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What Is Garam Masala? FAQ + Tips

What Is Garam Masala? FAQ + Tips

What is Garam Masala? I’d love to tell you! It’s a complex and aromatic Indian seasoning blend used in cooking savory dishes. You can buy it at the store or make your own.

If you’re unfamiliar with Indian-inspired cooking, think of Garam Masala this way: earthy, complex, full of flavor and varying levels of heat and salt. It’s not just one spice, it’s a blend of several different herbs and spices, usually a combination of coarsely ground cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorn, cloves, nutmeg, coriander, and cumin—but every blend may differ.

Garam Masala (GARE-um muh-SAHL-ah) is a staple spice blend in Indian cuisine. The name itself translates to “warm spice mix,” and it’s known for its ability to heat the body in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s a versatile blend that adds a burst of warm, sweet, and aromatic flavors that add complexity to dishes like:

  • Lamb Vindaloo
  • Tikka Masala
  • Dal Makhani (Lentil Stew)
  • Chana Masala
  • Butter Chicken
  • Lentil Soup, Tomato Soup, and Mushroom Soup
  • Vegetable Dishes of all kinds

Garam masala is a blend of warming spices that is used to add a burst of flavor to curries, soups, stews, and other dishes.

Origins of Garam Masala

Garam Masala originated in the Indian subcontinent. The blend varies across different regions in India, reflecting local tastes and traditions. It’s a key ingredient in many Indian dishes, from hearty stews to grilled meats and flavorful rice dishes.

What does Garam Masala taste like?

Garam Masala offers a complex flavor profile. It’s warm, sweet, and a little spicy, with a hint of heat that doesn’t overpower. The blend’s aromatic qualities come from spices like cardamom and cloves, while cumin and coriander can add earthy notes. The overall flavor can vary depending on the specific blend of spices used.

What are the ingredients in Garam Masala?

While the specific ingredients can vary (much like the range of spices and heat in adobo seasoning blend), Garam Masala typically includes a blend that includes cumin, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. 

Some versions may also include star anise, fennel seeds, or bay leaves.

Rani’s North Indian Garam Masala Spice Blend contains quite a few warm and delectable spices and herbs: Coriander, Cumin, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Cloves, Ginger, Mace, Green Cardamom, Black Cardamom, Nutmeg, Bay Leaves

Frontier Co-Op Garam Masala contains fewer spices: Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cumin, Black Pepper, Coriander.

You may find while shopping that every brand has a different blend. Some are organic, or contain salt, and sometimes flour. It’s good to read the labels and experiment so you find your favorite! And if you make your own homemade garam masala, you may create the perfect version yourself!

Where can I buy Garam Masala?

Garam Masala is widely available in the spice section of most grocery stores, especially those that carry international foods. You can also find it in Indian markets or online.

How to make Garam Masala at home

Making Garam Masala at home allows you to customize the blend to your taste. Start by toasting whole spices like cumin, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves in a dry skillet until fragrant. Then, grind the toasted spices in a spice grinder until fine. Store the blend in an airtight container away from heat and light.

Ways to cook with Garam Masala

Garam Masala is incredibly versatile. It can be used as a rub for meats, added to marinades, stirred into soups and stews, or sprinkled over roasted vegetables. Add Garam Masala toward the end of cooking or reheating to preserve its aromatic qualities.

Tips on storing Garam Masala

Store Garam Masala in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, away from humidity. While it doesn’t spoil, it can lose its potency over time. For the freshest flavor, try to use it within six months.

Garam Masala substitutes

If you’re out of Garam Masala, you can make a simple substitute with a blend of cumin, coriander, cardamom, and black pepper. Alternatively, curry powder can be used as a substitute in a pinch, though it will have a different flavor profile. Try a combination of za’atar seasoning, adobo seasoning, and/or curry seasoning in a 1:1 ratio.

The bottom line

What is Garam Masala? It’s a complex and aromatic seasoning blend used in Indian cuisine. You can buy it at the store or make your own.

Garam Masala Recipe

Garam Masala Recipe

Yield: About 3 oz or 6 tablespoons

Learn more about this Indian-inspired seasoning blend and get the recipe for homemade Garam Masala here.


  • 1 T coriander seeds
  • 1 T cumin seeds
  • 1 T black peppercorns
  • 1 T ground cardamom
  • 1 T cloves
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t mace


  1. Toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
  3. Grind the spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until they become a fine powder.
  4. Store the Garam Masala in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.


  • For a more intense flavor, toast the spices for a few minutes longer.
  • You can adjust the proportions of the spices to your liking.
  • Garam masala can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Here are some ideas for using Garam Masala:

    • Add it to curries, stews, and soups.
    • Sprinkle it on roasted vegetables or grilled meats.
    • Use it to flavor rice, lentils, or beans.

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