Tandoori masala and garam masala are both used in Indian cuisine and are both highly flavorful spice blends. They are two of the most widely known Indian spice combinations and are essential for many of the most popular Indian dishes. While they have some striking similarities, there are a few important differences. Let’s compare these two seasonings.
Table of Contents
- How do tandoori masala and garam masala differ?
- Can you use one in place of the other?
- When should you use tandoori masala? And when should you use garam masala?
- Must-read related posts
How do tandoori masala and garam masala differ?
Tandoori masala is an Indian spice blend most commonly used to marinate meat that is to be cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor. The word masala means spice blend.
Garam masala is typically added in small amounts to cooked food. Garam masala translates to hot spices or hot spice blend, but its heat is a different heat from that of ground chili peppers. The principles of Ayurvedic medicine state that the spices contained in the blend are supposed to warm the body. There are, though, some garam masala recipes that contain chili peppers. See this example at PepperScale.
Garam masala is extremely popular in India, and most households (that commonly cook) will have at least one container of a garam masala blend. Aside from a handful of widely used spices, the spices used to make garam masala are not set in stone and can vary based on regional preferences or even just the preferences of the cook making the dish. One of the common factors between all garam masala blends is that the spices are usually toasted before being used.
Tandoori masala may include the same spices used in garam masala, or a pre-made garam masala blend may be used to make it. Tandoori masala will also have either red peppers or red food coloring to give it a color that is somewhere between pinkish and bright red. Tandoori masala is supposed to be a hot spice blend in the sense that it does contain hot chili pepper.
Can you use one in place of the other?
You can use tandoori masala in place of garam masala since it does include the same spices, but keep in mind the difference between the two spice blends in terms of heat. The fact that tandoori masala contains chili peppers may make it a great way to add heat to some dishes. In others, it will have to be used sparingly to keep food from being too hot.
Garam masala can also be used in place of tandoori masala, but it will not typically be as hot as tandoori masala. You may prefer this if you are trying to make a mild version of tandoori chicken or some other dish that requires tandoori masala. If want the heat, you can add it yourself in the form of cayenne pepper.
When should you use tandoori masala? And when should you use garam masala?
Use tandoori masala when making any of the Indian dishes that traditionally require it, such as tandoori chicken or butter chicken. You can also use it as a dry rub or add it to a dry rub blend for meats that you intend to grill.
The traditional use of garam masala is as a condiment for cooked food, but it can be used as a part of a dry rub or to flavor vegetables and soups. Use it in dishes where the heat of tandoori masala is not desired.