Garam masala is a staple in Indian cuisine and has become popular in other cuisines as well. This is a good reason to always have this spice in handy.
Sometimes though, finding garam masala can prove to be quite an odyssey, especially if you don’t have a store with a wide variety of spices near you. If that is the case, it is time for you to find out what other ingredients could replace garam masala.
Before we dive in, it is important to keep in mind that garam masala has a particular use and flavor. It is always used in aromatic dishes and some of its properties make it a healthy ingredient that packs tons of flavor, as well.
What Is Garam Masala?
Let’s begin from the start, what is garam masala?
This spice is a blend of many spices combined, including cumin, black pepper, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg. First, the spices are pan-fried to release the flavor, then they are ground, and mixed.
Though it usually comes as a powder, it sometimes comes in a paste, or even in liquid form mixed with water and coconut milk. You can try and make garam masala yourself, but instead of having to grind the spices by yourself, you can just mix the spices at hand in a bowl and add them to your meal.
What Can I Replace Garam Masala With?
To save time and effort, here are the best garam masala substitutes you can use in your next recipe:
This spice is the top choice and it shouldn’t be a surprise, as most recipes that call for garam masala are curry dishes.
Curry powder has a strong aroma and a sweet and spicy flavor to it, so it can be a nice way to replace garam masala. Often, curry is used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and even northern European cuisines.
Curry is made from fenugreek, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili. You can buy curry in the spice section of most grocery stores, as it is popular, but if you can’t find any, try the organic store instead. We suggest you start by using half of what the recipe calls for, and check the flavor as you cook.
#2. Chaat Masala
This blend of spice is not an exact replacement, but it can work in place of garam masala. Often used in Indian food, chaat masala has a sweet and sour flavor, but it is also tangy and salty. You can mix chaat masala with cumin or curry for a closer taste to garam masala.
Though not easy to come across, chaat masala can be bought in some organic supermarkets, specialty stores, or at the local farmer’s market.
You can add about half of the chaat masala instead of garam masala, but always try the flavor as you cook because it can be a little overpowering in your dish.
Because it makes part of garam masala, cumin can also be used as a replacement for garam masala. This spice is very popular in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines, which is why you have probably tasted its earthy, bitter, and somewhat sweet flavor. It is often used as a rub for meat, but can also be added to sauces and dips.
Cumin can be bought at the local grocery store, usually by the spice section, but you can try the farmer’s market too. If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of garam masala, we suggest you add ½ teaspoon or less of cumin because the flavor can be too strong for your dish.
This is a spice made from the dried and ground fruit of the P. dioica plant. The fruit is dried under the sun, which gives it a brown color that almost looks like a peppercorn. It is very aromatic and has a sweet and spicy flavor to it. Allspice is commonly used in Indian foods, desserts, and drinks.
You can find allspice in the spice or baking section of your grocery store. We suggest you add ⅓ of what the recipe calls for because allspice has a strong flavor and could change the dish completely.
While many use the plant, in this case, we recommend powdered coriander for a more similar texture and flavor profile. The taste is somewhat lemony and citrus, but also nutty and spicy. Coriander is often used in stews, sauces, dips, and meat dishes.
While fresh coriander is easy to find in the produce section of the grocery store, you may want to try and find the dry version. It could be with the other spices, but you may have to go to the organic supermarket. It’s better if you use about half of the amount in place of garam masala, as the flavor is sort of different and more citric.
Curry powder is usually added for color and aroma in curry dishes, but it has a milder flavor. Garam masala, on the other hand, is a blend of spices that packs a stronger aroma and taste. The latter is also warmer and sweeter.
Garam masala indeed tends to be added at the end of the cooking process, and it is because part of the use is its aroma. To preserve the smell and flavor, it is best to add this spice mix right at the end and before serving, so that the properties of garam masala are preserved.
While the recipe sometimes varies from brand to brand, garam masala usually consists of a mix of cumin, black pepper, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Some brands also include bay leaves, fennel, peppercorn, and chili.
Garam masala tends to be the main component of many dishes or recipes, but it can be quite hard to find sometimes. While you can try to imitate the flavor at home by mixing the spices yourself, you can also try one of these substitutes for ease of cooking and a delicious flavor. Always try for flavor, and enjoy!
*Photo by joannatkaczuk/depositphotos