garam masala made easy with step by step photos. garam masala is one of the essential indian spice mix used in indian recipes. i am sharing a really good recipe of making this strong aromatic blend.
what is garam masala?
it is an aromatic and complex flavored spice blend. “garam” in hindi translates to warm or warming or hot in english. the word “masala” means a blend of spices. hence the term garam masala means a warming spice blend – which is true since the whole spices added in making garam masala are warming and heaty.
thus adding this spice blend in your food does make the body warm. the spices also are good for the tummy as they have both medicinal and digestive properties.
there are regional variations of this ground spice mix in india. the proportions and types of spices used are different. one variation which i have shared is punjabi garam masala which is very different from this recipe. the punjabi version is an heirloom one from my punjabi in-laws. you can have a look at it too.
some variations of garam masala do not include coriander seeds. coriander is a cooling spice and adding these does reduce the heat in the masala. i add them in my recipe for aroma, flavor and to balance the heat.
a small to medium batch of this warm complex spice blend is all that you need to liven up the dal, curries and veggie preparations that you make. it is always better not to make a large batch as the aroma wanes out with time. garam masala can be added during the cooking process or after the cooking is done.
it is added in many popular recipes like samosa, chana masala, paneer lababdar, bhindi masala, paneer tikka masala etc. for a serving of 4 to 5, about ¼ to ½ teaspoon of garam masala is sprinkled as this spice blend is very strong.
less is more here. thus avoid adding too much of it in your dishes. more of garam masala in any dish unbalances it making the taste go awry. adding a little does the work and beautifully harmonizes and balances the flavors, tastes and aroma in the food very well.
2 kinds of garam masala
broadly categorizing, there are two types of garam masala made.
1. pakka garam masala – in this method, the spices are roasted till they become aromatic releasing their essential oils. these roasted spices are then ground and what you get is pakka garam masala – which here refers to cooked garam masala.
the word ‘pakka’ in hindi means ‘cooked’. it is always sprinkled on the food once it is done. since the spices are already cooked, you don’t need to cook them further.
most of the garam masala which we get in the market are pakka garam masala powders. the ones which are made regularly in indian homes are also pakka garam masala. so the spice blend is sprinkled on the food once the dish has been cooked.
2. kaccha garam masala – in this method, the spices are not roasted or “cooked” but they are sun-dried for a few days and then ground. sun-drying draws any extra moisture from them making them lightly crisp.
in hindi ‘kaccha’ literally means ‘raw’. it needs to be cooked for the spices to bring out their flavor and aroma. thereby kaccha garam masala is added when the food is being cooked. it can also be added once the food is done. then simmer or cook the dish for a few more minutes so that the raw flavor of the spices is not felt.
the recipe that i have shared here is actually kaccha garam masala. but you can use the same proportions and make pakka garam masala by roasting the spices in a pan.
this information & knowledge on the two categories of garam masala comes from my family and my very long experience with indian cooking. you will not find it anywhere on the internet.
if you do find the same information, then know very well that it has been copied from mine, once this post was updated with this particular info. i am mentioning this as many of my recipes and content has been copied and rewritten by copy cats. rant over !!!
garam masala vs curry powder
garam masala is totally different than curry powder. authentically and traditionally in india, curry powder has never been made or nor used in any recipes. in fact most indians are not even aware of what curry powder is, but any indian homemaker will know about garam masala. curry powder is the invention of british traders.
every kitchen in india will have a jar or bottle of garam masala. some families even have their own standard recipes for making it.
curry powder is a blend of many spices as compared to garam masala which has lesser spices. curry powder also has turmeric powder in it. curry powder is also mild unlike garam masala which is strong and intense. i have used curry powder so i know the difference.
this homemade garam masala is
1. too good. the difference it makes to the everyday dal or curry or sabzi is super. since the masala is very strong, i do suggest to add about ¼ to ½ teaspoon for 4 to 5 servings in a recipe.
2. gluten free
3. has easily available spices
4. includes one unique ingredient which can be skipped easily – dried rose petals. now adding them is not at all essential. not everybody will have dried rose petals. if you have then add. if you do not, then no need to add. just skip them.
even without adding them, the garam masala is still going to be good. i make this garam masala powder without rose petals too. it is just that with rose petals there is a hint of the fragrance of rose in the masala.
5. spices can be sun-dried, oven-dried or roasted in a pan. since we are still getting good sunlight during the day, i have sun dried the whole spices for 2 days. though you can roast the spices one by one in a pan on a low flame till aromatic and then grind them.
you can also heat dry the spices in an oven. the oven has to be set at its lowest temperature. the temperature can range anywhere between 50 degrees celsius (122 degrees fahrenheit) to 80 degrees celsius (194 degrees fahrenheit). depending on the temperature range, you may dry them for about 6 hours to 15 hours.
6. this recipe yields about 190 grams of ground garam masala. the ingredient proportions in the recipe can be easily halved or doubled.
homemade spice blends are always the best
homemade spice mixes or masalas are the best. like me if you prepare masala at home, then you will agree on this point. you are in control of the ingredients that you add. they are also preservatives and additives free. you can also buy the best quality spices or organic spices.
i have made an infograph for this recipe displayed in the step by step pictorial below. so it helps as a handy reckoner for the quantity of spices to be used. i have also given the cup, tablespoon and gram equivalents in the recipe card below.
tips before you begin making garam masala
- first take all the spices in a plate or tray. then check if they have stones, chaffs or husks.
