Indian Essentials: How to Make Garam Masala

Garam Masala is a wonderfully warm and versatile mix of spices used in a range of Indian dishes.

Garam Masala | Spices | A Life Time of Cooking

If you are even the smallest bit familiar with Indian food, you will have heard of Garam Masala. It is a wonderfully warm and versatile mix of spices used in a range of Indian dishes. Not necessarily spicy hot, it consists of spices that warm and nourish the body, such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.

Garam Masala is a mixture of spices, and the combinations vary with each household. They say it is basically Persian in origin, but is now indispensable in North Indian cuisine.

Garam Masala is particularly loved in the North where the winters are cold. It is not a prescriptive mix – it is open to interpretation with each region of India creating distinct blends with flavours characteristic of the region. A teaspoon of Garam Masala gives a North Indian character to any dish – try it with Basmati rice, or sprinkle it over cooked dishes.

The variety in recipes is easily explained. The cuisine varies so much across India that the spices in Garam Masala are chosen to best compliment the local foods. Each region and each family adjusts their mix to suit the flavours of the cuisine, personal preference and the dish being made. When you have such a large canvas of spices to choose from, why would you not do that?

Generally, but not always, Garam Masala is sprinkled over food towards the end of the cooking to retain its aroma.

The garam masala spices can also be used whole, but more traditionally, they are ground together in a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, a blender or spice grinder will do. If you want to use whole Garam Masala, try a rice dish in which you grind only the nutmeg and add the other spices into the rice water as it boils.

Are you looking for spice blends? Try Sundakkai Podi, Rasam Powder, Sambar Powder, Malaysian Curry Powder and Sri Lankan Thuna Paha.

Browse our other Spice Mix recipes. Our Indian recipes are here and our Indian Essentials here. Or take some time to browse our Late Spring recipes.

File 8-02-2016, 14 34 48.jpeg

The word Garam means hot and Masala means spice mix in the Hindi language of India, so the mixture of spices are traditionally those that heat the body according to the ayurvedic system of medicine.

Garam Masala Blends

There are as many Garam Masala recipes as households in India. Here are some for you to choose from. If you have any others that you use, please add them in the comments.

Different Garam Masala recipes highlight different spices, for example, some contain predominately coriander, others perhaps highlight nutmeg.

File 8-02-2016, 14 36 34.jpeg

How to select a mix?

The first time that you make Garam Masala, you may not have a large range of ingredients in your pantry – select a recipe that most closely matches your available ingredients. After that, visit your Indian shop or local spice supplier and add various spices to you pantry cupboard.

How to make the mix?

Dry roast all ingredients except for the black cardamom. Dry roast them separately in a kadhai (Indian wok) or frying pan, shaking the pan frequently, until they are starting to brown and a wonderful spicy aroma arises. Be careful not to burn. Mix together the whole ingredients and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

When required, grind the whole roasted masala ingredients to a fine powder in a mortar, spice grinder or blender, and use as directed in the recipe. Store in an airtight jar.

The Difference between Home Made and Store Bought Garam Masala

The spices used in Garam Masala are all very aromatic. But often when you buy Garam Masala off the shelf, the commercial mixtures often cut down on the more expensive cardamom and fill up with the cheaper coriander and cumin. So there is no better reason to make your own. It is a wonderful process and the results are marvellous. If you have never tasted a home made spice powder, this is your chance.

Garam Masala |Spices | A Life Time of Cooking

The home made one is darker with a much deeper aroma than the store bought one. The Store Bought one has hardly any aroma at all. The taste is significantly different.

The recipes for Garam Masala

Adjust the proportions to suit your own preferences.

Hyderabadi Garam Masala

20g Cinnamon, 20g Peppercorns, 20g Cloves, 20g Green Cardamom, 15g Indian Bayleaf, 25g Black Cardamom, 10g Nutmeg, 10g Mace, 10g Fennel Seeds.

Hyderabadi Garam Masala with Saffron and Black Cumin

2 tspn saffron threads, 1/4 cup black pepper, 1/4 cup black cumin seeds, 1/4 cup cloves, 1/4 cup cinnamon, 1/4 cup green cardamom seeds


25 cm stick Cinnamon, 2.5 tspns black Peppercorns, 1 Tblspn Cloves, 4g Green Cardamom, 3 stalks Curry Leaf, 3 Tblspn Cumin Seeds.

