Garam Masala is a blend of warming spices for Indian dishes. There are many variations of Garam Masala, and this particular version is a Punjabi style, inspired by the recipes of Raghavan Iyer and Epicurious. I recently used it in a biryani dish for a graduation celebration.Jump to Recipe
About Garam Masala
While some Garam Masala blends have higher (almost minty) or hotter (think peppery) notes, this spice blend has a rich and earthy aroma that adds a mellow flavor to your dish. I used it in Beautiful Biryani, a vegetarian version of this colorful layered rice dish. It struck a perfect balance between two layers of basmati rice, one with Kashmiri chili powder and one with saffron.
A Labor of Love
I made my first batch of Garam Masala by hand, grinding every bit of those spices into submission on my molcajete (a Mexican mortar and pestle). I intermittently sifted the ground mixture through a fine mesh strainer. It was hard work, but I wanted to put some extra love into it because it was for a special celebration. And for whatever reason, these old, manual methods best represent that for me as I prepare a dish for a special occasion.
Great Big Bay Leaves
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention bay leaves here. The bay leaves you’ll find in an international spice market are “ginormous” compared to the ones you get fresh packed or jarred in U.S. grocery stores. If you want to try your hand at Indian cuisine, I highly recommend a trip to a local international market. My local favorite for Indian cuisine supplies is Spice World International Market. I was delighted to find they had everything I needed to prepare my Indian feast (and items for my “yet to cook” list, too).
An Easier Way
Next time I’ll probably use an automatic spice grinder for this recipe. It worked great for a Bengali Garam Masala I made last week for a shrimp dish. If I don’t like the results, I’ll return to my mortar and pestle. I’ll know soon, because I’ve almost used up my first batch.
“Spice a dish with love and it pleases every palate.”― Plautus
- 2 ½ TBSP coriander seeds
- 1 ½ TBSP cumin seeds
- 1 ½ tsp whole cloves
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 tsp green cardamom pods
- 2 pieces 3-in. cinnamon sticks broken into pieces
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- 2 tsp dried miniature rosebuds de-stemmed
- pinch mace
- pinch nutmeg
- Break cinnamon sticks into pieces. Remove and discard any stems on the rosebuds.
- Place all spices into a small bowl.
- Preheat small skillet to medium-high.
- Add the spice mixture into the skillet and toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds until mixture is fragrant.
- Continue to cook and shake until the bay and cinnamon become brittle. They may crinkle up a little. Coriander and cumin will brown; cloves, peppercorns and cardamom will darken. At this point, remove the mixture from heat.
Cool and complete spice blend
- Transfer to a plate or dish to cool.
- When cool, grind until the mixture resembles finely ground black pepper. You can grind by hand using a mortar and pestle or using a spice grinder.
- Sift the spice through a fine mesh strainer and repeat until you’ve finely ground all of the the spice blend.