Garam masala is one of the most used spice mixes in our home. You may be the same and find that it is a sort of go-to spice blend that can be added to many dishes for that base level of aromatic spiciness.
When you run out of garam masala it can be useful to know of a few replacements and alternatives. However remember that one of the beauties of garam masala is that it is ready made. So making up your own in bulk is useful as well! IN a pinch try some of these ideas.
What Is Garam Masala
There is no one recipe for garam masala it is more a base of spices that can vary from region to region. Used in dahl, stews, curries and soups. Garam masala translates to ‘warming spices’ so we can see the benefit and flexibility of these mixes.
Garam masala is made from toasted cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds, cinnamon, peppercorns and mace. Once toasted they are ground together to make a useful powdered spice blend. By making your own blends you can strengthen one flavor over another.
Garam Masala Ingredients
Each ingredient to this spice mix offer a little something extra. There is variation between mixes so, this is not the only way to create your own spice blend.
Cumin is warm and musky. Coriander seeds are warming and slightly sweet with a bitter back note. Cardamom is a little like cloves with a slight numbing effect but there is a savory anise as well. Cinnamon is woody, sweet and slightly nutty. Nutmeg and mace offer a different level of pungency.
You can also add different elements in the form of bay leaves and peppercorns.
Homemade Recipe For Garam Masala
This recipe is designed to make a larger batch than you will need for one recipe. Do scale it up more if you intend on making it and leaving if for ease of use in the future as well.
- 4 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon black cardamom seeds (removed from the pods)
- 4 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 3 tablespoons cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
In a non stick frying pan heat through the peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin and cardamom seeds. This will take around ten minutes, but do not be tempted to turn up the heat. Low and slow will toast your seeds nicely. Toss them around a bit as you go as well.
Once toasted and cooled crush the seeds in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle with the other ingredients. You can add rock salt if you like to help grind all of the ingredients together.
Store in an airtight container with a clear label on it, including the date you made your mix! Leave in a cool and dark place as direct sunlight will degrade the flavor more quickly than anything else.
Best Replacements For Garam Masala
If you have run out of pre made garam masala here are some of your best options.
The best substitute for garam masala would be a homemade blend from some of the ingredients that you happen to have in your spice rack. The next best bet would be the warming effects of curry powder or chaat masala. Going for a few of the ingredients and toasting them can also be a great alternative.
Let’s go through each option in a bit more detail first.
1. Curry Powder
Curry powder does differ from garam masala as it also includes ginger, turmeric and chili. This will give a warming effect and if you have purchased a mild version then it can work well as a replacement for garam masala. Use in a like for like ratio.
When a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon garam masala use 1 teaspoon curry powder.
2. Chaat Masala
Chaat masala and garam masala both contain peppercorns, cumin, coriander but there is also amchoor and ginger in chaat masala. These ingredients offer a sweeter flavor with a heat behind it. So therefore go carefully with other hot ingredients if you are using it to replace garam.
3. Homemade Mix
This is always a good option as when we buy ready made garam masala then it may have been a few years in the making. If we instead use whole seeds to toast at home we can be sure that the mix is as fresh as it can be to give as much potency as possible.
4. Cumin & Coriander
Using cumin and coriander to replace garam masala works well as these are sort of the two main flavors that give warmth and depth of flavor. Use fresh seeds toasted at the beginning of cooking your dish. Use with fresh coriander leaves as a garnish and you have a suitable substitute.
5. Sambar Masala
Sambar masala shares a lot of the ingredients of garam masala but also has methi seeds and red chili as well. This recipe here is a great one to follow for getting the most out of your spices and makes a nice alternative to garam masala.
6. Cinnamon, Fenugreek & Curry leaves
By using a mix of spices you can get a little bit closer to the original intention of garam masala. So pop the cinnamon sticks into the sauce of your dish along with fenugreek and curry leaves. When the dish is ready to serve fish them all out. It offers some of the warmth and spice or garam masala.
7. Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
This is a surprising alternative to garam masala, pumpkin spice mix is designed to bring warmth to a dish after all. It can be a little sweeter so make a note of any other sweet ingredients from a recipe and lower their quantity to take this into account.
Hopefully you will feel inspired to try your own garam masala recipe at home. It is always worth keeping the ingredients to hand in your spice rack and adding to a dish as you go, but here we have seen that pre-making a batch will be more useful given the number of recipes that use garam masala.
Whether you try to make your own or use some of these alternatives we hope that you have a little more confidence in your cooking!
- Grow Your Own Curry Spices In The UK For those who may be interested in growing your own fresh ingredients. Yes, you can grow some of your own spices in the UK and colder zones from around 7 upwards. There are a few things to take into account first though!
- What Herbs & Spices Do Not Go Well Together In Cooking This is an article I wrote after extensive experimentation and I think it may be a timely reminder to myself as much as anyone else! But some times experiments work out, so don’t feel constricted by it!