with coriander powder. Too much garam masala in your everyday foods may dehydrate your body.
- If you have stomach disorders like acidity, then skip cloves, bay leaf, pepper and mace. Double the quantities of fennel seeds and cardamoms. But this does alter the flavor of garam masala. I use this version as well.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
Watch Garam Masala Video
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
This Garam masala recipe was first published in July 2014. Updated and republished in January 2022.
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me
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