Garam Masala is the evergreen everyday Indian spice mix added to Indian food. In this post, you get a bonus of two homemade garam masala recipes –
- Everyday Classic Garam Masala
- Authentic Punjabi Garam Masala
Both are easily doable great recipes and will complement your Indian dishes in a great way.
What is garam masala?
Garam Masala 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.
Garam Masala Variations
There are regional variations of this ground spice mix in India. The proportions and types of spices used are different. The recipe of Punjabi Garam Masala uses more coriander seeds and aromatic spices.
The Punjabi garam masala is my mom in law’s recipe and a heirloom one. Every Punjabi home has their own versions of making this spice blend.
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.
How to Use Garam Masala
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’. The garam masala 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.
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 aromatic and sweet spices as compared to garam masala which has lesser spices. Curry powder also has turmeric powder in it. Curry powder is also mild with sweet notes 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. 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. If you live in India, you will get good sunlight during the days in the summers. 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.
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.
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 the classic garam masala 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.
Everyday Classic Garam Masala Recipe Method
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.
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 on 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 it in an air-tight jar in a cool dry place.
Few more spice powder recipes for you!
This post is from the archives and has been republished and updated on 19 May 2020.
Homemade Garam Masala
- ½ cup cumin seeds 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 or 4 grams green cardamoms
- 6 black cardamoms 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 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. 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.
Nutrition Info (approximate values)
Punjabi Garam Masala Recipe
This is an important Indian spice blend that is a must in every Punjabi home. The humble dal (lentils) or vegetable dishes (sabzi) are taken to another level when you add a bit of this aromatic spice blend in these dishes.
This aromatic and strong spice blend is added in most Punjabi recipes like chana masala, paneer butter masala, kadai paneer, palak paneer, kadhi pakora, malai kofta, dum aloo and so on.
When we make this masala, we don’t roast the spices. We just sun dry them and then powder the spices. If you prefer, you can lightly dry roast the spices instead of sun-drying them. But don’t roast the dry ginger.
I usually add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of this Punjabi garam masala in the lentils, vegetable dishes or curries I make for a serving of 4 to 5.
A picture below of the spices used for making this spice blend.
How to make Authentic Punjabi Garam Masala
1: Pick the cumin (jeera) and coriander (dhania) for are any stones. Spread the spices in a tray or a plate.
2: Keep the plate with the whole spices in sunlight for 2 to 3 days. With a spoon turn over the spices sometimes when they are getting the sun light.
3: In a very good dry grinder or coffee grinder, first grind the dry ginger. Dry ginger (saunth) is the toughest to grind. So I always grind it first. You can also use 2 tablespoons ground ginger powder instead of dry whole ginger. You can still see a small bit of dry ginger still left after grinding.
4: The next difficult one to grind is the nutmeg (jaiphal). Now in the same jar add the cinnamon sticks and whole nutmeg. The cinnamon sticks (dalchini) should be broken and added to the dry grinder. You can grate the nutmeg and also add. You choose what suits you the best.
5: Grind these spices to a fine powder. Remove in a bowl.
6: Now add the rest of the spices to the dry grinder.
7: Grind these too to a fine powder.
8: Add it to the bowl where the previously powdered dry ginger (saunth), nutmeg, Indian bay leaves (tejpatta) and cinnamon were kept. Mix very well. If you have a powerful grinder, then just add all the spices and grind to a fine powder.
9: Store the masala in an air-tight container in a cool dry place. Keeps well for a year. You can add this spice blend to your everyday curries, lentils, veggies and rice dishes.
This Punjabi garam masala is added in many popular Punjabi recipes like samosa, paneer lababdar, bhindi masala, rajma recipe, lauki kofta, paneer tikka masala etc.
Authentic Punjabi Garam Masala Powder
- ½ cup whole coriander seeds
- ¼ cup whole cumin seeds
- 9 pieces cinnamon sticks , each having an approx size of about 2.5 to 3 inches
- 2 tablespoons cloves
- 10 tejpatta leaves
- 10 black cardamoms
- 2 tablespoons small cardamoms
- 1.5 tablespoons whole black pepper
- 1 piece whole dry ginger of 1 inch or 2 tablespoons dry ginger powder
- 1 nutmeg
- Pick the coriander and cumin seeds of stones.
- Spread the whole spices on a plate or thali.
- Keep in the sun for 2 to 3 days.
- Grind the dry ginger first.
- Then add the broken cinnamon sticks and nutmeg.
- Grind to a fine powder and keep aside.
- Now add the rest of the spices and grind to fine powder.
- Mix both the spice powder batches well.
- Store punjabi garam masala in an air-tight container or jar.
- You can also refrigerate this spice blend.