Tongue – Tingling combination of sour, hot, pungent and spicy tastes, this Indian street food seasoning called Chaat Masala powder is a must-have spice blend in any Indian kitchen.
If you are a keen Indian foodie then you may have come across recipes which list Chaat Masala powder as an ingredient.
Chaat Masala is used in many Indian dishes to give it a zesty lift.
It’s one of those spices that has a very specific use in a dish.
An interesting fact about this unusual spice blend is that it’s one of those rare blends that Indians are absolutely happy with buying pre-mixed and off the shelf rather than make chaat masala at home.
It may be because replicating the combination and balance of flavour and taste of Chaat Masala can be a bit tricky to achieve at home but there are many homemade Chaat Masala recipe for your to try.
What is Chaat Masala Powder?
My research on this amazing spice led me to stories which indicate that it may have originated from the Royal kitchens during the Mughal empire. (they were the original foodies)
Chaat masala is primarily used in street food items.
A typical chaat masala ingredient will include the use of primarily sour spices such as Amchoor powder ( Dry mango powder) and black salt.
Other regular spices such as cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chilli powder are combined to make chaat masala. However the spices used can range from 8 – 12 different types depending on the recipe.
This unique spice or seasoning is vert typical to Indian cuisine and less known worldwide.
Other Names For Chaat Masala
Chaat Masala in English – Chaat Masala, Chat Masala
Chaat masala in Hindi – Chaat Masala
Chaat masala in German – Indien Chaat Masala
Chaat masala in German – Indien Chaat Masala
Chaat masala in French – Indien Chaat Masala
Chaat masala in Spanish – Indio Chaat Masala
What is Chaat?
To understand the uses of chaat masala it will help to know what does ‘chaat’ mean?
If you have cooked Indian food or even eaten it, you may be aware of the frequently used word ‘Masala’, which literally translated to English means ‘spice’.
When a recipe mentions Chana Masala or Meat Masala it refers to spices added to make chickpeas or a seasoning for meat.
But what is a Chaat?
Is it an ingredient, a dish, or a cooking method?
For the sake of explaining the use of Chaat masala in Indian cuisine, its best to say that it is a combination of all.
In practice and in the Indian culinary world ‘Chaat’ is referred to a savoury sour dish. Usually a snack item and very popular street food. Akin to nachos and dips.
Authentic Indian Chaat dishes are made without any cooking involved.
The ingredients used may be pre-cooked like the puris (puffed pastry shells) or papri (deep-fried pastry), boiled potatoes but the actual method of making or assembling a chaat does not involve the use of heat.
It’s like making a tangy-sweet, spicy salad where different ingredients like puffed rice, potatoes, crispy fried pastry, freshly chopped onions and coriander leaves are all put together and mixed with different dressings called chutneys.
‘Chaat’ also refers to a particular taste as well.
Surprisingly ‘Chaat’ does not fall under any specific taste category. Rather it is a combination of different tastes such as hot, sweet, pungent, umami with an overriding sour taste.
So broadly speaking it may be classified under sour but there are different flavour hints that you get in chaat masala.
For me, it’s very difficult to truly explain the meaning of chaat by typing some descriptive words. You really need to experience the taste to understand the uniqueness of this Indian condiment.
What Does Chaat Masala Taste Like?
It may not be love at first smell with this unearthly spice.
I say this because when you first open the pack and take a sniff, the smell resembles that of rotten eggs and very sulphuric.
Not really something that you would like to put in your mouth after the first encounter.
But let me assure you that the overpowering smell camouflages its exotic ethereal taste.
It requires getting accustomed to the taste and eventually the use of Chaat masala.
My husband claims to hate the pungent taste and smell of chaat masala but devours any dish it is added to without even him realising that its the same dreaded spice blend that he so claims to dislike.
I choose to keep my mouth shut on this and silently continue with my servings.
Because of the primary use of souring spices such as amchoor powder (dry mango powder) and black salt it broadly falls under the sour taste category.
However, there are many different layers of taste to this versatile spice blend.
Chaat Masala has a very strong and robust flavour which gives a tangy spicy zing to any dish it is added to.
How to Use Chaat Masala Powder?
Although a spice blend, Chaat Masala is, in culinary practice, a seasoning.
It can be sprinkled on top of a finished dish or added directly to a dish without the need to cook, unlike most Indian spices.
Indians don’t just use chaat masala for making chaat dishes. It’s a ‘pick up and sprinkle’ flavour enhancing seasoning for practically any savoury or fruity food items.
