Garam Masala is an Essential Ingredient for Most Indian Curries
There is something about making your own garam masala! Homemade garam masala will take your curries up a notch or two and there is good reason for this.
Most shop-bought blends are not roasted before grinding. The roasting is essential for the flavour and aroma. Here I would like to show you how to make it along with give you tips on how to use garam masala.
What is garam masala?
There are literally thousands of garam masala recipes out there. Most families in India will have their own special blend. So do most restaurant chefs.
This one is mine. But you don’t have to follow the recipe exactly.
Use more of the spices you like and less of those you aren’t all that crazy about. Also, feel free to add other warming spices such as star anise, nutmeg or white peppercorns.
How do you roast the spices?
Just like there are many different recipes for garam masala, there are also different ways of roasting the spices. For this recipe, all of the spices are roasted together in one pan.
At expensive restaurants and in the homes of keen cooks, the spices are often roasted separately. The reason for this is that all of these spices have different smoking points.
For this garam masala recipe, you only want to heat the spices over a medium heat until warm to the touch and fragrant.
Why do some chefs roast the spices separately?
The spices all have a different smoking point. So spices such as cloves which contain a lot of natural oil will begin to smoke much faster than cinnamon.
If your spices are smoking, then they are burning and they will take on a bitter flavour.
This is why I recommend toasting your ingredients together in the pan just until they are warm to the touch and fragrant. See smoke? Get your spices off the heat!
Why do you roast the spices?
I liken unroasted and roasted spices to the difference between white bread and toast.
When you roast the spices, it releases their natural oils and gives the spices more depth of flavour.
How long does garam masala keep?
Once you roast and grind your spices into a garam masala, the flavour soon begins to weaken. This is why it is always a good idea to purchase whole spices and make your own garam masala. Whole spices will last a very long time stored in air-tight containers.
Ground garam masala will keep for about 3 months but you will notice that the delicious aroma you get from fresh garam masala goes after about a day.
When I make garam masala at home, I tend to make a large batch like the recipe in the recipe card below and store it in an air-tight container in a dark location to use as required. If I am making a special dinner, I roast and grind the spices on the day I prepare the dish.
What is the difference between garam masala and curry powder?
As mentioned above, garam masala is a mixture of warming spices. It never includes other ingredients such as chilli powder, dried garlic, onion and ginger.
Although curry powder has been around for centuries, it wasn’t until the end of the British Raj that it became a popular ingredient in Western cupboards.
Curry powder offered a way for returning British people to enjoy the Indian food they missed so much back in the UK. Hard to find ingredients at the time such as fresh ginger, garlic and chillies are added to curry powders as well as fenugreek. This curry powder was originally added to stews to give them a curry-like flavour.
A special note about cardamom pods.
Cardamom seeds add a delicious flavour to any garam masala. The thing is, there is little to no flavour in the pods themselves. The flavour comes from the seeds.
Although many people roast the pods whole, you will not get the benefit of roasting cardamom unless you remove the seeds from the pods.
How do you add garam masala to a curry?
Often, garam masala is added to a curry when other ground spices are added. There is nothing wrong with that.
You should, however also add a little at the end of cooking to get the full flavour and aroma benefit from the spice blend.
Simply sprinkle a teaspoon or so over your finished curry, just before serving. You will be very happy you did.
Step by step photographs
How find should you grind your spices?
This is really up to you. In India, garam masala is often coarsely ground. In the west, most garam masala recipes call for the spices to be finely ground. I like both.
In the photo above, the spices are coarsely ground.
Which spice grinder is best for grinding the spices?
I grind a lot of spices every week so I invested in a high quality grinder. It was quite expensive but has lasted for over 5 years now so it was a good investment.
You could get away with a cheap spice grinder though you might need to grind a bit longer and in smaller batches.
Can you use a pestle and mortar to make garam masala?
Yes. That’s how it was done for centuries before spice grinders existed.
It will take longer to grind your spices to a powder but you will get great results using a pestle and mortar.
Here are some more popular spice blends you might like to try.
Have you tried this garam masala recipe?
If you have, please give it a star rating in the recipe card below and leave a comment. I love receiving feedback and I’m sure other readers of my blog appreciate your feedback too. Thank you.
- 3 tbsp coriander seeds
- 3 tbsp cumin seeds
- 3 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) piece cassia bark or cinnamon stick
- 2 dried Indian bay leaves (optional)
- 10 green cardamom pods
- 2 large pieces of mace
- Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods for best results. Then place all the spices in a large frying pan.
- Toast the spices over a medium heat until warm to the touch and fragrant. Do not allow them to smoke or they will turn bitter. Transfer the roasted spices to a plate to cool some.
- Once cooled, place in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and grind to a coarse or fine powder.
- Place the garam masala powder in an air-tight container in a dark place and use as needed. Use within three months as the spices will begin to lose flavour.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 10Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 3mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g