Making Hot Spicy Garam Masala

by pateluday

Hot! That is how Indian Cuisine is labeled almost always. But this is a myopic view of one of the World's most tongue-tingling cuisine. Diversity reigns large. Read On

Before we come to the spice mix or garam masala we need to understand India. The country is vast and strikingly diverse. All the elements and features that make a Nation are steeped deep in diversity. It is said that the country changes every fifty kilometers, and so does the food. The food enriched by masalas or spices delivers amazing flavors though not necessarily hot. Garam Masala is definitely hot but used subtly it can end up delivering an array of flavors that could be mind-boggling and linger amidst the taste buds for a long time. Last but not the least, it is extremely healthy, and whence used with a daily dose of common spices …long life is assured.

Yes, spices are key to good health turmeric is one fine example that has been accepted the World over. People consume lattes with turmeric added to it. Turmeric prevents swelling, and joint pains, and wards off cancer.

The spices are a storehouse of medicinal gems and those who consider plain food over spiced ones are suffering from a grave misconception. Consume spice and be healthy.

Indian Food

Fine Dining
Fine Dining
Courtyard House Kanha

India The Land of Spices

Origin Masalas

It is true that most of the spices in culinary use in India are grown in its various States, especially Kerala. But what is not true is that they have been in use for centuries. Well, some spices which are part of the popular spice mix used in the kitchens of the country were introduced from other parts of the World. 

It was Christopher Columbus the Goan adventurer who introduced chili to us when he managed to reach India by sea. 

Nutmeg originated in Banda Island in South East Asia.

Spices were traded extensively since time immemorial by agents from many civilizations they were travelers, traders, and even conquerors. The quest for spices was immense as they formed a lucrative trade all over the World.    

The acceptance of spices that originated overseas is a reflection of the Nation's belief in harmonious existence, and nothing is shunned because of its origins.  No wonder the country is referred to as a potpourri of cultures.

Use of Spices in India

Fusion Spice Mixes

Spices like clove were used during the Vedic Times and find mentioned in Epic Ramayana. As trade increased, and travel within India and overseas became easier due to the trade routes these spices found patrons in various parts of the World.    

In India, the extensive use of spices was probably due to easy availability as most of them were grown in the country. Hence all over the country, culinary practices depended upon the use of local spices. The use was independent addition or as a mix of wholesome spices.

In contemporary India, the use of ready-made whole spices, or powdered fusion mix of spices pertaining to a particular recipe is widely trending. The sales are being boosted by Hygenic and attractive packing that can be stored for a long time and used as and when desired.

Innovative enterprises are producing spice mixes pertaining to a large number of popular recipes that emulate the taste and aroma of dishes sold in popular restaurants or are even better due to the careful inclusion of quality stuff and niche recipe. The packets comprise a mix of whole spices for popular recipes. They are ready to grind and use. They are becoming trendy as they can be easily altered to match grandma's old recipe in every household. 

Garam Masala - How it is made?

The mixing of spices leads to the creation of Garam Masala which is usually a mix of many ingredients and imparts some heat and flavor to the recipe if added in adequate amounts. However, if used sparingly it can end up flavoring the recipe without imparting heat. Thus, culinary experts or modern-day chefs use their own garam masala mix or buy tried and tested carefully chosen brands from the market. The mixes are prepared separately for various dishes like curries, dry vegetables, dal or lentil soup, chicken and meat preparations, etc.    

Garam Masala Ingredients 

The spices are added or mixed together in a ratio that depends upon the desired taste. The common spices that are added after roasting on a pan or directly are:

  • Clove
  • Pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Nutmeg (Small amounts)
  • Red Chili 
  • Coriander
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Mace (Small Amounts)
  • Cardamom Seeds
  • Black Cardamom

These are the common elements in a typical household garam masala. You can make a mix using these elements in a proper ratio and then grind them together. The powder so obtained can be used for a considerable period if kept in an airtight container in the kitchen cabinet. 

 In Hindi



Garam Masala Recipe


Fusion Mixes

Ready to Cook Spice Mixes

Nowadays with increasing consumerism garam masala powders are available in consumer retail shops and mega markets or local bazaars as we call street vendors in India.  You can buy spices from large traders in volumes or in packets from the mega markets and even order them online.

For those Chefs and housewives not interested in making their own mix for them the local market, mega marts, online spice websites, and eCommerce portals are the best option. But still, a large number of housewives and acclaimed Chefs make their own mix pertaining to a particular recipe or a collection of recipes.   

But in a fast-paced life, and due to more excellent choice of quality whole or powdered mixes readymade masalas have become indispensable. Also trending as fusion mixes, the market size is fast increasing. The growth is not only due to the paucity of time, the amazing creations by experienced blenders or chefs, and the use of quality spices attract consumers to drop in at the nearest store pick up a favourite and head home for a quick tongue-tingling meal.    

In time to come whole spice recipe mixes are ready to grind. Add or mixes in powdered form are bound to take over the kitchen racks. Well, this has already begun.



Additional Items in Masala Mixes

Next Gen Spices

Making a spice mix in Indian Cuisine is like dabbling with colors on an artist's palette or like creating a spectacular collage. Though there are standard recipes followed in most households, the gastronomic expert uses additional items in differing ratios to come out with spectacular masalas which impart a mouth-watering never forget taste. This practice is followed by street vendors, cooks in small restaurants on highways, the dhabas, and some enthusiastic housewives.  Try the same recipe at a street joint you will be lip-smacking, dipping fingers like a gauche, but will come out with a huge smile!    

