Although you can buy garam masala powder in many supermarkets these days, I find that the store-bought version is often lacking in flavor, so I prefer to make my own. It’s not really complicated at all, provided you can toast and grind spices, and it makes your kitchen smell amazing. This recipe was passed on to me by my college room mate’s grandmother, and it makes a lot of garam masala, enough to last for quite awhile, even if you regularly cook Indian food. I recommend adjusting the quantities of ingredients used to make a smaller batch, or do what I do, and divide up your bigger batch into smaller jars to share with your friends and family.
You can find most of the whole spices called for in this recipe fairly easily in many grocery stores, with perhaps the exception of whole mace, for which I have included the equivalent quantity of ground mace, which is generally easier to come by. The blend of spices listed here are fairly typical of a northern Indian garam masala, however, the composition of garam masala differs regionally, with many recipes across India according to regional and personal taste, and none is considered more authentic than others. So feel free to experiment, and adapt this recipe to create your own unique house blend.
A quick word on the name of this spice blend: garam means “hot” and masala means “a mixture of spices”. However, garam masala doesn’t pack a a fiery burn. The word garam actually refers to “heating the body” in the Ayurvedic sense of the word, as these spices are believed to elevate body temperature in Ayurvedic medicine. As an added bit of help, I’ve included the Hindi names of the spices used in this recipe to help you more easily navigate the aisles of your local ethnic market if you can’t find the whole spices you need in your local supermarket.
- 1 cup (packed) bay leaves (तेजपत्ता, “tējapattā “ or “tejpatta”)
- 1/3 cup cumin seeds (ज़ीरा “jeera”)
- 1/3 cup coriander seeds (धनिया, “dhaniya” or “hara dhaniya”)
- 1/3 cup fennel seeds (सौंफ or संचल, “saunf” or “sanchal”)
- 1/4 cup green cardamom pods (इलायची , “ilaychi” )
- 1/4 cup black cardamom pods (बड़ी इलाइची, “badi elaichi”)
- 1/4 cup cloves ( लवंग or लौंग, “lavang”)
- 8 three-inch sticks cinnamon (cassia cinnamon is fine) (दालचीनी, “dalchini” )
- 3 tablespoons black peppercorns (काली मिर्च, “kali mirchi”)
- 1 whole ground nutmeg (about 2 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg) ( जैफल or जायफल, “jaiphal”)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground mace (about one small blade, if using whole mace) (जावित्री, “javitri”)
Toast whole spices at 375° F for about 12 minutes or so, just enough to make the spices aromatic, giving the spices a stir about half way through to ensure even toasting (you may wish to lightly grease a baking sheet or lightly toss whole spices with melted ghee or cooking spray to help the spices toast better and prevent burning). After toasting, grind all into a fine powder. You can do this the old-fashioned way with a mortar and pestle if you like, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a more modern approach and using a motorized spice or coffee grinder (I recommend doing this in batches so you don’t burn out your grinder’s motor). If using ground mace, mix it in with the other spices at this point. Depending on how finely ground your spices are, you may also wish to sift them through a fine mesh sieve after grinding, to remove any larger bits (you can either regrind or discard these larger particles). Transfer garam masala powder to a large jar or other air-tight contained, and seal. The ground garam masala will keep well in most air-tight containers for months.
last updated August 17, 2023