Garam masala is a spice mixture used in Indian cooking. The word “garam” means hot and the word “masala” means spices. However, this spice blend comes with a richer bunch of flavor.
It is used with curries, soups, stews, lentils, chicken, vegetables, oven-baked potatoes, and many other dishes. It’s quite a popular spice blend and you can buy it from spice sections of markets and grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can look for it at Indian grocery stores.
Thanks to its rich aroma, garam masala adds warmth, slight sweetness, and a floral touch to the dish. It’s best to add this condiment at the end of cooking or sprinkle it over the dish just before serving.
If you like, you can make garam masala yourself, though there are also a few garam masala alternatives, such as cumin mixed with allspice, masala curry powder, sambhar masala, and chaat masala. So, today we are here to help you with it.
You need to have all the required spices in hand, clean them properly, roast them, and blend them well. It’s easy, and quick and gives you the opportunity to omit the spices you don’t like and get what you need.
It’s also recommended to make garam masala with whole spices rather than ground to maintain the power of flavors. However, the choice is up to you and if you consider it’s more effortless to make it with ground spices, then go ahead with it.
So, let’s see what you need to make garam masala at home.
What you need:
Coriander seeds: Coriander seeds taste warm and slightly sweet with a citrusy hint. They kind of balance the pungency of other spices in garam masala.
Cumin seeds: Cumin seeds have an earthy and warm flavor with a citrusy touch. They bring pungency and earthy notes to garam masala.
Green cardamom: As for green cardamom, it’s warm and herbal mingled in spicy, minty, and citrus flavors that make it taste so strong and impressive. They add a floral hint to the spice blend. The peels have a distinct flavor while the pods come with another flavor. So, you can either use the whole spice or peel it and use only the pod. It all depends on your taste.
Black cardamom: Black cardamom is smoky, and pungent with almost a menthol flavor. It’s usually used whole rather than ground and has a stronger flavor than green cardamom. So you can either use it or omit it.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon comes with a warm, sweet, and woody flavor and a slightly citrusy scent. There are two main types of cinnamon: cassia and Ceylon. Indians use cassia cinnamon in garam masala just in a pinch because it is stronger in flavor than the Ceylon variety. If you want to get a milder flavor, then use Ceylon cinnamon.
Cloves: Cloves are other warm spices with a sweet, spicy, and bitter combination of flavors. People with stomach ulcers or dehydration may omit cloves in their garam masala spice mixture as it may cause health issues.
Black pepper: Black pepper brings a spicy touch with warm notes. Its smoky and pungent flavor adds heat and makes the spice savory-friendly for many dishes.
Fennel seeds: Fennel seeds have a licorice-like flavor with sweetness and a cool reflection. They pair well with pork and seafood. They balance the heat and pungency of other spices in garam masala.
Star anise: Star anise is similar to fennel seeds in its licorice flavor and sweetness. The best part about star anise is that it adds a sweet touch to the dish without making it taste sweet.
Mace: Mace, in its turn, is a rich and more flavorful spice with a peppery, sweet, citrus, and cinnamon-like combination of flavors.
Nutmeg: With a warm and nutty flavor, nutmeg brings a tender and slightly sweet aroma. It is known for its antistress properties and tends to improve blood circulation.
Bay leaf: And here we have the last ingredient of garam masala and it’s the bay leaf which has a minty flavor mixed with peppery undertones. There is an Indian variety of bay leaves that taste somehow different from other types. So, it’s better to use the Indian variety.
How to prepare:
Now, as you know what you need to make garam masala let’s pass on to ratios.
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons of black peppercorn
½ cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon of cloves
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
½ teaspoon of whole cloves
7-8 green cardamom pods
2 black cardamom pods
2 whole star anise
1 whole nutmeg
3 strands of mace
2-3 dried bay leaves.
Let’s start the preparation. Start with cleaning the spices. Pick the stones and any trash from the seeds and spices. Open nutmegs and check them one by one to make sure they are fresh and healthy. Clean the cinnamon and bay leaves with a kitchen cloth.
Next, you need to roast the spices. You can do it either on heat or in the oven. Spread the spices on the baking tray and put them in the oven. Roast at the lowest temperature until the spices become aromatic. Note, that they shouldn’t become brown.
Cool the spice mixture and grind it to get a ground substance. Now, you can store it in an airtight container or more preferably, in a glass jar.
FAQs on Garam Masala
Is garam masala hot?
The name itself means spicy or hot but garam masala is a warmer blend of spices than hot. It contains black pepper but it doesn’t make it taste too spicy or hot.
How many types of garam masala are there?
Depending on the region and cooking techniques, the recipes for garam masala can vary. Some recipes can also include ginger powder or rose petals.