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Nov 12, 2007 02:51 PM

Garam Masala... What do u use it for?

I bought a fresh sweet potato pie at the farmer's market over the weekend. I got home and cut me a sliver and I found it a bit bland. I like a little spice in my pie. So I opened up the spice cabinet and garam masala jumped out at me. I took it out and gave it a whiff and thought it would dress up my pie. I gave the slice of pie a good sprinkle and a dollop of cream and sure enough it was SO good! I plan to make a sweet potato pie now w/ garam masala for Thanksgiving.

I realized that I really only get it out when I'm making a curry or other indian dish. But I looked it up on the 'net and it's a blend, typically, of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and black pepper. I thought that it's quite versatile then.

So, what do you use it for? It seems this is the perfect time of year to utilize this spice blend.

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  1. Maybe no one uses it. Hmmm....

    1. I bought my first jar of Garam Masala last week from Penzey's and used it in the first curry I ever made. I'm in love with the taste. Now, with your inspiration, I'll have to use it more often in dishes other than curries. Roast squash probably will be my next try since it's on my menu for tonight's dinner.

      22 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        Ooooh, brilliant Gio! I'm also having a medley of sauteed squash tonight. Thanks for the suggestion!

        1. re: Gio

          thanks for the info. I am waiting for my jar of GM from Penzeys to arrive. I will make a curry with it. Also some middle eastern dip use GM as well.

          1. re: qsl gal

            I make any number of Indian dishes that use Garam Masal, from Murgh Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken) to a simple S. Indian dry-fry.

            There are several recipes using Garam Masala on the Barbarians at the Kitchen Gate blog.

            1. re: ZenSojourner


              Can you share your recipe for Murgh Makhani? I just looked up Madhur Jaffrey's that I'll be trying. Just wanted to see what else is out there.

              1. re: twj

                This recipe is at:


                This is my favorite chicken curry recipe, bar none. Here goes:


                * ½ c unflavored yogurt, preferably organic or home made
                * 2 tsp ground red chilies (NOT American style chili powder
                )* ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
                * ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
                * ¼ tsp ground cloves
                * 1 ½ tsp garam masala
                * 1 ½ tsp Salt
                * 1 ½ tsp minced ginger
                * 2 cloves crushed garlic
                * 4 - 6 Roma style tomatoes, diced, or 16 oz can of diced tomatoes
                * 2 med onions, sliced fairly thinly
                * 2 bell peppers, preferably red, yellow, and/or orange but green will do, sliced
                * 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
                * 8 T butter (one stick)
                * 2 T chopped fresh coriander
                * ¼ c heavy whipping cream


                1. Mix the dry spices into the yoghurt. Add the ginger, garlic, and tomato and mix well.
                2. Cut chicken into reasonable size pieces, about 1” - 1.5". Try to make the pieces about even in size so they’ll all cook at about the same rate. Add the chicken pieces to the yoghurt (hopefully you used a large enough bowl to start with) and let marinate in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour.
                3. Melt the butter in a large wok or deep skillet and fry the onion and pepper slices until the onion slices are just beginning to turn translucent.
                4. Add the chicken and its marinade and cook, stirring, for 5 to 10 minutes.
                5. Add the cream and the chopped coriander and heat to just before the boiling point, stirring occasionally.
                6. Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh coriander


                  1. re: twj

                    NP. I think Madhur Jaffrey's recipe uses pre-cooked tandoori chicken, and I've seen it said that "real butter chicken" only uses tandoori chicken instead of raw chicken, but I don't think tandoori chicken is even actually an Indian dish but rather a product of the British Raj (like chop suey is an American invention and not "real" Chinese food).

                    There's a LOT of variation in Indian cooking. I learned all of my techniques from Indian born cooks, and that makes it authentic enough for me, LOL!

                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                      real butter chicken uses leftover tandoori chicken. real butter chicken is not an english invention, but maybe chicken tikka masala is. the tandoori char makes the flavor deeper.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Alkapal, SOME "real butter chicken" uses leftover tandoori chicken. I got my first butter chicken recipe from a Real Indian who cooked it regularly in Hyderabad.

                        I think it was Hyderabad. May have been one of my ex's cousins in Bangalore. Either Bangalore or Hyderabad.

                        I have been making Indian food for 30 years. Only in the last couple of weeks have I ever heard of making Butter Chicken from Tandoori Chicken leftovers.

                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          well, you have to make chicken tikka (or tandoori chicken) first, then put it on the sauce (either murgh makhani or "ctm" sauce). otherwise, the chicken and the later dish do not have the depth of flavor imparted by the tandoor.

