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Garam Masala – How To Use Garam Masala, Recipe And Substitute

Garam Masala – How To Use Garam Masala, Recipe And Substitute

90 % of Indian recipes will have Garam masala spice listed on their ingredients list? But what is Garam Masala powder, why is it so important for Indian Cooking and how to you use garam masala? All your queries answered in this post . 

What is garam masala powder
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Indian Garam Masala powder is as an Ingredient listed in many Indian recipes. But what is it this garam masala spice, how is it different to other Indian spice blends and why is it important to Indian cuisine?

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

It is a combination of many different spices, blended together which makes it a traditional Indian spice blend.

You will find garam masala powder in every single Indian kitchen.

A fascinating fact about this must-have Indian spice is that although it is used in every Indian household, each region, state and household have their very own unique recipe.

It is very rare to come across a garam masala recipe which has the same ingredients or similar quantity of spices.

Known as the King of Indian spices, garam masala rules over all the other spices and you simply cannot do without it.

What Is Garam Masala Made of?

As mentioned no two recipes of making Garam Masala is similar, other than when you buy a particular brand and stick to that.

If you were to ask what is an authentic Garam masala powder recipe then the answer is there isn’t any one recipe.

In fact, just like the different regional Indian cuisines, garam masala ingredients use different types of spices that differs from state to state, this is what makes a DIY garam masala recipe unique in flavour and taste depending on the spices used.

The most common or basic spices used to make Garam masala powder regardless of regional boundaries 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).

As there are no specific measurement or types of ingredients used to make garam masala, there is no wrong or right garam masala recipe.

It’s up to your personal or household preference.

What Does ‘Garam Masala’ Mean?

‘Garam’ is an Indian word for ‘Hot’ and ‘Masala’ means ‘Spice’.

This literally translates to ‘hot Spice’.

The interesting part is that although ‘Garam Masala’ means ‘hot spice’,  funnily enough, there is no chilli powder or chillies used in any garam masala recipe.

It is the combination of the spice ingredients of garam masala that renders its spicy edge.

What Is Garam Masala Called In Different Languages?

This is where everyone learns to speak at least one Indian or to be more specific ‘Hindi’ word.

Garam Masala is a universal name for the spice in any language even in English.

It does not have any translated version in any language.

It’s simple and short without any complications. ( well at least verbally 🙂

What Does Garam Masala Taste Like?

A common question asked about this popular Indian spice blend is ‘Is Garam Masala spicy?’

Garam Masala is a warming spice with a sharp, pungent flavour.

It is not a hot spicy blend also the name may suggest something else, rather a strong aromatic blend.

As there is no set garam masala recipe, the flavour profile too tends to vary.

Some  Garam Masala powder taste more robust and strong compared to others.

When classified into the taste category of spices, it falls under the pungent category and not hot.

Dependent on the ingredients used to make garam masala , the taste of each blend will differ. Most mixes will use cinnamon cardamom and sometimes mace spice which makes the garam masala spice blend smell sweet.

But don’t let that fool you into believing that it is a sweet spice.

It has a slight bitter after taste, therefore used pretty cautiously in dishes.

How To Use Garam Masala Powder?

The uses of garam masala powder in cooking in many fold.

Most Indian recipes will recommend adding garam masala to the dish either at the end or during cooking.

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.

Apart from Indian dishes here are few ideas on how to cook with Garam masala:

  • Add a teaspoon of garam masala for making soups, stews, stir-fries and other savoury dishes.
  • Add it to your regular omelette, coleslaw, salad, dips or mayonnaise and give it a spicy twist.
  • Garam masala powder can also be used for making marinades or rubs along with other powdered spices.

How Much Garam Masala To Use?

I always advise being watchful 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.

One of my tips is to stick to using 1/2 to 2 tsp of this powder if making a dish serving up to 6 people.

What Is The Difference Between Garam Masala and Curry Powder?

There are been many times during my cooking classes that the attendees have confused themselves with garam masala VS curry powder. Some also refer it to as garam masala curry !

Therefore it is important to know the difference between the two.

Both the spices are two different Indian spice blends. It is best to not use the two spices together if you do not wish to overpower your dish.

While garam masala powder is a traditional essential Indian spice, curry powder is the most globally accepted commercial international spice blend for cooking Indian food.

This post highlights the difference between Garam Masala Vs Curry powder. I advise you to read it to ensure you are using the two spice blends correctly when cooking.

What is garam masala powder pinterest image

What Is A Garam Masala Substitute?

Garam masala is a complex spice blend with varying taste profiles as per the individual recipe.

Some of the best substitute for garam masala is:

Option 1 – Curry powder especially if it has more cardamom and cinnamon taste

Option 2 – A mix of cumin powder, coriander powder, cinnamon and cardamom powder

What Foods Go Best With Garam Masala Powder?

As it is a spice blend, it 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=

Benefits of  Garam Masala Powder 

May Help Fight 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.

Where to Buy Best Garam Masala Powder

There are many different brands selling Garam Masala.

Even a regular supermarket stores jars or packs of this King of Indian spices.

Since the ingredients and quantity of spices used in each blend can differ so does the taste.

Choosing a blend that you like is a personal preference.

It is my observation and experience, I feel most Garam masala spice blend tend to have an overpowering smell of cinnamon.

It is not my most favourite type of blend.

After buying and using a few different brands, I can recommend the following brands which have a good balance of taste and flavour along with freshness.

The best brand to buy Garam Masala in the UK, that I liked is this blend from Waitrose.

It uses some of the traditional spices such as cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and cardamom making is a strong blend.

Since the blend does not have any cumin or coriander added to it, you can use it for making Indian Masala Chai. (spice tea)  as well. 

A little goes a long way if using this Garam Masala powder from Waitrose.

Garam Masala Powder from Waitrose buy online
Click image to buy directly online

In the US, the brands I recommend tying products from is

The Spice House 

This Garam Masala Spice Blend from The Spice House has some strong spices and need to be used sparingly. The flavour is strong and more pungent without being too overpowering if used correctly.

The Spice blend from Raw Spice Bar is equally good and uses more spices compared to the other brands. Since the quantity of each individual spice used is comparatively less the taste is well balanced and rounded.

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

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

How to Store Garam Masala Powder

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 spice blend will keep its character and flavour for almost a year.

Homemade 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. 

Here is another recipe along with a video for making Garam Masala at home.

Buy Spices & Grocery 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

Easy Recipes with Garam Masala Powder

Easy fish korma recipe


White beans fritters



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.

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Geoffrey at Spoonabilities
Geoffrey at Spoonabilities
1 year ago

Love garam masala and all the dishes we’ve had at restaurants or tried at home. But I did have a lot of questions and you answered them all. Thank you!!!

Carrie Robinson
Carrie Robinson
1 year ago

My fiance cooks homemade Indian food for us often. This spice is definitely a staple in our kitchen. 🙂

1 year ago

I love that you can make your own Garam masala! It’s so easy and tastes much more fresh.

Gopi patel
2 years ago

This is undoubtedly the best thing that I’ve come across today in the internet. It was a long time that I have been thinking on this topic but I couldn’t satiate my quench for knowledge through any post that I read. However, today that I came across your article, I seem to have learnt a lot and I have also gained enough knowledge on this topic. Thanks once again.

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