Tandoori Masala: A Spice Blend From Northern India

India has long been known for its abundance of spices and its cuisine revolves around them. Tandoori masala is one of many spice blends from the subcontinent, reflecting not only spices that originated there but also those imported from elsewhere like chili peppers. Tandoori masala’s roots are widely believed to lie in northern India before the country separated from Pakistan.

While the details of tandoori masala’s origin have long been lost to history, the more recent history of the spice is well documented. The spice has come to be associated with Indian-influenced cuisine made in the west. Tandoori chicken is said to have become popular in the US in the 1960s after being created at an Indian restaurant located in Delhi a decade before; however, some sources say that the dish has been around since the 1920s. The legend is that both tandoori chicken and tandoori masala may have originated in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The tandoori masala used in the west is best known for the color that it gives to food, which is a bright red. Early versions relied on chili peppers to provide this color, while more modern blends use food coloring. The food dye, red #40 can be found on the ingredients lists for many tandoori masala blends.

The name tandoori masala comes from the type of clay pot used to cook some dishes in which the spice blend is used. Tandoors are known for their ability to reach very high temperatures similar to pizza ovens. In some cases, they can put out as much as 900 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tandoori masala flavor profile

There is no standard recipe for tandoori masala but most blends offer a pungent sweetness backed up by bitter notes and heat.

Health benefits of tandoori masala

With a selection of highly nutritious spices, tandoori masala can enhance health in several ways. The nutrients it provides includes:

  • Fiber: Cardamom and black peppercorns are both used in many tandoori masala blends and are rich in fiber. Other spices like nutmeg and cloves also provide significant amounts of fiber.
  • Minerals: Cardamom and ginger are both rich in manganese and copper. Other minerals that the spices in tandoori masala can provide include iron, calcium and magnesium.
  • Vitamins: The cayenne pepper used in tandoori masala can provide a significant amount of vitamin A, while cloves and cardamom are rich in vitamin C.

The nutritional benefits of tandoori masala make it good for treating and preventing health conditions like:

  • Obesity: The fiber in tandoori masala has numerous nutritional benefits including the fact that it can make you feel fuller after a meal, thus causing you to eat less and lose weight.
  • Constipation: The fiber content of many of the component spices in tandoori masala can help to speed the passage of food through the gut and thus relieve constipation.
  • Cancer: The capsaicin in tandoori masala is known to fight certain types of cancer. It is known to cause cell death in both breast and prostate cancer cells.

Common uses of tandoori masala

This spice blend is a staple in numerous Indian dishes including the famous tandoori chicken. It is also the seasoning used in another Indian dish popular with westerners—butter chicken. Tandoori chicken is made by marinating the chicken in a mixture of yogurt and tandoori masala. The chicken is then baked in a tandoor. Butter chicken is prepared in a similar way except that the chicken is served in a mild sauce that may also include butter.

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