                          i'd stake my cred on it: putting the raw, marinated chicken to cook *in* the sauce is inferior. you'll see for yourself once you try it, and roast the chicken in the tandoor first, before putting it in the sauce.

                          another thread:

                          i've been cooking indian food for 29 years, and my first cookbook was julie sahni's. (and fwiw, i've met madhur jaffrey, too -- whose cookbooks i also have.)

                          1. re: alkapal

                            Thanks, but I'll continue to cook it the way I was taught. Probably its a regional difference since my ex's family were Andhra and chicken tikka is a northern thing, if not actually Punjabi on top of that.

                            People don't understand how varied Indian culture and cooking are. Just because it's different than what little you may be used to doesn't make it not "authentic".

                            1. re: ZenSojourner

                              the cream in the makhani indicates that it is a northern dish -- and the northern style -- moghul-based -- used lots of grilled kabobs as the base for recipe variations.

                              and you're not even willing to try it a different way? to me, that's odd, but you carry on -- of course -- as you wish.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                You could try it a different way. I don't care for tandoori chicken to start with so I'm unlikely to make a dish I don't even like to change a recipe I'm satisfied with.

                                Perhaps it does stem from a northern dish. I don't see what difference that makes, regardless. This is the way some people like to cook and eat it. Why does that bother you? THAT seems odd to me.

                                By your reasoning, if a dish includes collard greens, MUST it, therefore, be a Southern US dish? C'mon. Cream is widely available all across India. Southern cooks don't do much tandoori - if they modified a dish to use raw chicken instead of leftover tandoori chicken, I don't see why that should be so surprising or awful.

                                I'm not sure what part of "regional variation" it is that you object to.

                        2. re: alkapal

                          Per the current arbiter of all things British food, Simon Majumdar, in his recent magisterial "Eating for Britain", a restaurant in Glasgow, the Shish Mahal, appears to be the first place chicken tikka masala was made. Joking about the arbiter and magisterial part, but his book is very fun to read. I "had" to order it from recently (not out in US yet or possibly ever given that British food is mistakenly taken to be oxymoronic by a good part of the US population).

                          1. re: buttertart

                            Chicken Tikka Masala is the General Tso of Indian Cuisine. It's the only Scottish food I like... lol.

                            1. re: dave_c

                              What??!?! No haggis?

                              You, sir, are a bounder and a cad! Aye, a rawt choob!

                            2. re: buttertart

                              @buttertart: as luckyfatima below mentions -
                              "chicken tikka" does not equal "chicken tikka masala".

                              1. re: huiray

                                Just curious, but what about my post makes you think I don't know that? I've been eating and reading about Indian food for a long time.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  I'm sure you do know, but I did do a double-take since you responded to alkapal's post regarding chicken tikka with your post regarding chicken tikka masala...

                                  1. re: huiray

                                    Farther upthread alkapal refers to making chicken tandoori first and then saucing it. That's what I was responding to, 16 months ago.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      That was the one I was thinking about too, but he was saucing the tikka to make butter chicken? No matter. I was just puzzled, thanks for setting me right.

                          2. re: ZenSojourner

                            tandoori chicken is a real Indian dish. It is chicken tikka, chicken pieces cooked in a tandoor. Famous in the Punjab for India and also all of the Northern seats of Muslim cuisine, now pretty much standard non-veg Northern 'hotel' fare.

                            I believe that it is chicken tikka masala that was invented in the UK, but these days that has made its way back to India as well.

              2. I tossed some cut up butternut squash in oil and garam masala and roasted it. It was so good!

                1 Reply
                1. re: AmyH

                  Gosh - Great minds! Tis the squash season after all. We love all kinds here.

                2. Masala means "spices" and garam "hot" or "warm." So heat up some spices -- try making your own garam masala! I did this for the first time last week (check out the pics) and it's just so much fun and feels like culinary wizardry. I'm going to make bhagan bharta over the next few days with my OWN garam masala. The whole house smells fragrant, and I really like the process of toasting and grinding the spices. Here's a paraphrase of the recipe I used:

                  1/2 cup coriander seeds
                  several tablespoons fennel seeds (I used three)
                  a tablespoon brown mustard seeds
                  1 tsp cardamom seeds
                  10 cloves (whole cloves)
                  1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
                  some whole cinnamon stick, about a 2-inch piece

                  I had fun getting these at my local Indian grocer (shaking his head -- just buy the premade garam masala, already!) and on a dim, dreary afternoon the aroma really brightened our home. I heated these over medium in a heavy skillet and toasted, stirring once in a while and watching/enjoying the process, about 15 minutes. Then I ground them up in my little Krups spice/coffee grinder. This should keep in an airtight container for about a month.



                  the finished deliciously-scented garam masala:

                  On your theme of spice-infused dishes, this morning I just made a cardamom coffee cake, in the oven right now! YUM! Again I toasted and ground my own spice...

