Friday 21 October 2011

This one's going to be a quick post. You know how I've been harping on about how I will give you my not-so-secret recipe for garam masala some day? Well, here it is.

Garam masala is the first blend of spices any Indian home cook makes. It is a spice blend that is used in practically most Indian dishes. The actual spices used to make it vary from household to household, and no two are alike. And yes, this does make pinning down the quantities and spices notoriously difficult. I use my nose to make this dish. I smell as I toast, and I know how much more of one spice and what other spices to add. Then I smell again, and add different spices. It's not the most scientific of methods, but it works for me. My usual way of making this involves the very easy 'throw a bit of this and that in' but I was finally pinned down to a recipe because I was teaching my first class on Indian food, and I actually had to hand over a recipe. So one day, armed with my nose, a few teaspoon measures and a notebook, I started 'Operation Write-Down-Garam-Masala-Recipe' And the result is here for you to enjoy.

As you know, there is nothing like the fragrance of fresh ground spices to make your food really outstanding. And that store bought mixes, while good, are not quite good enough if you fancy making Indian food on a regular basis, and fairly authentically. I almost always grind my own spices and make my own spice blends (there are exceptions, chaat masala, for example) but the majority of the time, the spice grinder is working overtime.

I tested my homemade versus store bought spice mix on my first batch of Indian cooking students. I snipped open a bag of store bought garam masala, and popped it into a bowl. I then quickly toasted and ground up my recipe for garam masala, and popped it into a bowl too. Passed round the two bowls, and I am not kidding when I say that the students were really shocked at the difference in the fragrances from those two bowls. The homemade garam masala won pretty unanimously.

So, I would love it if you tried out this recipe and tell me if you noticed a difference too. I can guarantee that once you've made your own spice mix, you will never go back to store bought ever again. The recipe below makes roughly ¾ cup of garam masala, but do feel free to increase the quantities if you want to make a bigger batch. The garam masala keeps well in a dark place away from direct sunlight, but as with most fresh ground spices, I would urge you to use it up within a few months to get the maximum flavour out of it.

Now if only those boffins who make our internet knew how to add a way to share fragrances on my blog with you, I'd be happy forever...!


2 star anise
1 tablespoon cassia bark 
1 teaspoon green cardamoms
½ tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 pods black cardamom, seeds only
½ tablespoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon mace
1 ½ tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 - 4 dried bay leaves


Heat a heavy based pan until it is very hot. 

Dry roast the whole spices (except for the nutmeg), in the order listed (essentially, the heavier spices first, then moving on to the more delicate ones) and remove to a bowl.

Let the spices cool completely, then blend to a fine powder in a spice grinder or an old coffee grinder. If the spices don't blend down completely, sieve them, and then blend the coarse leftovers again. 

Store in an airtight tin, away from direct sunlight. 


  1. I've made my own garam masala for what seems like ever. What I love is that I can ring the changes depending on my mood. I'm rather partial to cassia bark, but have never thought to use star anise.
    Thanks for sharing your recipe, I'll be coming back when my next batch is due!

  2. Flavourful masala will have Indian touch if added to any dishes..

  3. some friends of friends are in the process of building a house out here with a spice grinding kitchen in it! it has special ventilation and is cut off from the rest of the house! thanks for the recipe michelle!

  4. I love garam masala but usually buy it and find it's completely different and even a slightly different colour if you buy it in different places. I know I should make my own though as I have all the individual spices - I'm just a little lazy!

  5. I'm also a buyer.. But now I'll make it homemade!

  6. I'm going to tweet about this post and share it also on our facebook page. You are explaining very well what the garam masala blend we carry on our store is made of.
    Thanks for this.

  7. What a gorgeous blog I love it, your Garam masala recipe is really interesting! Thanks for Method for create your Garam masala recipe classic Indian recipe books

  8. Hi Michelle,
    i made your garam masala a week ago and it came out very good indeed! I used cinnamon instead of cassia bark because I heard that cassia is so hard it can break spice mixer.Whats your opinion on that? Next time I would like to make garam mas. with cassia.I have a big supply of it from London Chinese shop.

    1. Hi Miroslav, some cassia bark can be quite hard. But it shouldn't be that hard that is can break the spice grinder. We use a normal spice grinder in our classes and it works quite well with cassia.You can always crush the cassia slightly wi
      th a mortar and pestle before adding, so its in smaller pieces, before starting too. Do try the garam masala with the cassia, because the flavour is actually more subtle and fragrant than cinnamon. Also, cassia is cheaper than cinnamon, so you'll also be saving money :)

      Thanks for the feedback, I always appreciate it, especially from you :)

  9. Michelle, took the Thai class with you and Katherine the other day. Will be stopping to pick up Star Anise and Cassia bark (only things I'm missing)...can't wait to try this.

    just one question, do you leave the green cardamoms in the pod? or remove the seeds first.


    1. Hi Dave, it was nice to meet you too :) Yes, green cardamoms in the pod, toasted whole (they have a milder flavour). Black cardamoms are always seeds removed, as they have a much stronger flavour. Hope this helps, looking forward to your feedback on this mix :) Cheers!

  10. L'ENFERC'ESTLESAUTRES24 April 2014 at 14:34

    I tried this and it is wonderful. Every Indian cookbook has a recipe, but this is outstanding. We don't have enough Indian restaurants in Hawaii so we have to cook our own Indian dishes occasionally, and this garam masala will be my new "house recipe." Thank you for including black cardamom seeds - I had never opened a pod before, only used them whole, and your suggestion was a revelation.

  11. I personally love Garam Masala! I also really like the addition of star anise. Ive always used cinnamon instead of cassia bark simply because I have trouble finding it in stores. Really great recipe and very easy to follow!


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