Spice Guide: Garam Masala

This month’s Spice Guide is a little different, it’s actually a blend – garam masala! Come learn more about this complex, useful spice and get using it in your kitchen! I’d love to hear how you’re currently using it as well!

Spice Guide: Garam Masala | I Spy Plum Pie

History of Garam Masala

Garam Masala is a blend of ground spices and translates to mean ‘warm/hot spices’. It doesn’t however mean that it is actually spicy, rather that the combination of spices is believed to heat the body in Ayurvedic medicine. It is a blend used extensively in India, and each region has their own recipe and combination of spices. In fact, most households would probably have their own preferences as well! As a result, there’s no one truly authentic recipe.

It has been used in India for centuries, with the spice trade likely the reason why so many varieties exist today.

Garam Masala’s Flavour Profile

Garam Masala has a very complex but well balanced flavour profile. It brings warmth, sweetness, some spice and even floral elements. It’s aromatic and brings depth to both sweet and savoury dishes.

For the most part, garam masala consists of cumin, coriander, cloves, cardamom, black peppercorns, cinnamon and nutmeg. It also can commonly include dried chillies, turmeric, saffron, fennel seeds, bay leaves, bay leaves and star anise.

Common Cuisines

Garam masala is obviously very commonly used in Indian cuisine, but also in Pakistan and other South Asian cooking. It works well in both savoury and sweet dishes and it is best added towards the end of cooking and can be sprinkled on a dish just prior to serving as well. A little bit goes along way, so don’t be too heavy handed!

It is most commonly used with meat dishes including curries, rice dishes like pilafs and with lentils, eggs and root vegetables. It goes well in soups, marinades, braises and stews, as well as sweet dishes like cookies and pies.

Common Spice Pairings

Given the broad range of spices that can be used to make garam masala it can be used alone, or with other spices. Which spices will depend of course what is in your garam masala in the first place!

On top of the spices I have already mentioned, here are a few others it pairs well with:

  • Mustard seeds
  • Fenugreek
  • Caraway
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Mace

Suggested Recipe

Instead of a recipe to use garam masala, I thought it made more sense to share how to make your own! Here’s one recipe to try out:

  • 3tbs coriander seeds
  • 2tbs cumin seeds
  • 2tbs cardamom seeds
  • 2tbs black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tsp whole cloves
  • 1tsp grated nutmeg

Heat the spices in a dry pan until just toasted and fragrant. Allow to cool then grind into a powder and store in an airtight container in a dark place.

I hope you found this Spice Guide to garam masala helpful!

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2 Comments on Spice Guide: Garam Masala

  1. vincenzo di Leonard
    December 14, 2017 at 6:08 am (6 years ago)

    Hello there are some masala better for cabbages? And other better for grains like rice or millet?

    December 25, 2022 at 1:53 am (11 months ago)

    I think Garam masala is mainly used in the meat cuisine of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh


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