Best Garam Masala Substitute?


Need a garam masala replacement in a hurry? This spice hack for a garam masala substitute of coriander, cumin, cinnamon & black peppercorns will do the trick.

Garam masala is a warming blend of spices like coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg. First, whole spices are toasted in a dry pan for a minute to release flavor oils, then freshly ground. It is the core flavor base of many South Asian dishes and varies regionally as well as from one cook to another. Be wary of bottled “garam masala” and other Indian spices or masalas on store shelves- often ground months ago and cheapened by reducing or removing cardamom, nutmeg and the other expensive spices.

Best Garam Masala Substitute

Authentic garam masala spice blend will have anywhere from 20 to 30 ingredients, or more. It is a huge undertaking to source this many high quality individual spices, not to mention toasting and grinding them!  And freshness is important- once ground, these spices lose their flavor over a few weeks.

If you're totally out of garam masala or yours has been sitting on the shelf for far too many months (or years!), we've got some great garam masala substitutes for you. 

These are some of the best garam masala substitutes:

Spice Blends:

Masala Curry Powder

Sambhar Masala

Chaat Masala

Make Your Own Garam Masala:

1 part cumin plus 1/4 part allspice

Or any combination of:

Coriander, Cumin, Black Peppercorns, Cardamom, Cloves, Nutmeg

Spice Blends in a Pinch:

Ras el Hanout


Pumpkin Pie Spice  

Garam Masala Substitutes

Easiest: Masala Curry Powder

If you're in a pinch and only have a few ingredients on hand, stick to tried and true curry powder as a good garam masala replacement. Curry powder doesn't have the same warming spices, but it does help to provide a nice amount of flavor depth to curry dishes. Curry powder is a British invention and just an English shortcut to the beautiful garam masalas that Indian cooks made daily. 

Mix Individual Spices

Try mixing:

1 parts toasted coriander 
1/2 part toasted cumin & black peppercorns
1/4 part ground cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg 

Or to simplify it even further, try:

1 part cumin
1/4 part allspice berries

Although garam masala spice blends have as many as 30+ individual spices, allspice and cumin will add warmth and depth in a similar way. Just measure 1 part cumin with ¼ part allspice berries. Alternatively, mix 1 part coriander, 1/2 parts cumin & black peppercorns and 1/4 part green cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg (include any you have on hand).

Toasting the spices in a skillet before grinding adds a nice level of complexity of depth. Once toasted, combine & blitz in your coffee grinder and you're good to go!

Pumpkin pie spice heavily features allspice and black peppercorns, but doesn't have cumin or coriander. Ras el hanout is heavy on the cumin and coriander but missing a heavy dose of allspice and Vadouvan is a French-Indian inspired blend with alliums but still works!


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