Skip to Content

Garam Masala

Garam Masala

Sharing is caring!

Finally I had time to roast and grind my spices, so here goes my Garam Masala recipe. I know so many of you have requested more spice recipes. Will do my best to try and post as many as I can. 

Garam Masala, Indian spice in a white pestle and mortar

What is Garam Masala

I know many people are confused, especially because here is South Africa we have Masala and then we ask for Garam Masala in our recipes. Yes, us South Africans can be a little crazy so love complicating things…haha!

Let me begin by explaining the what is garam masala first and then will get to the masala. Garam Masala is what is authentically used in Indian cooking, it is a blend of different spices.

Garam means “hot” and Masala “spices” but this doesn’t mean that it is a hot mix. It simply means that it is a warm spice mix, raises the heat in your body.It consists of cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, coriander, cumin and a few other spices. Here you have a whole combination of spices.

Cinnamon is a little sweet, pepper is hot, coriander a little lemony and then you have the complexity of nutmeg. All these spices work so well together when the balance is right.

There  is no set recipe for Garam Masala, everyone makes their own version of it. If you become quite fimiliar with Indian spices you will be able to create a mix that works for you. 

When do I add Garam Masala to my dishes

Although here in South Africa we add it at the beginning of the cooking process with all our other spices, in India it is sprinkled in dishes at the end of the cooking process. It is added at the end to give the dish a burst of flavor. 

However, there is no hard and fast rule as to when you add the Garam Masala to a dish. Cooking is all about experimenting until you get it just the way you like it so go ahead and use spices that in whatever way works for you.

Then what is Masala

Here is where the confusion lies. In South Africa we created our own little mix, called Masala. In India they use every spice individually, there is no mix in terms of spices that’s used to cook Indian dishes.

I guess South Africans wanted to simplify the process or maybe complicate the process…LoL!  So instead of adding individual spices to an Indian dish a Masala was created with all the different spices. But unlike Garam Masala the base for the Masala is chilli powder. 

Although Garam Masala is not absolutely essential to cooking Indian dishes, you can still get away cooking a good dish without it.  Masala is essential to almost all Indian dishes which consists of chilli powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric etc.  Now if you have a masala you won’t need all of the individual spices because it’s what all goes into a masala. 

But because us Indians like complicating stuff we add Masala and then we still add more cumin, more coriander, more chilli powder…haha! Ask me why! Because we are fussy that way. None of those aunties in the spice shops can make the perfect Masala so we have to add more stuff to make our curries perfect. Less confused or more confused….Lol!

Basically Masala is an absolute must in almost all South African Indian dishes, it forms the base of most curries together with onion and ginger and garlic. Garam Masala is included in most dishes but not an absolute requirement for South African dishes. Garam Masala adds that finishing touch to an Indian dish but not everyone uses it.

I tried so I hope it’s cleared some of your confusion.

How do I make Garam Masala

You have to clean the individual spices. It is then placed in a pan and roasted on low heat until it is fragrant. Do not be tempted to roast on high heat as the spices will burn and become bitter.

Once the spices are roasted, allow them to cool. It is then placed in a coffee grinder and ground into a fine powder. It is a very quick and easy spice mix, to put together.

This spice blend is then stored in an airtight container. Although it can be stored for up to 6 months, the amount I have created won’t last that long. I personally prefer making small quantities so it remains fresh and aromatic.

Some Dishes that require Garam Masala:

Durban Lamb Curry

Lamb Pilaf

Spicy Durban Chicken Curry


Garam Masala

A blend of warming spices, perfect for Indian dishes
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken tikka masala, garam masala, indian spice
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes


  • 4 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp elachie seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 pieces cinnamon stick about 5cm each
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 2 star aniseed
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg


  • Clean all the spices well. Wipe the cinnamon stick with a damp cloth. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and the black cardamom
  • Place all the ingredients, except the nutmeg, in a pan and roast them on low heat until they smell fragrant
  • Allow them to cool. Place all the spices in a coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. Mix in the ground nutmeg
  • Store the Garam Masala in an airtight glass jar


  1. Get rid of any stones or funny bits in your spices
  2. Wash the cinnamon sticks and bay leaf and wipe dry
  3. Remove the seeds from the white and black cardamom and use that in the blend
  4. You can add some dried curry leaf or bay leaf to the garam masala should you wish
Join my newsletter and never miss a recipe!

Sharing is caring!

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Tuesday 23rd of March 2021

Hello Lorrain, Could you please let me know what is the difference between “Garam” and “Gharum” masala. Is this just different dialects or regional identities or is it a different spice mixture. The large majority of what is found on Internet refers to “Garam”. But, in some of my books it refers to “Gharum”… Thank you so much… And, by the way, congratulations for your beautiful culinary site…! <3


Saturday 27th of March 2021

Hi Alberto! My apologies for the late response. I think Gharum is just a spelling error. The correct way is "Garam" which means hot and Masala means spices. Hope this clears it up for you. Thank you and Take Care:-)


Wednesday 24th of March 2021

Hi Alberto! I did send you a reply on your mail. Hope you received it. Thank you and Take Care:-)


Wednesday 19th of August 2020

Good Morning Lorraine

What a wonderful concept and product you have here -gives one a warm feeling that our traditional dishes are being passed on to posterity. However i am looking for a jalebi recipe that really works - kind regards


Wednesday 19th of August 2020

Hi Rene! Thank you so much. My aim was to create a blog where I could share my good old-fashioned recipes as I believe our South African food is unique to the rest of the world. I will definitely try and post a Jalebi recipe soon. Take Care:-)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Copyright © 2021 Tamarind & Thyme