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The 3 Best Substitutes for Garam Masala

If you love Indian food, you’ve probably heard of garam masala.

This aromatic spice blend is used in many traditional dishes, and it can take your cooking to the next level.

Though the exact ingredients vary depending on the region and family tradition, garam masala typically contains cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and black peppercorns.

This fragrant spice mix can be used to flavor both vegetarian and meat dishes.

It’s also a key ingredient in many popular curries.

While this spice blend is readily available in most supermarkets, it’s also easy to make at home.

And, in a pinch, there are a few good substitutes for garam masala that can be used in its place.

In this article, we’ll share five of the best substitutes for garam masala.

What is Garam Masala?

what is garam masala

Garam Masala is a spice blend that is commonly used in Indian cooking.

The word “garam” means “hot” in Hindi, referring to the heat of the spices.

Masala, on the other hand, means “blend.

” So literal translation of garam masala is “hot spice blend.

” But don’t let the name fool you – while garam masala does have a bit of a kick, it is not necessarily spicy hot.

Instead, the heat comes from the warmth of the spices.

Garam masala typically contains a mix of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, and black pepper.

But the exact ingredients and proportions vary depending on who is making it.

Some garam masalas contain ginger, nutmeg, fennel seed, or mace.

The spice blend is usually ground into a powder using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Garam masala is used in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

It can be added to curries, soups, rice dishes, and even bread.

The spice blend is also sometimes used as a dry rub for meats.

If you’re looking to add Indian flavor to your cooking, garam masala is a good place to start.

The 3 Best Substitutes for Garam Masala

If the garam masala is unavailable or you’re looking for a different flavor profile, there are several good substitutes.

Let’s take a look at the three best substitutes for garam masala.

1. Curry Powder

curry powder

Curry powder is a blend of spices that originates from the Indian subcontinent.

It typically includes turmeric, coriander, cumin, and chili pepper, although the exact composition can vary depending on the region.

Curry powder is used to add flavor and spice to dishes, and it can be used in both sweet and savory recipes.

While it is most commonly associated with Indian cuisine, curry powder can also be used in Thai, Chinese, and Jamaican dishes.

The word “curry” actually comes from the Tamil word “kari,” which refers to a sauce or stew.

Curries were originally made with meat or fish, but they can now be made with vegetables.

Curry powder is an essential ingredient in many popular dishes, such as chicken curry, shrimp curry, and vegetable curry.

For those who want to substitute curry powder for garam masala, it is important to remember that curry powder is more aromatic and spicy than garam masala.

Curry powder also has a stronger flavor, so it should be used sparingly.

When substituting curry powder for garam masala, start with half the curry powder and add more to the taste.

Additionally, you may want to add other spices to round out the flavor, such as ginger, cardamom, or cloves.

2. Allspice and Cumin

allspice and cumin

Allspice and cumin are two spices that are often used in savory dishes.

Allspice comes from the dried berries of the allspice tree, while cumin is made from the dried seeds of a plant in the parsley family.

Both spices have a distinct flavor that can enhance the taste of many dishes.

Allspice has a warm, aromatic flavor similar to cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

It is often used in curries, stews, and marinades.

On the other hand, cumin has an earthy, slightly bitter taste.

It is often used in Indian cuisine, as well as in chili and other hearty dishes.

When used sparingly, both allspice and cumin can make a good substitute for garam masala.

When substituting allspice for garam masala, it is important to remember that allspice is a very strong spice.

Therefore, you should start with a small amount and add more to the taste.

3. Chaat Masala

chaat masala

Look no further than chaat masala if you’re looking for a flavor-packed seasoning to add to your repertoire.

This colorful blend of spices originates from India, where it’s used to add a zesty kick to all sorts of snacks and dishes.

Chaat masala typically contains a mix of cumin, coriander, black pepper, dried mango powder, and root powder.

This combination of spices delivers a warm, slightly sweet flavor with a hint of heat.

While chaat masala is traditionally used in Indian cuisine, it can be added to all dishes to give them an extra zing.

If you want to use chaat masala as a substitute for garam masala, keep in mind that it will add a bit more sweetness and heat to your dish.

You may also want to reduce the amount of chaat masala you use, which is quite potent.

Start with ½ teaspoon and adjust to taste.

When substituting chaat masala for garam masala, you’ll also want to add other spices to round out the flavor.

Cumin, coriander, and black pepper are all good choices.

Just be sure to adjust the quantities of these spices accordingly so that your dish isn’t too spicy.


As any home cook knows, garam masala is an essential ingredient in many Indian dishes.

However, it can be difficult to find in stores and expensive.

Fortunately, a few good substitutes can be used in a pinch.

Depending on the dish you’re making, any of the following spices can be used in place of garam masala: curry powder, cumin, allspice, or chaat masala.

Just be sure to adjust the quantities and other spices accordingly so that your dish isn’t too spicy.

Yield: 1 Serving

The 3 Best Substitutes for Garam Masala

The 3 Best Substitutes for Garam Masala
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Curry Powder
  • Allspice and Cumin
  • Chaat Masala


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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