Indian Food Basics: Homemade Garam Masala

Hello Readers!  It’s been quite some time since my last post–too long, actually. Since returning from India I’ve found myself incredibly swamped.  Between unpacking from our trip and entertaining for the holidays, I simply haven’t had the time to sit down and blog.  I also haven’t had time to moderate comments/emails, so please bear with me.  I’m getting there!

Tonight I am going to show you how to make my version of Garam Masala–arguably India’s most popular spice mix.

If you’ve never heard of garam masala before, no worries! Many people I’ve met have no idea what it is or what it’s used for.  Instead, they think that all Indian curries are made with a singular, yellow spice called “Curry Powder.”  Interestingly enough, this mysterious “Curry Powder” doesn’t actually exist in most Indian kitchens.

In it’s place is the extremely fragrant and warm spice mix known as garam masala.

garam masala, indian spice mix, easy garam masala recipe

The name garam masala literally means “hot spice mixture,” but don’t be confused.  The “hot” refers to the intensity and warmth of the spices and not it’s chili content–so even those with the most sensitive of taste-buds can enjoy dishes made with this spice mixture (eh hmmm…mom!).  

Actually a lot of garam masalas don’t include chili at all! ..and there are a lot of garam masalas out there!  There are more recipes for this particular spice blend than there are stars in the sky–each family has their own, usually passed down through the generations.

Ingredients will also vary depending on the part of the country the family resides, thereby changing the flavors of the same dish family by family and region by region.

whole garam masala, whole garam masala recipe, garam masala recipe

Whole Garam Masala

So, toss out that funky, yellow “curry” powder you have sitting in your pantry (trust me, that stuff doesn’t make a good curry), grab your spice grinder and let’s get started!

Making the spice mixture doesn’t take a lot of time, but I completely understand that not everyone will want to use the time they do have to mix and grind a bunch of spices together.

In that case, take a trip to your local Indian grocer and pick yourself up a box of the pre-made stuff.  Each brand varies in flavor, but I’ve found most of them to be great substitutions for the homemade stuff (MDH, Shan and Everest are three of the most popular brands available in the States. I’d recommend any of them to use for making curries).

Garam Masala Recipe

Makes about 4 cups.  Store in airtight containers and the masala should last for 6+ months.  If you don’t use garam masala often, cut the recipe in half or quarters.

NOTE: you can add a few dried, red chilies to the mixture if you like spicy food and that’s your thing.  I omit the chilies and instead add them when making the actual curry–this way each dish can be spiced to my guests’ liking.  

Ingredients:

  • 200 g  whole coriander seeds
  • 130 g  black peppercorns 
  • 55 g  whole cumin seeds
  • 25 g  cinnamon (about 6 whole sticks)
  • 25 g  whole cloves (about a heaping 1/4 cup)
  • 25 g  green cardamom pods (about a heaping 1/4 cup)
  • 25 g  whole nutmeg (about 1/2 a small nutmeg)
  • 2 g  whole mace
  • 2 g  whole bay leaf

Directions:

  • Measure spices and mix together in a bowl.
  • Dry-toast the spices in a large pan over medium heat until the spices become very aromatic and begin to turn color (about 5 minutes of stirring often).
  • Grind spices using a spice or coffee grinder.  Run the masala through a fine sieve and grind any large particles down until they are a fine powder.
  • Store the masala in a air-tight container (mason jars work great!).

I started by measuring and weighing my spices and mixed them together in a large bowl.

homemade garam masalaI then dry-toasted the spices over medium heat by tossing all the spices in a (dry) heavy-bottomed pan and stirring constantly so that nothing burned.

homemade garam masalaOnce the spices became very aromatic (the smell is incredible!) and started turning a little color, I removed the pan from the heat and poured them back into the large bowl.

I then grabbed my little coffee grinder.

spices grinder

And when I say little, I mean little!  Unfortunately, my other, larger grinder was ruined by cloves (long story) and this is all I have.  I meant to get a nice stainless steel one while in India, but I always have to forget something! 😀

Anyway, I scooped the spices into the grinder and ground everything to a fine powder.

grinding garam masalaBecause this grinder doesn’t work the best, I dumped the powder into a sieve to help separate any large pieces–which I tossed back into the grinder until everything was a fine powder.

garam masala

And finally, I had my homemade Garam Masala!

finished garam masala

I scooped this powder into a couple air-tight mason jars and now it’s ready to be turned into a bunch of delicious curries!

Stay Tuned to the blog!  In the next few months I’ll hopefully have some exciting changes happening.  The first is that My Fancy Pantry will be moving to it’s own server and will no longer be hosted by WordPress.  Unfortunately, that means any wordpress.com subscribers to my blog will be lost!  

If you’re a wordpress.com subscriber, please consider following My Fancy Pantry on Facebook and Twitter or click the Subscribe button on the upper-right side of the screen so that you can keep up with any updates to the site.  I’m not sure when this change will be taking place, but I’ll do my best to post about it well before we move the site.

Secondly, I’ll be sharing this awesome recipe for Chicken Dum Biryani sometime in the near future!  You won’t want to miss this!  

easy indian biryani, chicken biryani

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26 thoughts on “Indian Food Basics: Homemade Garam Masala

  1. Kiki

    Your recipe couldn’t have been better time – I took an Indian cookery class at the end of last year, and the teacher wanted to email us his recipe for garam masala but never did. So now I can get started 🙂 .

    Reply
    1. Shari Post author

      Indeed, it’s fabulous used that way! My favorite way to use it is to simply saute zucchini in a little ghee and turmeric, salt, black pepper and then finish it off with a sprinkle of garam masala. So warm and comforting!

      Reply
    1. Shari Post author

      I believe it is the same stuff! I am sure I remember reading an article about the spice and the eye spray, actually…but I can’t remember specifics. I’ll have to read up on it again!

      Reply
  2. deelite984

    My family is from Trinidad and I grew up on the yellow curry with the Indian chief on the bag. I have since learned how to make my own curry but have never seen a garam masala recipe. I can’t wait to try this. Can you convert the gram measurements to tablespoons? And welcome back!

    Reply
    1. Shari Post author

      Hello! I hope you enjoy the recipe! I did take actual measurements of some of the spices, but for some reason didn’t measure them all. The next time I make it, I’ll be sure to edit the recipe.

      Reply
    1. Shari Post author

      I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions or problems with this recipe. Once you get your own blend of garam masala, you’ll never buy the prepared stuff again!

      Reply
  3. vasanthi

    fantastic recipe, try adding a few star anise and paprika the colour of curry will be beautiful. Preethi is the best brand mixer grinder from India. You get this in any indian gracery stores in US.

    Reply
    1. Shari Post author

      Vasanthi,

      Thank you for the suggestions! I actually thought about putting star anise and chili both in my garam masala when I first made it, but decided against it because both of those spices can be a little overwhelming to some people. Personally, I LOVE star anise and add it to my curries often.

      I checked with the Indian grocer today, he doesn’t have the Preethi brand…but he did have another. I found it on amazon though, so hopefully I’ll have a nice grinder soon!

      Reply
  4. Pingback: » Red Lentil Daal

  5. Jo Blogs

    Oh my goodness I could get lost in your blog for days Shari! I love indian food so much, it’s all I ever want to eat but alas, Hungry Hubby likes a bit more variety so I have to accommodate him 😉 Please let me know if/when you move servers as I don’t want to lose out!

    Reply

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