Additional items used in creating this spice mix are limitless, but usually, some may add:

  • Star Anise,
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Shahi Jeera (Greater Cumin)
  • Fennel
  • Mustard
  • All Spice
  • Tamarind Dry
  • Bay Leaves
  • Curry Leaves
  • Mango Powder
  • Rock Salt
  • Fenugreek 
  • Saffron
  • Dry Ginger Powder (Saunt)
  • Kachri (Rajasthan)
  • Nigella Seed
  • Onion Seed 
  • Ajinomoto powder?
  • Local herbs and shrubs (Non-Toxic)

In modern-day cooking use of foreign spices is not unheard of, and people may use them in this spice mix as well. India is traditional by attitude but always ready to absorb the exotic. After a period of time, naturalization takes place, and everything turns into desi. 

In India, the methodology may remain the same all over - well nearly - the recipes change widely and unique endemic recipes are a common occurrence everywhere. But as a relief, you do not have to run from Punjab to Kerala for your favorite spices anymore. Now you can buy gastronomic diversity from the market. Enter Next Gen Spice...........................

Next Gen Spices 

The next-gen spices are available as sole spices or in ready-to-add and cook modes. They are replacing the traditional drudgery of monthly stocking of sole spice powders, and exasperatingly storing them to avoid moisture, silverfish, and whatnot.

And do not forget how often you lose the sense of proportions when cooking for the steel-eyed dominant mother-in-law and her dotting son! Ha!

India is a paradise for foodies!



Using Garam Masala Variant

Chaat Masala

Well, it is anybody's game. People prepare their own mix or buy garam masala from the market. The masala mix is usually part of the cooking process. It is added whence you are beginning to prepare the curry mix in a sizzling pan with hot oil. 

You can also sprinkle a bit of the powder just to create a dazzling top note. In many instances, the mix is roasted lightly on a dry pan and then put into use. Sometimes the mix is also sprinkled on soups and dals or lentil soups in India.

Chaat Masala

Garam Masala finds use in many snacks and finger foods albeit the mix-use more of rock salt and mango powder to accord a salty taste. This is called Chaat Masala and is very popular all over the country. It is also sprinkled over a fruit mixture of raw mangoes, guavas, apples, and papaya.


Chaat = To Lick 

Indian Recipe

Spicy Preparation
Spicy Preparation
Nandita Amin
Updated: 12/07/2022, pateluday
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pateluday on 01/01/2023

Premix masalas have good self-life but there is a limit you should consume them within the expiry date.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/29/2022

This is the wizzley that I reference in my questions to your recenter wizzleys, Classic Roast Grind Mix & Cook Indian Spices and Spicy Masalas That Heal.

Your comment below, from Feb. 23, 2021, in answer to my previous question, mentions that "In India conservation of all things is as a matter of practice....spices kept in air tiger containers if not used for a long can be smelled out. The fresh lovely aroma changes to become stale and emits unpleasant odor and has to be discarded into the dust bin. In cold weather things stay longer while they degenerate quickly in the intense heat of Indian Summers."

Would that same guideline apply for the wonderfully convenient premixes mentioned in your two wizzleys that I reference above, in the first two lines of my question?

Or would there be some ingredient arrangement, some packaging style, some preservative that would overcome summer heat and make them last longer than wonderfully fresh homemade mixes?

pateluday on 04/09/2022

Rice selection is entirely a family matter even with daily curry. Region-wise rice variety changes in India. It is mostly on special occasions, in restaurants, and in rich households, that the costlier varieties of are rice is used. One of the most flavored rice is Basmati from Dehradun it is usually used for making vegetable or meat pulao and biryani.

Curry is a common term, and the dish contains water and spices. There are thousands of varieties of curry but nearly all are consumed with rice or roti. In Northern India roti or Indian bread is more popular.

DerdriuMarriner on 04/04/2022

Revisiting your wizzley brought to mind a question that I'd meant to ask previously.

Under the heading Use of Spices in India, you describe curry as among dishes getting spice mixes.

Icelandic author Ragnar Jónasson includes among the food in his novel Snowblind chicken curry and rice from an Indian restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. Is there a certain kind of rice that is served with chicken curry, or will it not matter whether it's bamboo, basmati, brown, indrayani, sona masuri or some other type?

pateluday on 02/19/2022

Garam Masala is a dry powder no liquid is added, and thus it can be stored for a long time. As far as drinks with curries or Indian meal is concerned Lassi a curd-based drink is the accompaniment but not often.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/16/2022

In revisiting this article, I remembered a question that I meant to ask you previously. You say that "The mixes are prepared separately for various dishes like curries, dry vegetables, dal or lentil soup, chicken and meat preparations." Would there be any drinks associated with garam masala mixed into the above-mentioned dishes? And if so, would they be the same or would, for instance, it be different for garam masala curry versus garam masala dry vegetables or garam masal dal?

pateluday on 02/23/2021

In India conservation of all things is as a matter of practice....spices kept in air tiger containers if not used for a long can be smelled out. The fresh lovely aroma changes to become stale and emits unpleasant odor and has to be discarded into the dust bin. In cold weather things stay longer while they degenerate quickly in the intense heat of Indian Summers.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/23/2021

pateluday, Thank you for the pictures, practicalities and products.
What does the household tend to do if use goes so less fully or slower that your statement "The powder so obtained can be used for a considerable period if kept in air tight container in the kitchen cabinet" doesn't hold because the mix is at or right close to freshness limits?
Perhaps that wouldn't happen since I tend to think of India as respectful of recycling (like all what can be remade into paper) and resources. Not here, but in some parts of the United States, it would be tossed.

pateluday on 11/11/2020

India is land of spices. Thanks!

pateluday on 11/11/2020

Yes spices are goodies health and taste wise. Will write on health benefits soon. Thanks!

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