Garam Masala is an Essential Ingredient for Most Indian Curries
I first posted this garam masala recipe back in 2011. This here is my new and improved garam masala! It’s the recipe that you will find in my cookbooks.
It’s the one I use for almost all of my recipes.
Make this recipe your own.
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 or white peppercorns.
What exactly is garam masala?
Garam masala is a blend of warming spices. Nothing else! Warming spices are those like you see here, cinnamon, black peppercorns, cloves etc.
Nothing spicy like chilli powder should go into a garam masala. Also dried ingredients like dried onions onions, ginger and garlic would never be found in an authentic garam masala.
Add those and you’ve got yourself a curry powder not a garam masala.
Getting the garam masala right is down to the quality, not quantity of spices used.
Every good Indian restaurant seems to have their own special garam spice blend. I’ve seen so many made during my visits to Indian restaurants around the UK. Some have as few as five different spices while others include up to twenty.
Good quality whole spices are essential. Whole spices keep for a long time so that shouldn’t be a problem. Once you grind the spices, however they begin to lose flavour.
So I suggest only making the amount you will use within three months.
Here’s another important tip.
Only roast those spices until they are fragrant and warm to the touch. Don’t let them smoke! If they begin to smoke, you are burning the spices and your garam masala will taste bitter. Not very pleasant.
I usually just roast all the spices together and get them off the heat before they smoke.
If you really want to go for perfection, roast the spices separately as I’ve done here. The reason behind this is that different spices have different smoking points.
As long as you are careful, you will get excellent results when roasting the garam masala spices together.
You might ask yourself why you would want to go to the trouble of making your own garam masala. There are some good quality brands out there after all.
The answer is simple. We enjoy our food not just through our mouths but through our noses. When you roast and grind your own garam masala, you will get a better flavour than what is available commercially. You will also notice the amazing aroma of freshly roasted and ground spices.
I demonstrate this in my curry classes. If you take a good quality garam masala and open it, you won’t be hit with the same sensational aroma that you will get from your own homemade garam masala.
That amazing aroma only lasts for one day which is why cooks in India make their garam masalas in small batches daily. You could store your garam masala in an air-tight container to use as required but that aroma will only be there on the first day.
I tend to use my garam masala in my curries as the flavour is there for a good three months. If I am making a special dinner for friends and/or family, however, I will make a small fresh batch to sprinkle over the top. Doing this you will get the amazing flavour and the scent of the fresh garam masala will fill the room.
Here are some more popular spice blends you might like to try.
- 6 heaping tablespoons coriander seeds
- 6 heaping tablespoons cumin seeds
- 5 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 4 heaping tablespoons fennel seeds
- 3 teaspoons cloves
- 1 3" piece cassia bark or cinnamon stick
- 5 dried bay leaves (optional)
- 20 green cardamom pods
- 2 large pieces of mace
- Roast each different spice type in a dry, non-stick frying pan until they become warm and fragrant. To save time you can roast all the spices together but individually is best.
- Place the roasted spices in a bowl to cool completely.
- When all of your spices have been toasted and cooled, place them in a good quality spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
- You could use a pestle and mortar but it is difficult and time consuming to grind to a 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.