VERY Simple

10g Cinnamon, 10g Cloves, 10g Green Cardamom, 10g Black Cardamom.


5 cm stick Cinnamon, 1 Tblspn Peppercorns, 1 Tblspn Cloves, 2 tspn Green Cardamom seeds (not pods), 0.5 tsp grated Nutmeg, 5 Mace blades.


20g Cinnamon, 20g Peppercorns, 20g Cloves, 20gGreen Cardamom, 100g Nutmeg, 20g Mace, 20g Star Anise.


Cinnamon, Peppercorns, Cloves, Green Cardamom, Cumin Seeds, Ajwain, Peppercorns, dried fenugreek leaves, Coriander Seed, Curry Leaves, Bay leaves, Black Cumin Seeds.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Very Warming Garam Masala

5 cm stick Cinnamon, 1 tspn Peppercorns, 1 tspn Cloves, 1 Tblspn Green Cardamom, 1 tspn Black Cumin Seeds, about 1/3 pod Nutmeg, 1 curl Mace.

Punjabi Garam Masala

2.5 Tblspn Coriander Seed, 1.5 Tblspn Cumin Seeds, 1.5 Tblspn Black Peppercorns, 1.5 Tblspn Black Cardamom, 0.75 Tblspn Green Cardamom, 2.5 cm stick Cinnamon, 2 – 3 Cloves, large pinch grated Nutmeg. (Or replace cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg with ground ginger – 5g)

Variation to Punjabi Garam Masala

25g cumin seeds; 20g black cardamon; 20g black peppercorns; 11g green cardamon pods; 10g coriander seeds; 10g fennel seeds; 6g cloves; approx 12cm of cinnamon sticks; 6g mace; 6g black cumin seeds (kalonji); 5g Indian bay leaves (teja pat); 5 g dried rose petals; 1 scant Tblspn ground ginger; 1 small nutmeg, grated

Simple Punjabi Garam Masala

30g black peppercorns; 30g cumin seeds; 45g green cardamon pods; 12cm of cinnamon sticks; 5g cloves; 0.5 whole nutmeg, grated

Bengali Garam Masala

1 Tblspn Black Peppercorns, 1 Tblspn White Peppercorns, 15 Cloves, 4 sticks Cinnamon, seeds from 20 Cardamom pods, 2 Tblspn Cumin Seeds, 5 Tblspn Coriander seeds

Kashmiri Garam Masala

3 Tblspn Nigella Seeds, 2 Tblspn Black Peppercorns, 1 Tblspn Caraway Seeds, 24 cloves, 15 black cardamom, 25 mace blades, 0.5 Tblspn grated nutmeg, 0.5 Tblspn ground cinnamon

My Bombay’s Kitchen’s Parsi Garam Masala

2 Tblspn cardamon pods, 2 sticks cinnamon, 1 tspn regular cumin seeds or kala jira, 1 tspn whole cloves, 1 tspn black peppercorns, 0.25 whole nutmeg.

Tiffin‘s Garam Masala

0.25 cup cumin seeds, 0.25 cup coriander seeds, 2 tspn cardamom seeds, 6cm piece cinnamon (broken into pieces), 1 tspn cloves, 1 tspn black pepper corns, 6 Indian bay leaves (teja pata), 1 tspn fennel seeds, 1 tspn grated nutmeg, 1 Tblspn mace pieces.

Ganga’s Masala

3 tspn Nigella seeds, 2 tspn Black Peppercorns, 1 tspn Fennel seeds, 10 Cloves, seeds from 5 Black Cardamom pods, seeds from 5 Green Cardamom pods, 5 Mace blades, 1/3 Nutmeg pod, 1 Cinnamon stick, 3 tspn Cumin, 1.5 Tbslpn Coriander

20 thoughts on “Indian Essentials: How to Make Garam Masala”

  1. I don’t know where to begin with this marvelous list, but since I have some very fresh fennel seeds I’ll probably start with Hyderabadi. What amounts or proportions do you recommend?

    Isn’t Madhur Jaffrey fabulous?

