Garam masala is a fragrant and flavorful spice blend that is an essential ingredient in many Indian and South Asian dishes. The term "garam" means "hot" or "warm" in Hindi, referring to the warming properties of the spices used in the blend. This versatile spice blend can vary in ingredients and proportions depending on regional and personal preferences.
Making your own garam masala at home allows you to customize the blend to your liking and ensures that you have a fresh and flavorful spice mix on hand for all of your favorite dishes. Garam masala is typically added to dishes towards the end of the cooking process or sprinkled on top of finished dishes as a finishing touch. With its rich, warm flavors, garam masala adds depth and complexity to curries, stews, and soups.
Why you will love this recipe?
- Tried and tested. This recipe ensures that the spices used complement each other, resulting in a balanced blend with no overpowering flavors.
- Customizable. Additionally, it is highly customizable to suit individual preferences. For example, adjust the level of heat by adding more dried chili or introduce a floral aroma by including dried rose petals.
- Fresh and healthy. Making homemade masala powder not only adds a personal touch to the final dish but also helps to know exactly what went into the dish. This makes it a fresh and healthy alternative to store-bought spice blends, with the added benefit of being free from preservatives and additives.
Dry-roasting the spices is an essential step in creating a fragrant and flavorful garam masala blend. The heat from the dry roasting process releases the essential oils from the spices, resulting in a rich and aromatic blend that adds depth and complexity to any dish. Additionally, warming up the spices can enhance their health benefits and aid in digestion.
Often referred to as the quintessential Indian seasoning, it is known for its warming and pungent flavors. Despite common misconceptions, the name "garam masala" does not imply that this spice blend will add spiciness to your dish. Rather, the purpose of this masala powder is to provide a subtle warmth to the body and a complex, warm flavor to the dish it is used in.
My garam masala journey
This popular spice mix is used mainly in north Indian cooking. South Indian cooking uses a different combination of blends and coconut is an important part of the masalas. The most common South Indian spice mixes are sambar powder and rasam powder.
As someone who grew up in a South Indian household, garam masala was not a traditional part of my family's kitchen. My mother would primarily cook South Indian dishes, so garam masala was not a staple ingredient in our kitchen. Occasionally, when my mother would prepare North Indian curries, she would send me on a quick errand to buy a small packet of garam masala from a nearby store, however, this was a rare occurrence.
Initially, when I started cooking, I relied on store-bought blends as I was hesitant to make my own at home. As I continued to experiment with different cuisines and spices, I became more interested in making my own masala blends.
When I first started creating my own garam masala powder, I tried several different combinations of spices before finally landing on a recipe that I loved. Over the years, I have refined and perfected this recipe, and it has become my go-to blend for cooking. I take pride in making my own garam masala, as it adds a personal touch to my dishes and enhances the flavors in a way that store-bought blends cannot match.
Garam masala is made with an array of spices. There is no SPECIFIC recipe. But they have some basic spices in common. These spices are widely used in Indian cuisine and are easily available in Indian grocery stores outside of India.
My recipe here has coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dried chili, bay leaf, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorn, mace, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek, nutmeg, and turmeric. Each of these spices has its own health benefits associated. Here are some of the most commonly used spices.
Coriander seeds: Coriander seeds are the dried fruit of the coriander plant. While fresh coriander leaves are used as a garnish in most Indian dishes, the seeds are used as a spice.
Cumin seeds: Cumin seeds are dried seeds of the herb Cuminum cyminum, which belongs to the parsley family.
Bay leaf: Bay leaf is an aromatic leaf of the laurel tree. There are several varieties of bay leaves that are sourced from different trees. It is very commonly used in rice dishes like pulao and biriyani and has a pleasant and sweet aroma.
Cardamom: Cardamom is an exotic spice that belongs to the ginger family. There are two main varieties of cardamom - green and black. Green cardamom pods (also called true cardamom) are more commonly used and originate from the western ghats in Southern India. Black cardamom is less commonly used and originates from the Himalayan region.
Cloves: Cloves are aromatic dried flower buds of the clove tree. They have a strong aroma and are used mostly to provide warmth to the dish.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner part of the tree Cinnamomum. It has a mildly sweet taste and so is used in several desserts and also used to flavor teas too.