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: foxy fairy

                    beautiful job, foxy fairy! i am wondering if it would taste even better if one only ground as much as one needed at the moment? next time, sneak in some fenugreek or cumin, for a variation. i love cardamom scented goodies, like your coffee cake! toss a green (white) cardamom pod in your hot tea. soothing.

                    1. re: foxy fairy

                      I've made mace cake before and loved it (! I'll bet that would make your home smell soooo good. I'm going to have to try it. However, I am hesitant to shop at the Indian market. Last time I did I ended up w/ Indian meal moths all over my pantry and they took an act of congress to get rid of t)hem.

                      1. re: lynnlato

                        Oh, gosh... ick! That must have been a fun one to clean up.

                        I know nothing about mace, and you prompted me to do some research:

                        Apparently mace is deep orange in color, nutmeg-like and hails from Indonesia! :) I like it already. I might even make one of the recipes posted on that site, the lemon cream cheese coffee cake with mace:

                        For the spices, I wouldn't go back to the moth-infested-market either... maybe there's a more reputable Indian shop nearby? How about an alternative food coop? A Middle Eastern market would carry many of the same spices -- I think I just saw all of them at our local M.E. market today. (Totally OT, but maybe not since you're mentioning intriguing flavor/aroma -- at the Lebanese market, I couldn't resist orange blossom water and rose water and grabbed a bottle of each... wooohoo!


                        You could go super yuppy. I'm sure Whole Foods carries all of the spices, and it's Try-Me-Tuesday -- samples galore!

                      2. re: foxy fairy

                        Hi Foxyf:
                        you have *one* variation of GM, which is good, but there are other variations too, which will affect possible uses. For e.g. your recipe wouldn't work with OP's pumpkin pie because of the coriander and mustard seed elements (mustard seeds are not a common variation of GM) which are very savoury.

                        Mughlai garam masala, which focuses on the warm spices (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper) would go well with European (broadly speaking) dishes. I have this on hand and the non-Indian dishes I add add it to include:
                        spanakopita filling, sauteed mushrooms, some cookies, some pies (e.g. apple), baked fruit, spice cake, and things of that nature. This GM works well with sweet and savoury dishes.

                        What I think of as "ordinary" garam masala has the warm spices + cumin and coriander, and this functions like what people in the West think of as "curry powder". The cumin and coriander seed give it much more of a savory flavour profile.

                        So, there are different garam masalas (differ by region, style of cooking, etc.) with different possible uses, and one size does not fit all.

                      3. That pie sounds delicious, lynn.

                        I never had masalas/curries until a few years ago. Now hubby and I love them, and, if left to my own devices, I'll use them on/in just about anything (depending on the compatibility with the entree, of course).

                        Some ways I use g.m. (or other curries, where appropriate):

                        --as a spice crust on pork cutlets, steaks, poultry, lamb/beef/veal stew meat...sear or brown and then finish cooking as desired--roast, braise...
                        --sprinkle on plain old steamed or simmered veggies
                        --add a tablespoon or two to white or brown rice, plain couscous, bulgar
                        --roast at high heat rough chopped veggies tossed in olive oil and g.m. or other curry until the veggies soften/caramelize, then toss into cooked grain of choice--extra good if you toss in some small cubes of mild cheese (e.g., mozzarella, mild provolone)
                        --sprinkle on broiled bruschetta
                        --add to fresh cooked apple, cranberry or pear sauce for a savory autumn/winter side dish
                        --add to chicken or vegetable soups
                        --sprinkle a little on top of ranch dressing on a plain tossed salad
                        --toss into cut or diced potatoes intended for hash browns or roasting
                        --for chicken or turkey salad, dress in half EVOO/half mayo/liberal helping of g.m. or other curry and then add in whatever you like in your chicken salad...diced apples/onion or garlic/celery/walnuts/golden raisins/dried apricots, etc.

                        That pie still sounds better, though, and now you have me wondering if one could use g.m. in a rustic, warm rice pudding on a cold snowy night...hmmm...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MaggieRSN

                          Oh, man! I've cutting the carbs and haven't had a good rice pudding in a hen's age...I loveittodeath with cinnamon, and now I want it with the GM. WAH!!! Oh, and I'm cut/pasting your list into a Word doc so I've got it forever handy. I am too happy to find such a thing. LOVE the idea of veggies and cheese w/ the GM; I make paneer which doesn't melt like a nice mozz, but my recipe for paneer calls for adding spices, so I may try adding the GM right to the curds.