- make sure there is no hidden mold or fungi or insects growing on them. if yes, then discard these spices.
- use fresh spices and not old ones.
- sun dry or roast the spices in a pan or oven.
- while using cinnamon, use the true cinnamon (ceylon cinnamon) and not cassia. kindly search on google to know the difference between true cinnamon and cassia.
how to make garam masala
1. first take each spice in a plate or bowl and check for stone, husks, or any hidden mold or insects. discard the stones or husks. if the spices have mold or there are insects or worms in them, then discard the spices and do not use them. below is an infograph of the spices required. i have not included rose petals as adding them is optional.
2. add the whole spices in a plate or tray. spread them. keep in the sun for 2 to 3 days.
3. while sun drying, cover with a sieved lid or a muslin or loosely woven cotton napkin, so that dust does not fall on the spices. during day time, i would keep the spices out. during night, i would keep the plate inside with a loose lid covering it.
4. the below pic is of spices after being sun dried for 2 days. after getting sun dried, there is no trace of any moisture on the spices and they also become slightly crisp. if you do not want to sun-dry, then roast each spice in a pan on a low heat till the spices release their essential oil becoming aromatic. stir often when roasting the spices and do not burn them.
5. before you begin grinding the whole spices, take the nutmeg in a mortar-pestle and crush it coarsely. keep aside.
6. now add all the whole spices in the dry grinder jar. break the cinnamon and then add. you can also use a coffee grinder. add according to the capacity of the jar. grind in batches of 1 to 3. i ground all the masala at once. if grinding in batches, then after each batch, remove the ground masala powder in a plate or bowl. then lastly mix very well with a spoon, before storing in a jar.
7. then add the coarsely crushed nutmeg powder.
8. next add 2 tablespoons ginger powder. you can skip ginger powder if you do not have it.
9. grind to a smooth powder. tiny grits of the spices are fine in the masala.
10. if using dried rose petals, then add them at this step. again i mention here that adding rose petals is optional and you can skip if you do not have.
11. again grind.
12. if you want, you can sift the powder and grind the tiny bits left on the sieve. let the powder cool down. you can spread it in a plate or allow it to cool in the grinder jar itself. then spoon the powder in a clean glass jar.
cover tightly and keep in a cool dry place. you can also keep it in the fridge or freezer. this recipe yields about 190 grams of garam masala. always store garam masala in an air-tight jar in a cool dry place.
few more spice powder recipes for you!
this post was orginally published on 23 june 2016 and has been updated recently on 20 november 2019.
- ½ cup cumin seeds (jeera) or 63 grams cumin seeds
- ¼ cup coriander seeds (sabut dhania) or 18 grams coriander seeds
- ¼ cup fennel seeds (saunf) or 24 grams fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoon caraway seeds (shah jeera) or 9 grams caraway seeds
- 2 tablespoon mace (javitri) or 8 grams mace
- 10 cinnamon sticks (dalchini) - each of about 2 to 3 inches, 7 grams
- 2 tablespoon cloves (lavang) or 12 grams cloves
- 20 green cardamoms (choti elaichi) or 4 grams green cardamoms
- 6 black cardamoms (badi elaichi) or 4 grams black cardamoms
- 1 nutmeg (jaiphal)
- 10 tej patta (indian bay leaf) or 2 grams tej patta
- 2 tablespoon dry ginger powder (saunth) - optional
- 2 tablespoon black pepper (sabut kali mirch) or 20 grams black pepper
- 3 tablespoon rose petals (optional)
- first take the whole spices one by one. then check for stones, chaff or any hidden mold in them.
- discard the stones, chaff or husks. if there are any insects or mold or fungi, then discard the spices. don't use them.
- add the whole spices in a plate or tray. keep the plate in the sun for 2 to 3 days.
- while being sun dried, cover with a sieved lid or a muslin or loosely woven cotton napkin, so that dust does not fall on the spices, when they are being sun dried. during the day, i would keep the spices out. during night, i would keep the plate inside with a loose lid covering it.
- after getting sun dried, there is no trace of moisture in the spices and they also become slightly crisp.
- before you begin, grinding the whole spices, take the nutmeg in a mortar-pestle and crush it coarsely. keep aside.
- now add all the whole spices in the dry grinder jar. break the cinnamon, tej patta and then add. you can also use a coffee grinder. add according to the capacity of the jar.
- then add the coarsely crushed nutmeg powder.
- next add 2 tablespoons ginger powder.
- grind to a smooth powder. tiny grits of the spices are fine in the masala. you can grind in 1 or 2 batches.
- if using dried rose petals, then add them at this step. if you don't have rose petals then skip adding them. again grind.
- if you want, you can sift it and grind the tiny bits left on the sieve.
- let the powder cool down. you can spread it in a plate or allow it to cool in the grinder jar itself. then spoon the powder in a clean glass jar.
- cover tightly and keep in a cool dry place. you can also keep it in the fridge or freezer. this recipe yields about 190 grams of garam masala.