I started the Garam Masala Tuesdays series in April of 2011, and finally after 2 years, I am posting a recipe for homemade Garam Masala! If I wasn’t embarrassed enough, I would be laughing at the irony of it. But in all fairness when I started the series I did mention that I hardly ever use garam masala in my cooking. So why the name Garam Masala tuesdays? You can read about that here.
If I hardly use garam masala, why the recipe then. Well, ever since I have started making my own garam masala, I do use it more than I previously did, because it just adds that touch of flavor which makes my dishes come together perfectly.
Garam Masala literally translates to warm/hot spice mix. Garam In Hindi means Hot, and Masala means blended spices.
But when I say hot it doesn’t mean that the spices are spicy hot. It means that the spices raise the heat of the body by raising the metabolism and hence the name garam masala. And that is why you should always use garam masala sparingly in your cooking. Too much of it and your stomach will bear the brunt of it.
There is no single recipe for Garam Masala, and every region, family, house, cook has his/her or their version of this famous spice mix. The spices that one uses in South indian cooking differ from one used in the north, the spices used for vegetarian dishes differ from those used in meat based dishes and hence there will be different variants in each case and depending on the cooking preferences and individual palate, the garam masala recipe will differ. Most common of all the spices are cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper though.
Since most of the cooking I do at my house is mainly Punjabi style, my recipe for garam masala uses more north indian cooking specific spices. I do use a different garam masala recipe for meat based dishes and will hopefully share that soon as well (and not after another 2 years!)
The list of spices might be a little long, but all it really requires is just grinding the spices. If you are not roasting the spices then it just takes a few minutes to get your homemade garam masala ready. I sometimes roast the spices until they release their aroma and then grind them to a powder. It takes a little longer but the results are worth it.
A word of note though, if roasting do not roast the black cardamom as roasting makes the cardamom slightly bitter.
A lot of people confuse Garam Masala with curry powder, but the truth is that curry powder is a very non-indian term. Nobody uses it in India. And unlike curry powder, garam masala is not based on turmeric, but on a mixture of cardamom, coriander and black pepper, among other spices.
The recipe I use is adapted from a Jiggs Kalra’s recipe. I love his cookbook. His recipes have never failed me. Nor have they failed my mother, who gifted me his book.
The blend he uses is of cumin seeds, black and green cardamom, black peppercorn, coriander and fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon, mace, bay leaves, ginger powder and nutmeg. He also uses dry rose petals, but I dont keep those. Instead I use a little saffron, but knowing how expensive it is, you can surely do without it. I have made the masala without saffron and results are still fine.
Dont be afraid of the long list. Whole spices keep long, and making your own homemade version of garam masala is not only cheap but it will also bring to your dishes an exotic and aromatic touch, where the cinnamon adds sweetness, cumin the pungency, pepper the heat, nutmeg a little complexity, and a citrusy touch from the coriander and ginger.
Feel free to use this masala in salads, soups, vegetarian dishes and even cookies, cakes or bread. But add with a gentle hand, always towards the last few minutes of cooking, as a final garnish to the dish.
- 15 gm cumin seeds
- 10 gms black cardamom
- 25 gm black peppercorn
- 15 gms green cardamom
- 30 gm coriander seeds
- 10 gm fennel seeds
- 6 gms cloves
- 7 sticks cinnamon ( 1 inch)
- 6 gm mace
- 3 gms bay leaves
- pinch saffron (optional)
- 3 gm ginger powder
- 1 nutmeg
- If roasting, heat them on a dry thick bottomed skillet on medium high heat, making sure you mix the spices so that they are evenly heated. Roast each spice individually until just fragrant. Cool before grinding. Do not roast the black cardamom.
- Use sparingly on dishes and at the end of your cooking, as a garnish to the dish.