Garam masala is an Indian spice blend commonly made of cardamom pods, clove, coriander seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaf, cumin seeds, and peppercorns. These whole spices are first lightly toasted and then grounded together to produce a warming spice blend that is used in a number of Indian dishes.
In the mood for a delicious Indian dish but don’t have garam masala on hand? Don’t worry! There are plenty of garam masala replacements you can use to add flavor to your favorite dishes without having to go to the store. From simple blends of spices to unique flavor enhancers, we’ll explore some of the best garam masala substitutes in this article.
1. Curry Powder
Curry powder is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to garam masala for seasoning Indian dishes. It contains many of the same spices as garam masala but with a bit of extra warmth and sweetness. This spice blend includes coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, fennel, cinnamon, and cardamom. This combination imparts a balanced flavor with a hint of spice and sweetness and is reminiscent of garam masala.
When substituting curry powder for garam masala in recipes, you can use it in the same amount as garam masala since both spice blends have a comparable flavor profile. You can also add other herbs and spices to the recipe to tailor the taste or further duplicate the garam masala flavor.
1 teaspoon of garam masala = 1 teaspoon of curry powder.
2. Allspice + Cumin
Allspice comes from the dried inner berries of the Pimenta dioica tree, found in the Caribbean and Central America. It has a woody smell and a sweet, slightly spicy taste that adds a rich complexity to dishes. And combining allspice with cumin will provide that warm aromatic element that features in garam masala.
When substituting allspice and cumin for garam masala in a dish, it’s important to get the balance right. A 4:1 ratio of cumin to allspice will work well — four teaspoons of cumin mixed with one teaspoon of allspice. You can then use this blend to replace garam masala in equal amounts.
1 teaspoon garam masala = 1 teaspoon of allspice and cumin blend.
3. Cumin, Coriander, and Cardamom
Cumin has a warm, earthy flavor that provides depth to any dish. Coriander is milder and has a slightly citrusy flavor, while cardamom has a distinctly sweet, pungent, and minty flavor. These three spices together create a delicious mix that can adequately stand in for garam masala.
To use these spices as a substitute for garam masala, combine one teaspoon of cumin with two teaspoons of coriander and half a teaspoon of cardamom. This aromatic blend can be added to your dishes in place of garam masala to create a delicious meal! You can also adjust the ratios according to your own taste or dish requirements for maximum flavor.
1 teaspoon of garam masala = 1 teaspoon of cumin, coriander, and cardamom blend.
4. Ras el Hanout
Ras el Hanout literally means “top of the shop” in Arabic and is considered one of the most popular ingredients in Mediterranean cuisine. It’s a complex blend of spices, often containing up to 30 or more different ingredients. Commonly included ingredients are black pepper, cumin, cardamom, allspice, cloves, ginger, coriander, and turmeric. This blend can work as a close substitute for garam masala.
When using Ras el Hanout in place of garam masala, it’s recommended to start with a small amount since Ras el Hanout has many other ingredients which can make it taste quite potent. Use half a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout for every teaspoon of garam masala, taste, and then add more if needed. Use this spice sparingly until you can determine how much flavor is sufficient for your dish.
1 teaspoon of garam masala = 1/2 teaspoon of Ras el Hanout.
5. Pumpkin Pie Spice
Because of its robust flavor profile that is packed with warm autumnal spices, pumpkin pie spice may also be a fantastic replacement for garam masala. This versatile blend typically includes ground cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sometimes, allspice. These ingredients create a harmonious interplay of spiciness and sweetness that can add an aromatic warmth to any dish.
It is advisable to use pumpkin pie spice in the same proportion as garam masala when using it as a substitute. Additionally, you may sprinkle some over your food before serving to give depth and complexity to soups, stews, curries, fruits, veggies, or baked goods.
1 teaspoon of garam masala = 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.
6. Chinese Five Spice
Chinese five spice is also an ideal substitute for garam masala because it has many of the same key ingredients but with a unique and distinct flavor. Chinese five spice is made up of star anise, cloves, fennel, cinnamon, and Sichuan peppercorns — all spices commonly found in garam masala.
For those looking for a quick substitute for garam masala, Chinese five spice can be used in recipes in equal amounts. This will add enough flavor to your dish without making it overpoweringly hot or spicy. Note that the flavor of Chinese five spice may be rather strong, so use it sparingly and only when required for a more rich flavor depth.
1 teaspoon of garam masala = 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice.
7. DIY Garam Masala
An authentic garam masala is a blend of many different spices, including cumin, coriander, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. And if you don’t have access to store-bought garam masala, why not make your own? Not only is it surprisingly easy to make, but you also have full control over the flavor and aroma as you can customize the ingredients to your liking.
The general ratio of ingredients is equal parts ground coriander and cumin with a smaller amount of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper. These can be added according to taste but should remain within this basic ratio so the end result can more closely mimic the store-bought garam masala flavor. Once you’ve found a mix that works for you, store it in sealed jars for later use.
1 teaspoon of garam masala = 1 teaspoon of DIY garam masala.