Ingredients: Indian Spice Blend Formulas (Indian Cooking Basics II)

In the last part of the Indian Cooking Basics Series, I introduced all of the Indian spices that may show up in a recipe. In this post, I will explain spice blend formulas. The post will be updated every time I introduce a new spice blend in a recipe.

Garam Masala

The most commonly used spice blend in all of India is called garam masala. This aromatic blend of spices is centered on coriander and cumin seeds, usually in a 2:1 ratio. To these spices, more aromatic spices are added such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, and nutmeg. The spices are ground into a fine powder. Every family makes garam masala slightly differently.

The formula I am sharing is for Punjabi garam masala, from the Indian state of Punjab. Most of the popular Indian foods are from Punjab, so these dishes contain Punjabi garam masala. You can use Punjabi garam masala in any recipe asking for “garam masala”.
Punjabi garam masala is usually not dry-roasted. The spices are just measured and ground raw. If you wish to dry-roast the spices, add all of the whole spices except black cardamom to a pan. Dry-roast over medium heat until fragrant, then set aside on a plate and cool to room temperature. Then grind all of the spices with the black cardamoms. Black cardamoms are not dry-roasted because they lose sweet flavor when dry-roasted. Again, I do not dry-roast any of the spices for Punjabi garam masala because it is usually not dry-roasted. It is also faster to make without dry-roasting.

Adapted from

1/4 cup (4 tbsp) whole coriander seeds
2 tbsp whole cumin seeds
1 tbsp whole green cardamom pods
3 or 4 whole black cardamom pods
1 tbsp whole cloves
1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long
1 1/2 whole Indian bay leaves
1 1/2 dry whole red chili peppers (either Indian chili, chile arbol, or chili Japones), including seeds
approximately a heaping 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

If you want to dry-roast spices, dry-roast everything except black cardamom until fragrant, then cool to room temperature. If not, just start by adding everything to a spice grinder.
Add all spices to a spice grinder (coffee grinder used only for spices and not coffee) and grind until a fine powder. Sometimes the cinnamon does not grind. In this case, add the powder to a glass jar but leave some in the grinder. Keep the cinnamon in the grinder. Then grind until a powder. Add everything to the glass jar and cover with airtight lid. Store and use when needed.

Chaat Masala

Chaat refers to Indian street foods, so chaat masala is the spice blend used in many delicious street foods. The spices in chaat masala are not as common as the spices in garam masala, so I recommend beginners to buy premade chaat masala.

Adapted from eCurry

2 tbsp coriander seeds, dry-roasted in a pan until a darker and fragrant
2 heaping tsp cumin seeds, dry-roasted in a pan until darker and fragrant
heaping 3/4 tsp carom seeds (ajwain), dry-roasted in a pan until fragrant
*Be careful not to burn the spices while dry-roasting!*
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tbsp Indian black salt (kala namak)
2 1/2 dry red chilies (Indian chilies, chile arbol, or chile Japones), including seeds
1 1/2 heaping tsp dry mango powder (amchur)
heaping 1/8 tsp powdered asafoetida (hing)
heaping 1/4 tsp dry ginger powder (soonth)
heaping 3/4 tsp black pepper powder
heaping 1/2 tsp dry mint leaves
heaping 1 to 1 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder

1. Dry-roast the three spices called to be dry-roasted in the ingredients, then cool to room temperature.
2. Add everything to a spice grinder and grind into a fine powder.
3. Store in an airtight glass jar.

Coming next when I introduce the recipes:
Sambar Powder
Rasam Powder


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