Some of the uses of Chaat masala powder are:
- Sprinkle on different Indian street food chaat dishes like alu tikki, papri chaat, puff rice chaat, samosas, chutneys etc.
- Add Chaat masala powder to lentils, legumes or vegetarian curries.
- Sprinkled as a seasoning on stir-fried or deep-fried dishes such as pakoras or patties or stir fried yellow, orange and red vegetables like carrots, potatoes, pumpkin etc.
- Give a zesty lift to fruit salad, normal salad, eggs, cheese, sauces.
- You can also add it to drinks especially buttermilk or lemonade for an uplifting tangy spicy taste.
- Sprinkle some on cheese and cucumber sandwich, avocado , tomatoes etc.
If you are disappointed with my suggestion then you know where to reach me and share your views.
Can You Use Chaat Masala VS Garam Masala
It took me a while to understand why few people get confused between Chaat Masala & Garam Masala powder.
Both are not only different to taste but also have different uses.
Although both are spice blends they are made with different spices and have different flavour profiles.
An interesting difference between spices and Chaat Masala is that while most spices need to be cooked to release their flavour this is not the case when using chaat masala.
Since its a seasoning it can be added directly to the dish mostly at the end of cooking or before serving.
While, Garam Masala is a traditional Indian spice blend made with a combination of many different hot and sweet spices such as cloves, cinnamon, black peppercorns, cumin, coriander and many others; no sour spice is used in any Garam Masala blend at all.
The spice combination used in Garam Masala is very different than the spices used in Chaat Masala.
The primary spice in Chaat masala is amchoor powder (dry mango powder) or even dry pomegranate powder that gives it a very distinctive sour taste.
There is also a marked difference in their use for cooking.
Garam Masala needs to be cooked or added to hot curries and mixed well before serving, while Chaat Masala can simply be sprinkled right at the end.
In summary, Garam Masala is a cooking spice while Chaat Masala is a seasoning.
What Food and Spices Go Best with Chaat Masala
Since Chaat Masala is classified as a seasoning and has a strong flavour, it should not be used extensively. Use it sparingly if you need to add a tang to your recipe or even drink.
Best food pairing: fruits, fried food, beans, pumpkin, eggplant, peas, potatoes, lentils, legumes, curry,
Best spice pairing: asafoetida, cumin powder, chilli powder, coriander powder, dry chillies, fennel seeds, mustard seeds
What is a Good Chaat Masala Substitute ?
It is difficult to replicate the taste of chaat masala as it has a very distinctive use and flavour.
Since the overriding taste is sour the best possible match are:
First substitute option – Aamchur powder,
Second substitute option – Lemon juice or black salt.
Third substitute option – You can also add a mix cumin powder, amchur powder, chilli powder and salt as a substitute for chaat masala.
Health Benefits of Chaat Masala
Aids in Digestion -The powerful antioxidants contained in mango powder, ginger powder and coriander powder help to combat constipation, flatulence and acidity.
Detoxifying Properties – The powerful blend of different spices has vitamins A,C,D ,B6 and Iron in abundance. All are beneficial to remove toxins from the body, treating anaemia and curing the nervous system disorders.
Regulate High Blood Pressure – Coriander seeds in chaat masala is known to lower high blood pressure and prevent heart attack and strokes.
How To Make Chaat Masala Powder At Home?
If you rather make homemade chaat masala then follow this easy chaat masala recipe here.
Where To Buy Chaat Masala Powder?
As mentioned, Chaat Masala is a very common and extensively used Indian spice.
However, it may not be readily available in the normal supermarket unless it has a dedicated Indian section.
You can buy this spice from any Indian grocery store. Wherever you choose to buy it from make sure it is from a trusted source.
Most Chaat Masalas are light beige to darker shades of beige in colour with a powdery texture.
Ensure that the powder is smooth and not lumpy. Check the manufactured date as old packaged blends tend to have less aroma.
Ensure that the packs or jars are tightly sealed.
Here is my recommended brand that you can find in any Indian store or on Amazon.
How to Store Chaat Masala
Like most spices, Chaat masala tends to lose its freshness if not stored properly.
Keep it in a tightly sealed glass container, or if it’s in a packet then close the opening of the packet tightly with a clip such as this one here.
Store the powder in a dark, dry place away from direct sunlight.
Well stored Chaat Masala will keep its character and flavour for almost a year.
Easy Recipes To Make With Chaat Masala
Your Views and Recipes
Have you heard about or used Chaat Masala? I love to hear about your kitchen adventures so please share any recipes or tips.
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