Nutmeg and mace: Nutmeg and mace are obtained from the nutmeg tree. While nutmeg is the inner seed of the tree, mace is the outer lace-like covering over the seed. Nutmeg has a milder taste when compared to mace and is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Mace is known to be a warmer spice and has a very earthy flavor.
Mustard seeds: Mustard is a spice that is very common in South Indian cooking. These tiny seeds come in two varieties - black and yellow mustard. Black mustard seeds are commonly used and are more pungent and stronger than yellow mustard seeds.
Fenugreek: Fenugreek is used as both herb and spice. Fresh fenugreek leaves are used as a herb and are added to dal, stir-fry, and rice. Fenugreek seeds are used as a dried spice. They have a slightly bitter and pungent taste.
Black pepper: Black pepper is one of the most commonly used spices, not just in India but across the world. They offer a unique flavor and add heat to the dish they are used in.
Step 1: Toast the spices in a frying pan or kadhai. Start with dried red chili and once they crisp up, set them aside. Next, add coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Toast them until they are fragrant and remove them from the pan.
Step 2: Next, add the remaining whole spices - bay leaves, green cardamom, seeds of black cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, mace, star anise, nutmeg, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and kasoori methi. Toast them until they are aromatic.
Step 3: Let all the roasted spices cool down completely. Transfer the spices to a spice grinder or mixie and add turmeric powder to it.
Step 4: Grind the spices into a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.
Benefits of Garam Masala
Rather than discussing the flavor-enhancing benefits of garam masala in cooking, I would like to focus on the potential healing properties of this spice blend. This spice mix is made up of several spices, each of which has its own unique benefits that contribute to the overall therapeutic properties of this blend.
Garam masala has a long history of use in Ayurveda for its therapeutic benefits. The term "garam" refers to heat, which in Ayurveda refers to the concept of "Agni" (fire). This term is used to describe the digestive and metabolic processes in the body that convert food into energy. A well-functioning Agni is essential for overall health and well-being, as it promotes digestion and nutrient absorption, and supports metabolic processes.
Garam masala is believed to help maintain healthy Agni, and it is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote wellness. This spice blend is also known to provide warmth to the body, which can be particularly beneficial during the colder months. Some of the key benefits of garam masala in Ayurveda include:
- Aids digestion
- Provides strong antioxidants
- Fights disease and boosts immunity
- Lowers inflammation
Use whole spices. Use whole spices instead of pre-ground spices to make the masala powder more aromatic and flavorful. Toast the whole spices in a dry pan before grinding them to release their essential oils. Also, it is important to make sure your spices are fresh.
Grind in small batches. It is best to grind the spices in small batches to ensure that they are evenly ground and to avoid overheating the grinder.
Store properly. Store your garam masala in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. It's best to use it within a few months for maximum freshness and flavor. This recipe will yield 8-10 tablespoons so half or double the recipe as per your need.
Don't be afraid to customize or experiment with the ratios. Garam masala is a versatile spice blend, and you can experiment with adding or omitting spices to suit your taste preferences or the dish you are making. The ratios of spices in garam masala can vary depending on personal taste and regional preferences.
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Homemade Garam Masala
- ½ cup coriander seeds
- ¼ cup cumin seeds
- 5 Kashmiri red chili
- 5-6 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon green cardamom
- 3 black cardamom discard skin and use seeds
- 3 inch cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon cloves
- 2 tablespoon black pepper
- 3 mace
- 1 nutmeg
- 1 star anise
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds saunf
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds methi
- 2 teaspoon kasuri methi
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Place frying or kadhai on medium heat. Once it heats well, reduce to low.
- Add the dried red chili and fry them until they puff up and become crisp. Set them aside on a wide plate or tray.
- Next, add coriander seeds and cumin seeds to the same pan. Dry roast them until they are aromatic and golden. Set them aside along with the red chili.
- Next, add bay leaves, green cardamom, seeds of black cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, mace, star anise, nutmeg, and fennel seeds. Dry roast until they are aromatic. Set them aside in the tray.
- Add mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds next and roast them until the mustard beings to pop. Set them aside.
- Add kasuri methi and dry roast it for a few seconds. Place it with the remaining spices.
- Let all the roasted spices cool down completely.
- Transfer the spices to a spice grinder or mixie and add turmeric powder to it.
- Grind into a fine powder.
- Store in an airtight container.
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