Recipe: Garam Masala From the Kitchen Window column
NPR logo Garam Masala

Garam Masala

This version is by Julie Sahni, in her book Indian Regional Classics: Fast, Fresh, and Healthy Home Cooking (Ten Speed Press 2001). This classic version is the best I have ever tried – it has the right balance of flavors.

Monica Bhide for NPR
A bowl containing components of garam masala spice, and a bowl of the ground spices
Monica Bhide for NPR

Makes 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons cardamom seeds

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

3-inch stick cinnamon, broken up

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)

Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet, smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.

Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months.