What’s A Good Garam Masala Substitute?

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Simple alternatives to a complex spice…

Traditional garam masala is an incredibly complex spice blend that often contains more than 30 ingredients. Because it is such a massive undertaking to make a homemade garam masala, many people prefer to purchase pre-made commercial blends.
In some areas, these blends can be difficult to find. While you can easily remedy this problem by purchasing your commercial garam masala online, time constraints often come into play.

When you find yourself out of garam masala and out of time, you can still work with what you have to complete a beautifully prepared and seasoned Indian dish by using the right substitution.

With these simple ingredient substitutions, you can easily move forward with your planned dish—even without the garam masala! 

In a hurry: Curry Powder

If you find yourself in a hurry and in a pinch with few ingredients on hand, you can use curry powder as a substitute for garam masala.

While you won’t get the same warming effect that garam masala provides, the flavor of curry powder should work nicely in just about any type of Indian cuisine. Just add the same amount of curry powder as the amount of garam masala indicated in your recipe and you can effectively season your dish.

A quick mix: Allspice & cumin

Even the most basic spice rack typically contains allspice and cumin. Although traditional garam masala can contain more than 32 individual spices, you can easily make your own simple substitute using just allspice and cumin.

In order to make this garam masala substitute, just mix 1 part cumin with ¼ part allspice. This ratio will create a very nice flavor for whatever dish you’re whipping up. It’s also easy to make whatever quantity of spice you need using this ratio.

If you’re ever planning to make a garam masala and find that you’re running short on time, you can even use this quick substitution to ensure that you don’t wind up with hungry guests on your hands!

An Indian alternative: Chaat Masala

If you’re someone who makes Indian cuisine often and have run out of garam masala, chaat masala can make a suitable substitute if necessary. 

Chaat masala is considered a cooling spice blend, whereas garam masala is a warming blend. The flavors of these two Indian spice blends do differ, but chaat masala can still substitute for garam masala in most Indian dishes if you find yourself in a pinch.

The spices that make up chaat masala create a flavor that is salty, sweet and tart and you should be careful not to use too much of this particular substitution. Measure out an equal proportion of this spice blend to the amount of garam masala your recipe calls for, but add it gradually.

If you continue gradually adding your chaat masala and tasting your dish as you add it, you can ensure that the flavor of this spice blend doesn’t overpower your finished dish. Depending on the particular dish you’re cooking, you may find that much less chaat masala is needed to create a flavor that’s complementary.

Or…mix individual components

In the even that you find yourself all out of garam masala or the full range of ingredients you use to make your own blend, you can often create a great substitute by using a few key ingredients.

The main flavor components of this traditional, complex and warming spice blend are cloves, cumin, ground coriander, pepper, cinnamon and cardamom. If you have all of these on hand, creating a substitute blend is simple.

Just use these ratios to create your substitution:

Mix these ingredients together and simply add this spice blend to your dish in place of a commercial or homemade garam masala.

If you don’t have all six of these ingredients available to you but you do have a little time to experiment, simply try mixing a combination of whichever of these spices you do have. With a little time and a bit of luck, you can easily make a great garam masala substitute that will flavor your favorite Indian dishes in a way that will delight even the most refined of palettes!

Photo by: Drew Tyre CC 2.0