Roasted Garam Masala

Garam Masala

Garam Masala is literally translated as “hot spice mix”, but the “hot” refers to the intensity of the spices and the heat they generate in the body – not the pungency we associate with chillis. The spice mix can be bought pre-prepared and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but you should prepare your own if you’re doing a special dish. I’ve only recently started grinding my own garam masala and I’ve found that the difference in flavour is staggering. It is said that commercial garam masala preparations are bulked up with the cheaper and milder spices such as cumin or coriander. The homemade version will be much more intense and fragrant.

You don’t have to toast your spices first but I find it gives a nice roasty flavour and a deeper colour which goes particularly well with lamb curries. I wouldn’t consider making a rogan josh without this. I’ve experimented with various combinations of spices and this is the one I like best. Mamta Gupta of the fantastic Mamta’s Kitchen advises adding black cumin and fennel seeds for a Kashmiri-style garam masala.


  • 5 green cardamoms
  • 3 brown cardamoms
  • 3 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 4 dry bay leaves
  • 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick


Heat a heavy frying pan and gently toast the spices for a minute or two until they start to smell really fragrant. Transfer the toasted spices to a coffe/spice grinder and allow to cool. Grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight jar.



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