Garam Masala

garam masala
photo credit: gourmetsleuth


Cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey describes garam masala as "an aromatic mixture meant to heat the body". This traditional Indian spice mixture has many regional variations. One main ingredient includes cardamom seeds and although green cardamom is a favorite, black cardamom may be substituted. Of course cinnamon, cumin, cloves and black pepper round out the mixture. Variations aside one rough standard is that the mixture should be use towards the end of the cooking period. It may also be used as a condiment and sprinkled on meats, vegetables and lentils.

Garam Masala History

Garam Masala, the "warming" spice originated in Northern India where the winters are cold.  This is more of a warm, aromatic flavoring spice rather than a curry which may be firey hot.  The spice is used in most regions of India as well as Pakistan and even Persia.  

How To Make Garam Masala

The Traditional Method

The traditional method for making any fresh masala is to start with whole spices.  The spices should be toasted either in a heavy pan (such as cast iron) or in a low heat over (250 degrees) just until the aromas start to release.  Over heating the spice will make it bitter and unpalatable.

You can use a combination of ground spices but of course you will not have the same intense flavor.

Garam Masala Recipe

Every family has their own recipe and this is simply one example.  The ingredients are toasted in the oven and then ground. 

Makes about 1/4 cup of spice.

  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns 
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds 
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 
  • 3/4 teaspoon whole cloves 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds (without pods) 
  • 1 stick cinnamon -- broken 

Preheat oven to 275F degrees. Combine spices on pizza pan or cookies sheet and bake for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a blender container place roasted spices; cover and blend to a fine powder.  Store in an airtight container in a cool dry  place.

Fun Fact about Garam Masala

Where To Buy

Look for garam masala in any Indian grocery store or gourmet market.  The spice mixture can easily be found online.  We sell the spice in 2oz tins.

How To Store Garam Masala

For the best flavor make just the amount of masala you need for the recipe.  In a perfect world we would all make our spice mixture right before we use it but in reality it is convenient to make a portion of the spice ahead of time.   Once ground the flavors in the spice will start to diminish.  Store this freshly ground mixture in a tightly sealed container, refrigerated.  It should last up to a month or so properly stored.  The sooner you use the better the flavor.

Sources and Credits

Madhur Jaffrey - Indian Cooking, published by Barrons.

Linda bladholm - The Indian Grocery Store Demystified


Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.