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Pakistani Garam Masala

Pakistani garam masala is an aromatic spice blend that is the main ingredient for many popular Indian dishes like butter chicken masala and Instant Pot chicken biryani. We often make the seasoning at the beginning of the month and store it in our pantry to use as needed. 

Whole spices for garam masala next to the spice blend.

What is Garam Masala?

Garam masala means ‘hot spice’ in English, but not because it’s spicy; it refers to warming spices and the process of toasting before grinding them. While you can buy garam masala in stores, every family has a treasured garam masala recipe they use.

The specific spices and their measurements may differ from home to home, but the process of making the spice blend is always the same. Begin by measuring the whole spices and toast them in a pan. Grind them finely, and preserve them for many meals to come!

Ingredients You’ll Need

Whole spices for garam masala.
  • Cardamom: Green and black cardamom flavor the Pakistani garam masala. Green cardamom is warm and herbaceous, whereas black cardamom has a menthol aroma.
  • Cinnamon Stick: Toasting cinnamon sticks draws out their natural warmth.
  • Black Cloves: Black cloves subtly sweeten the spice blend.
  • Cumin Seed: Toasted cumin seeds provide a nice citrus flavor.
  • Coriander Seed: Coriander seeds balance out the more pronounced spices like black cardamom. It’s a perfect lever because you can use more to tone down other spices.
  • Nutmeg: Nutty and sweet- nutmeg compliments the other spices.
  • Mace: Mace is a bridge between savory and sweet.
  • Bay Leaves: Subtly flavor the garam masala with a clove-like flavor.

How to Make Pakistani Garam Masala

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Break down the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, then add them to a skillet.

Toast the whole spices in a pan.

Step 2: Dry roast for 2- 3 minutes over medium heat.

Spices for our garam masala recipe toasting to draw out the flavor.

Step 3: Add the ingredients to a spice grinder in batches, and blend until fine. You can also use a mortar and pestle if you don’t mind the extra work.

The final step for making garam masala is to grind it into a fine powder.

Step 4: Stir in the ground nutmeg and add the Pakistani garam masala to an airtight glass jar.

Freshly ground garam masala is ready to be used in recipes.

Expert Tips

  • Can I use ground spices to make garam masala? Use fresh, whole spices instead of ground spices for the best flavor. Whole spices retain their flavor and aroma longer, whereas ground spices oxidize over time and lose flavor. If that’s all you have, go for it, but you can’t beat the fresh, toasted spice flavor.  
  • Toasting the whole spices before grinding them enhances their natural flavor. Warm them in a dry skillet over low heat until they darken slightly and become fragrant. 
  • Use a mortar and pestle (if you don’t mind the extra work) or spice grinder to process the toasted spices into a fine powder. Grind the spices in small batches to prevent the grinder from overflowing, and ensure the spices grind evenly.

Serving Suggestions

I have a whole collection of recipes using garam masala, but here are a few of my favorites.

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Storage  Once ground, store the leftover spice blend in an airtight container to maintain freshness and flavor. Keep the jar in a cool, dry place to ensure the best quality. Homemade garam masala stays fresh for 4-6 weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is in garam masala?

You can purchase garam masala in most grocery stores, but there is something to understand before you do – garam masala is not one size fits all. It differs from region to region, each slightly different from the last.

The combination of whole spices and how much of each spice varies from recipe to recipe, but the preparation is similar. Begin by measuring the whole spices and toast them in a pan over low heat. Then, grind the whole spices into a fine powder. Preserve it for all your favorite Indian recipes. 

This garam masala recipe combines a handful of whole spices, but as I mentioned, there are many ways to prepare the spice blend, and every region and home has its unique combination of spices. 

Try this North Indian garam masala recipe for another variation.

What does garam masala taste like?

I use warm spices in this recipe for garam masala. The combination of green cardamom pods, black cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, black clovescumin seedscoriander seeds, nutmeg, mace, and bay leaves creates a delicious spice blend with a savory, sweet flavor.

Is there a substitute for garam masala?

There isn’t a perfect substitute for garam masala. However, Chinese five spice uses similar ingredients. You can also combine ground allspice and ground cumin if you need the spice blend in a pinch. 

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Garam masala spices on a plate.

Garam Masala

Tressa Jamil
Garam masala is an essential ingredient in popular South Asian meal, and my Pakistani garam masala elevates the flavor of any dish.
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Spice Blends
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 10 tablespoons
Calories 29 kcal
Ingredients
  
Instructions
 
  • Break down the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, then combine them with the other ingredients on a skillet. Dry roast the spices for 2- 3 minutes over medium heat to draw out the flavor and aroma of the whole spices.
  • Allow the ingredients to cool some, then add them to a spice grinder in batches, blend until fine. You can also use a mortar and pestle if you don’t mind the extra work.
  • Stir in the ground nutmeg and add the Pakistani garam masala to an airtight glass jar.
Notes
Expert Tips:
  • Achieve the best flavor by using fresh, whole spices instead of pre-ground ones. Whole spices retain their aroma and flavor longer.
  • Toasting the spices before grinding them enhances their flavor and aroma. Toast them in a dry pan over low heat until they become fragrant and slightly darker.
  • Once you toast the spices, grind them to a fine powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Grind them in small batches to ensure that they are evenly ground.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Tablespoon | Calories: 29 kcal | Carbohydrates: 3 g | Fat: 1 g | Sodium: 3 mg | Fiber: 5 g
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
Recipe Rating




David Ramirez

Friday 26th of May 2023

Wow, this Garam Masala takes my Indian dishes to the next level! Thanks!

Sarah W.

Thursday 16th of February 2023

I tried this homemade Garam Masala recipe, and it added so much flavor to my Indian dishes! The aroma is amazing, and it's so easy to make. I'll never go back to store-bought again.

fede

Monday 23rd of May 2022

Such a great spice base, I used it to cook my lamb and it was delicious!

Tressa - Jamil Ghar Team

Monday 23rd of May 2022

Oh, we love using garam masala to flavor our lamb dishes.

Bianca

Sunday 22nd of May 2022

My most used spice blend, just love it!

Tressa Jamil

Sunday 12th of June 2022

Ours too!

RJ

Saturday 21st of May 2022

Tastes very authentic and makes a great base for many Pakistani and Indian dishes that I like.

Tressa Jamil

Sunday 12th of June 2022

Wow, what a compliment, thank you for taking the time to comment.