Indian cuisine is known for its complex flavors and delicate aroma. Such is attributed to the use of different spices, and one of the most popular is garam masala. It is a combination of cinnamon, peppercorn, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, and mace.
Aside from its unparalleled taste in soups, curries, and other dishes, garam masala is also popular because of its benefits for warming the body and increasing metabolism. In English, the name loosely translates to warming spices.
What if you do not have garam masala in the kitchen? How can you achieve the same flavor? Read on as we walk you through some of the top options for garam masala substitute.
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Top 7 Best Substitutes for Garam Masala
1. Curry Powder
A blend of turmeric-based spices, curry powder is known for being flavorful and aromatic. It can add depth to any dish that it touches. Some of the spices that are used in a curry powder include black pepper, cumin, ginger, and of course, turmeric.
Although you can use curry powder as a garam masala substitute, take note that they have many differences. Garam masala has a stronger and sharper flavor. Plus, garam masala does not contain turmeric, which is the main ingredient you will find in curry powder.
To achieve the same sharp and strong flavor of garam masala, you might need to increase the measurement of curry powder. Nonetheless, watch out and avoid overdoing so, since the flavor of turmeric can be too strong for some people.
How To Make Curry Powder – Homemade Curry Powder – 3 Curry Powders – Youtube
2. Sambhar Masala
For the uninitiated in Indian cuisine, sambhar masala might seem like an easy choice for a substitute for garam masala because of their names. Nonetheless, take note that masala means spice.
Sambhar masala is a combination of herbs, lentils, and spices. Like everything else on this list, it is distinctively aromatic, which will make a dish more pleasing to the senses. The specific ingredients might vary, but some of the most common are coriander seeds, cumin, cinnamon, and coconut.
If you will use sambhar masala as a replacement to garam masala, use the same quantity. Nonetheless, if you are sensitive to strong flavors and you want a subtler dish, then you can use lesser while also reducing the other spices that go into your dish.
South indian Sambhar Masala Recipe / how to make sambhar masala
3. Chaat Masala
Another common ingredient that you will find in Indian dishes, chaat masala is a spice powder mix. This South Asian flavoring usually contains cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, dry mango powder, mint, ginger, and black pepper, among others.
As for the flavor profile, chaat masala is zingy and tangy. It is also slightly hot, making it a great option for people who like a bit of a spicy kick in their dish. It is often used as a sprinkle or garnish in soups, salads, and curries.
Like with garam masala, those who are unfamiliar with Indian foods might find chaat masala overpowering. We recommend that you start with a little amount and taste. Adjust gradually depending on your flavor preference.
Chaat Masala Recipe – How to make Chaat Masala ?
4. Tandoori Masala
At this point, you have probably heard about too many masalas on this list. Add tandoori masala to the substitutes for garam masala worth considering. This spice mix has coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic, mace, black pepper, and cardamom, among other ingredients.
Nonetheless, while they have similar flavor profiles, the traditional applications vary. In Indian cuisine, garam masala is often used for seasoning cooked food, often added at the end to enhance flavor. On the other hand, tandoori masala is used as a marinade.
To achieve the best taste, you can add cayenne pepper. Adjust the amount of the latter depending on the spice level that you can tolerate.
Tandoori Masala Powder Recipe | Homemade Tandoori Spice Mix |Tikka Masala Recipe | Indian BBQ Masala
5. Chicken Tikka Masala
While it is a dish and not a flavoring, chicken tikka masala is another great option for garam masala substitutes. This rich, creamy, and aromatic sauce is made from a combination of tomato, chicken, and cream, as well as traditional Indian spices that elevate the flavor.
Some chicken tikka masalas already include garam masala as the main ingredient. The sweet and earthy flavor is sure to tickle your taste buds. You can eat it with roti or white rice.
Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe | How To Make Chicken Tikka Masala
6. Butter Chicken
Like chicken tikka masala, Indian butter chicken is a dish and not a flavoring. Nonetheless, if you are simply looking for something that taste like garam masala to titillate your taste buds, it will suffice.
A traditional butter chicken is made of yogurt, lemon, ginger, spices, and chicken. Flavor-wise, it is less complex compared to tikka masala.
How To Make Butter Chicken At Home | Restaurant Style Recipe | The Bombay Chef – Varun Inamdar
7. DIY Spice Mixes
If you do not have any of those mentioned above, you can also make a garam masala substitute by mixing different spices. Nonetheless, you might need to adjust the quantity to use depending on the flavor intensity that you want to incorporate in a dish.
Among others, one that works best is a combination of cumin and allspice. Allspice, also known as Jamaican pepper, is made of dry unripe berries. To replicate garam masala flavor profile, mix one-part allspice with four-part ground cumin.
Another thing that you can do is to combine black peppercorn, cumin, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves. They are easily accessible in the grocery store and simply mixing the spices will let you achieve a flavor close to true garam masala.
If you want to keep it simple, you can also make something like garam masala with only three ingredients – two teaspoons of coriander seeds, half teaspoon of cardamom pods, and one teaspoon of cumin. Heat them in a low pan and grind to become powder.
More so, a combination of fenugreek, cloves, and cinnamon will also yield flavors that will remind you of garam masala. Once heated and blended, they will turn into a flavorful powder that will make a great addition to stews and soups.
A mix of coconut, curry leaves, and mustard seeds will also make a good choice for a garam masala substitute. These are unique ingredients compared to those mentioned above. You can use it as a salad dressing and sauce, among others.
Whatever you choose to substitute with garam masala, moderation is the key to achieving the best flavor. These spices can often end up being overpowering and might ruin the dish instead of complementing the other ingredients that you are using.