Tandoori masala is a spice blend from Northern India that is used in a number of classic Indian and Indian-style dishes. The spices in it are all versatile enough to be adapted to a range of cuisines and cooking styles. In order to give your tandoori chicken an authentic flavor, you will need the flavors that this blend provides. If you are out of tandoori masala or cannot find it in a local store, there are other ways to get that flavor profile. Try one of the tandoori masala substitutes below.
Your best bet: Make Your Own tandoori masala
Most of the ingredients in tandoori masala can be found in the spice aisle of a typical grocery store, which makes it a fairly easy spice mix to throw together yourself. Tandoori masala ingredients include cardamom, fenugreek, and garlic among others. Note that it is best to buy whole spices and grind them yourself. Whole spices stay fresher for longer, which means that your tandoori masala will have a strong flavor and aroma. Grinding your own spices will ensure that you get the closest possible substitute for traditional blends. Once the spices are ground, you can run them through a sieve to ensure that you have a consistent texture throughout. Making your own blend gives you the ability to create a mixture better suited to your tastes. For example, you can make a hotter version or a milder one. See a nice spicy version at PepperScale.
Use your homemade tandoori masala exactly as you would a store-bought blend.
A decent second choice: Madras curry powder
Madras curry powder is not really an Indian spice blend, but it does contain Indian spices. Many of those spices are also used in tandoori masala, which means that Madras curry powder will provide a similar flavor profile. In addition, Madras curry powder is hotter than other curry blends. That heat is similar to that of tandoori masala, which is known for its spiciness. The big difference between the two will be cosmetic as Madras curry powder contains turmeric, which makes it yellow. Tandoori masala will contain cayenne pepper and/or red food coloring to give it a pink or bright red color. Despite the differences in appearance, you can use Madras curry powder in the same applications. It can play the same role in dishes like tandoori chicken or butter chicken.
Use Madras curry powder as a 1:1 substitute for tandoori masala.
In a pinch: Vindaloo curry powder
This spice blend from the Goa region of India is known for being spicy with its heat supported by layers of complex flavors. The Goa region was originally controlled by the Portuguese, and vindaloo curry powder was first used for seasoning pork. These days, the spice blend is used on a range of other meats and even on seafood. Vindaloo curry powder includes many of the same spices found in tandoori masala including fenugreek, cardamom, and cumin. This means that it will give a similar flavor to food. It even has the heat in the form of cayenne pepper. Vindaloo curry powder can provide a similar reddish color to that of tandoori masala since it does not contain turmeric.
Use vindaloo curry powder as a 1:1 substitute for tandoori masala.
Garam masala is a classic Indian spice blend that has a lot of the same spices in common with tandoori masala. In some cases, it may even be used as a base for tandoori masala. Simply add your preferred amount of any hot chili powder to your garam masala to get an effective tandoori masala substitute.