Back to basics - Garam Masala

Up until a few years ago if I came across a recipe with garam masala as an ingredient, I'd just open a packet at random and toss in a teaspoon. Then I'd wonder why the dish never tasted authentic enough.

Enlightenment finally dawned with the help of Madhur Jaffrey. When I got her book for the first time and browsed through the glossary, I realized I was doing everything wrong. Make your own garam masala and make it fresh were Jaffrey's first instructions. Why? Because packaged garam masala contains more of the cheaper spices like cumin and coriander instead of the expensive ones like cardamom and cloves. So much for authenticity!

Since then I use the masala liberally whenever a recipe calls for it. Sometimes even if the recipe doesn't call for it because I love the aroma! There are a few things I am grateful to Jaffrey for - teaching me to eat turnips for example, or making the perfect rogan josh but this garam masala tops the list by far.


(adapted from this recipe by Madhur Jaffrey)
(makes about 3 tbsps)
1 tbsp cardamom seeds
1 2" cinnamon
1 tsp black cumin (shahjeera)
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp peppercorns
1/4 nutmeg

Powder spices in a clean, dry coffee or spice grinder until smooth. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

* In Prashad, Jiggs Kalra has a separate garam masala for curries, meat and mild dishes! It has either fennel, mace, ginger etc. Similarly Sanjeev Kapoor adds large cardamom (badi elaichi). All are aromatic spices and I am sure one can play around for combinations. In my opinion, those spices are good-to-add while the above six are must-add.

Recipes with this garam masala -
Pindi Chana
Paneer Tawa Masala
Hara Cholia Te Paneer

* Entry for A Spoonful of Christmas hosted by Zlamushka's Spciy Kitchen



Blogger FH said...

Excellent entry for that event! I agree with what you said about store bought ones, almost dark brown, hardly any particular flavor.
I made Coffee's (her mom's) Garam masala and love to add that to every North Indian dish, reddish in color as well.I will try your's too! Have a great weekend:)

4:00 PM  
Blogger Shilpa said...

I too don't like the ready made garam masala smell Ashwini. I think I will go for this when I finish off my current batch...

You too broke one rule of the event???

4:05 PM  
Blogger Alpa said...

I love garam masala - I use it in so many dishes. I find the readymade packets to be pungent and sometimes stale. I get mine grinded by my husband's family in Baroda whenever I go to India. You're right, it makes a world of difference!

4:06 PM  
Blogger Rajitha said...

love this masala..the garam masala recipe i have is huge..has about 16 ingredients!! this is so much simpler..

4:42 PM  
Blogger evolvingtastes said...

Jaffrey Aunty rocks! Her recipes are always great. That 'Achari Baingan' you have on your blog happens to be one of my favorites too.

5:36 PM  
Blogger bee said...

someone recently sent me garam masala similar to this one, but with a hint of saffron. try it.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Asha - I checked out Coffee's post after your comment.. her mom's recipe looks great! I am sure it will work perfectly in creamy dishes.

Shilpa - ditto, now that I know the difference! Which rule? What are you talking about? (runs over to ZLamushka's blog and reads the rules properly)
Wrapping darn... I hope she won't mind. Its the festive season after all :-)

Alpa - private masala vendors? That must be one aromatic masala!

Rajitha - like I said this is the most basic. You can add whatever else you feel like

ET - Aunty? Hee hee... I am big fan of the baigan too.

Bee - gosh just the sound it makes me want to grind up another batch. I am on it - saffron in my garam masala!

7:43 PM  
Blogger TheCooker said...

(I'm still laughing over JaffreyAunty)
Her recipes are wonderful and the books a treat to read.
Will now try your version of the g.masala.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodness me! I never even thought of making garam masala by myself. Thanks Ashwini, adding one more item to the "to-learn" list.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Garam Masala so simple,from now on I am making at home. There is no roasting right?

11:43 PM  
Blogger Finla said...

What can be better than home made garam masala which we use in out food in a daily base.
I am going to try to make garam masala at home like you than beeing lazy and buy from a shops.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Sagari said...

garam masala lookss so freshhhhhhhhhhhh

3:49 PM  
Blogger cb said...

