January 29, 2018

Garam Masala – A complete Guide on Benefits, Cooking, Buying and Storing

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Garam Masala Powder – The King Spice

Garam Masala is to Indian cuisine what basil is to Italian food, indispensable and traditional.

It’s a combination of many different spices, blended together to make a traditional Indian spice mix.

You will find Garam Masala Powder in every single Indian kitchen.

A fascinating story of Garam masala powder is that although it is used in every Indian household, each region, state and household have their very own unique recipe.

The most common or basic spices used to make Garam masala powder are cardamon, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cumin to name a few.

They can range from a mix of only 3 spices (like the Bengal Garam Masala powder) or up to 25 spices (typically the Northern Indian region). There is no wrong or right way to make or buy Garam masala powder.

It’s up to your personal or household preference.

‘Garam’ is an Indian word for ‘Hot’ and ‘Masala’ means ‘Spice’. Essentially a hot spice but the funny part being that there is no chilli powder used in any Garam Masala recipe.

Its the combination of various spices that renders this spice its spicy edge making it a warm spice.

Indian Name

Garam Masala Powder

This is the universal name for the spice in any language.

Flavour Profile of Spice

As the name suggests, Garam Masala is a warming spice with a sharp, pungent flavour.

Since there is no set recipe for this traditional spice blend, the flavour profile too tends to vary. Some Garam Masala powder is more robust and strong compared to others.

The Uses of Garam Masala Powder

I always advise caution when using Garam Masala powder in recipes. Since it is a spice blend of other warming spices it can be very overpowering if used more than the required amount.

Always use 1/2 to 2 tsp of this powder if making a dish serving up to 6 people.

Garam Masala can be added during the cooking process directly into the dish while making the base sauce or in the end as one of the last steps to cooking.

Although an Indian spice blend, you can use Garam Masala for making soups, stews and stir-fries.

Add it to your regular omelette, coleslaw, salad, dips or mayonnaise and give it a spicy twist.

Read about 28 Essential Indian Spices and How to Use Them for Cooking. 

How to use Garam Masala benefits

Benefits of  Garam Masala Powder 

Fights Diabetes – Almost all garam masala powder recipe contains cinnamon which helps to keep blood pressure under control. With the added benefit of other spices, this spice blend is said to assist with maintaining sugar levels.

Aids digestion – Since Garam masala powder is a warming spice, it increases the body temperature which in turn helps to digest food better.

Improves Constipation – Due to its digestive quality, adding Garam masala to meals can help in curing constipation by releasing digestive enzymes.

Spice Buying Guide

There are many different brands selling Garam Masala. Even a regular supermarket stores jars or packs of this King of Indian spices.

My favourite is the organic range of spices especially when it comes to traditional spice blends. Such as this one from Waitrose in the UK. 

The equivalent to the above spice mix in the US is made by Frontier Natural Products

If its the popular household brand that you are looking for then this Garam Masala Powder from East End is one of the best selling brands.

I would recommend buying a Jar or resealable pack of this spice as opposed to buying it lose.

How to Store Cumin Seeds

Due to the nature of the different spices used, Garam Masala may lose its freshness if not stored correctly.

Keep it in an airtight container away from light and heat.

Well stored Garam Masala will keep its character and flavour for almost a year.

Best Food and Spice matching

Garam Masala is a spice blend and hence can be used with almost all kinds of food and other spices.

Best food pairing: beans, cauliflower, chicken, curry, couscous, eggplant, lamb, lentils, meat, peas, potatoes, rice, soups, stews

Best spice pairing: bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon,  cloves, coriander seeds, dry chilies, mustard seeds, mace

Spice Substitute for Garam Masala

Due to the diversity in the spice mix,  there is no set flavour profile for Garam Masala and so it is difficult to replicate its taste.

Few spices that can be used in lieu of Garam Masala is cumin powder, coriander powder, cinnamon powder or even curry powder however in moderation.

You may also like to read about the Best Spice Substitutes for Hard to Find Indian Spices 

Garam Masala Recipe

To make 1/2 cup (65 gms) of Garam Masala Powder.


Cumin seeds – 2 tbsp

Coriander seeds – 2 tbsp

Cardamon pods – 8

Cinnamon Stick – 1 inch stick

Cloves – 8

Nutmeg – 1/2 piece

Put all the whole spices in a warm pan and gently bloom it without any oil for 1 – 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and let it cool.

Once cool grind into a powder and store in an airtight container.

PS – If you find it difficult to buy or use whole spices, you can buy the powdered version of all the spices described above and mix it in the same ratio. 

Buy Spices Online

Avail the convenience to get a range of spices, special ingredients and regular grocery delivered straight to your door without any hassle.

UK and Rest of Europe Residents –  British Corner Shop, the official partners of Waitrose UK

US Residents –  Thrive Market ( Dont forget to Claim your Free Gift with your first buy )

Easy Recipes with Garam Masala Powder to Try


Your Views and Recipes 

Please do leave your comment if you think I may have missed out on something.

I love to hear your kitchen adventures so please share any recipes based on Garam Masala that you love.

And as always if you think this article deserves more eyes then please do share by clicking the share and/or save buttons.