  2. Hi ella, I just love your pomegranate post. My mouth is still watering.

    For the masala, play with different proportions over time, adjusting each time, depending how you feel, what you are cooking and what you have at hand. For a little amount of masala, maybe start with:

    1 – 2 stick Cinnamon, 1- 2 tspn Peppercorns, 1 tspn whole Cloves or 1/2 tspn powder, 10 pods Green Cardamom or 2 tspn seeds or 1 tspn powder, 3 Bayleafs, 2 – 3 Black Cardamom pods, a good grating of Nutmeg if using pod or 1 tspn of powder, 1/2 tspn Mace pieces or less of powder, 1 – 2 tspn Fennel Seeds.

    If you want it to be peppery, add more pepper. If fennel-ly add more fennel. Keep the proportion of the warming spices high – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom.

    You can add some coriander seeds and cumin seeds if you have them.

    You can’t go wrong. and it is not a hot-spicy mix, just body heat warming. It will smell wonderful as you are roasting and grinding it. I sometimes make a double lot and give some away to friends.

  3. Thanks for the guidance. I’ve saved it and will soon be whipping up my own!

    Thanks again for the kind words. I did try a pilaf last night, inspired by the recipe I linked to, which uses a sodium-high mix –not in my life! I used brown rice, toasted pignoli, baby peas and the arils. The brown rice was not the right choice, flavor-wise. Basmati or white would have been better. And any version would be ratcheted up by sauteeing the pignoli in clarified butter or ghee instead of just toasting them.

    (Your ghee post is great. I’ll link to it when I do clarified butter.)

  4. Hi ella, sorry about the pomegranate pilaff from the site that you linked to – I am not a brown rice fan, but love basmatti. I am also not a fan of packet mixes like the rice pilaff mix mentioned in the recipe – much prefer to mix my own. And you taught me a new word – pignoli. I never knew pine nuts were called this!

    Love to hear when you make garam masala. You got my note about brown or black cardamom and nigella seeds? Neither is well known, and you can leave them out until you find a supplier.

  5. I am very honoured that you quoted and linked to my blogsite- thank you! Oddly enough, the GM formula that I call “my own” is quite similar to the Hyderabadi mixture that you’ve mentioned above- definitely one of my favorites.

    Hi Pel, your are very welcome. Your post is great. Wonderful how GM is so individual – you say yours is similar, but not quite.

  6. I missed this somehow! thanks for the mention about my Mom’s garam masala!:) I loved reading your post, great info, and great quick shortcuts to masala mixes!:)

    Hi Mansi, you are welcome indeed! I am glad that you found it.

    1. Noor, you can play with the ingredients, adjusting to your taste. Don’t add too much of the stronger tastes – cloves, mace, nutmeg. Use Indian bay leaves (tejapata) and not western bay leaves.

  7. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the great work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    1. In a previous answer to a comment I said (just scale up to get your 500g):

      “1 – 2 stick Cinnamon, 1- 2 tspn Peppercorns, 1 tspn whole Cloves or 1/2 tspn powder, 10 pods Green Cardamom or 2 tspn seeds or 1 tspn powder, 3 Indian Bayleafs (teja pata), 2 – 3 Black Cardamom pods, a good grating of Nutmeg if using pod or 1 tspn of powder, 1/2 tspn Mace pieces or less of powder, 1 – 2 tspn Fennel Seeds.

      If you want it to be peppery, add more pepper. If fennel-ly add more fennel. Keep the proportion of the warming spices high – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom.

      You can add some coriander seeds and cumin seeds if you have them.”

      You could also try this ratio. Over time you will adjust to your own tastes by experimenting with the ratios.

      • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
      • 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
      • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
      • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
      • 1 stick cinnamon, broken up
      • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
      • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
      * 2 teaspoon fennel seeds
      * add Indian bayleaf if you have it (teja pata) or omit it
      * several pieces of mace

      Add 6 black cardamon when grinding (no need to roast this spice)

  8. I came across your site today on r/Indianfood.

    Thanks for sharing. I will be referring to the recipes when I cook.

    Chettinad Masala requires something called “DagadPhool” – a lichen.

    I haven’t found it in any Indian grocery stores thus far.

    In your travels, have you found a replacement for it?

    I think Australia has tighter quarantine laws and so it may be something never found there.

    Thanks again

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. Yes I know Dagad Phool but have not seen it here. I will ask next time I am at my fav Indian grocery. You may be able to buy it online – have you tried that option? I see that even Amazon sells it!

Welcome! I hope you are enjoying what you see here. Thank you so much for your comment and your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s