I use that very same Jaffrey recipe (plus a little more black pepper) for our garam masala. Reminds me of a Jhumpa Lahiri essay in the New Yorker a couple of years ago. Lahiri's mother didn't/wouldn't share her recipes/techniques. Finally, in her 20s, Lahiri started cooking Indian food using a Jaffrey cookbook, and then her mother gradually started sharing with her. Wish I could find a link to it, as it was a great essay.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Menu Today said...

Hi Ashwini,
Home made items are always special.
Looks very special:-)
Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

4:49 AM  
Blogger Priya said...

I just hate the store bought garam masala. Even 2 tsps don't seem to make a difference with them. I kinda prefer the channa masala cause of the slight tang it adds. I am surely going to try your recipe and stock it up. I bought some tomatoes y'day to make your tomato gravy :)

2:06 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Cooker - let me know how you like it

RC - once you start you will never go back to ready made ones. This masala is very aromatic

Madhu - nope no roasting

HC, Sagari, Chip, MT - thanks

Priya - try it, you wont be disappointed. As for the tomato gravy, you will lick the bowl clean :-)

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A nice variation, this one, with nutmeg too!

1:53 AM  
Blogger Mythreyee said...

I try to avoid garam masala in my recipes as I used to buy them and have not attempted to try homemade garam masala. I am surely going to try this recipe for garam masala and I am sure I'll love it. There is nothing like authentic home made garam masala. Thanks for sharing.

12:05 PM  
Blogger KayKat said...

I love the flavour that nutmeg adds to the masala - pretty amazing difference!

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think this is the article you are referring to in the New Yorker. Unfortunately, it's only the abstract. The full article is available only for a price now :-(

Great recipe, Ashwini. Love your blog and a silent lurker so far.


2:23 PM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

Hi Ashwini, I came to your blog at Bee's guiding. I am constantly on the look out for various garam masala(s) and so she told me to check out yours.

You have a beautiful place here. The colour scheme is rather calming.

I've added you to my blog roll and feeds. See you around.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Siri said...

Love the home made Garam Masala Ashwini..:D the pic is simply awesome..:)

~ Siri

9:27 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Anita - I liked your m-i-l's version too!

Mythreyee - I agree. It makes the dish very aromatic. Whereas with readymade ones there is too much heat I think.

Kaykay - thanks

Rev - glad you are out of lurkdom! And thanks for pointing to the article. I find Lahiri's writing rather interesting so am going to go check the abstract.

Cynthia - thanks for the lovely words! Let me know how you like the masala

Siri - thanks. And the photo of turmeric in your profile is great too!

11:22 AM  
Blogger cb said...

Here's that Lahiri essay. Thanks for the prompt, Rev.

11:36 AM  
Blogger TheCooker said...

I made this masala is excellent. Thanks!

2:03 PM  
Blogger Pelicano said...

I am also indebted to Madhur J. for many things, least of all her garam masala recipe which is the first I ever tried! I have three different GMs in my fridge now, but my favorite one includes saffron- yes it is a regal touch! ;-)

3:47 PM  
Blogger Pelicano said...

Oh, and I like that pic very much!

12:35 AM  
Blogger The Bhandari's said...

I never made my own masala and use packets only but this seems easy so will definitly try making garam masala at home

7:34 AM  
Blogger zlamushka said...

Hi Ashwina,

I am sorry for including you this late. I havent notice your entry. The mistake has been corrected, though, please check the round-up again. you have no idea how grateful I am for a garam masala recipe. I have been so angry with me to keep buying the store version.
I have tried garam masala once but the result was rather crappy.
I will definitely try yours, it s even the color that looks so genuine.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Thanks Zlamushka. It was fun participating in the event. As for the masala its really authentic. You will like it.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Sonia said...

Hey Ashwini,
I found it very authentic & traditional recipe for Garam Masala. My lovely mom make Tea masala and garam masala at home. she hardly buy them from store. And wht a taste of home-made's just pure and full of aroma...!
Thank you for ur recipe here as u inspired me to make it home from now.
Ashwini,Can you tell me the recipe for Goda Masala...? if so, pls tell me in which dishes we can use it...? and yeah I can find it from internet but I prefer it from same person from same region.
Take care.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks good, but I generally toast my spices before grinding, and I must admit that mine has a lot more spices in them! Here's some pictures of me toasting and grinding the spices:

1:56 PM  

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