Top 3 Garam Masala Substitutes

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Garam Masala

Cuisines worldwide typically have a secret ingredient(s) that bring an added nuance to the recipe, making it unique and native to that region. For some, it’s cured meat, and for others, it can be a combination of herbs and plants. However, in some parts of the world, especially India, the secret ingredient is garam masala.

But what is garam masala, and why is it so famous among certain regions? This article will help you learn all about garam masala substitutes, composition, and details, so you have all the information necessary before you add it to your recipes. Let’s start.

What is Garam Masala?

what is Garam Masala

Garam masala is a rich combination of spices used to enhance the flavour of many curry recipes common in some parts of the South Asia Region and Iran. People also make soup and lentil dishes using garam masala to accentuate their taste.

The main ingredients in garam masala are cinnamon spice, peppercorns, bay leaves, mace, cumin seeds, coriander, and green cardamom pods. These spices add together to form a warm blend that is a go-to for many Indian cuisine enthusiasts.

Top Three Garam Masala Substitutes:

Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on garam masala or don’t have the necessary ingredients to make it at home. There are plenty of options that make a great substitute for garam masala. Let’s take a look at a few:

  1. Curry Powder:

Curry powder offers the same properties as organic garam masala. If you find yourself short of garam masala, you can entirely replace it with a packaged curry powder from a reputable brand. However, note that you may notice a difference in taste and aroma as curry powder doesn’t have a warm element due to the absence of organic spices. In any case, curry powder can work well with most Indian dishes.

  1. Cumin Powder and Allspice:

Another option for the readers is to use a combination of cumin powder and allspice in their recipes instead of garam masala. Ideally, mixing four parts cumin powder and one part allspice hoes the job pretty well. And since it is easy to make, you can always count on it if you’re running late on your dinner schedule.

  1. Chaat Masala:

If you like strong, sour spices in your food, chaat masala can be the Holy Grail that makes your every meal flavoursome and delicious. The main ingredients of chaat masala are ginger, salt, chilli, amchoor, cumin, coriander, and black pepper. As it has a strong taste and aroma that can take away from the original nuances of the dish, it is advisable to use it in smaller quantities. A great way to ensure that you don’t end up ruining your recipe is by adding the chaat masala slowly until the taste feels right.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I use cumin instead of garam masala?

Yes, of course. You can use cumin powder whenever you find yourself short of garam masala. All you have to do is add one part allspice with four parts cumin powder, mix them up, and voila, you have a fantastic substitute for garam masala.

Often you may be running late, or your kids could be shouting for dinner, and to make matter worse, you may find yourself short on garam masala. You can’t possibly run to the store while you also don’t have enough time to mix all the spices even if you have them at your home. In this case, cumin powder can be your saviour, bringing a similar natural flavour to your recipes as garam masala does.

Are garam masala and curry powder the same?

No. but does curry powder substitute garam masala? Yes.

Garam masala and curry powder are not the same, but they exhibit similar properties, making them a great add-on in many recipes. And since you can use either of them depending on the availability, they are easily interchangeable.

However, curry powder has some additives (turmeric powder) that give it a yellow colour. This yellow hue also shows up in any recipe you make using curry powder. It may also be important to note that curry powder is added at the start of the cooking process, while garam masala is added at the very end as a final seasoning product.

Can I use medium curry powder instead of garam masala?

Yes. You can use medium curry powder as a substitute for garam masala in your dishes. However, as we mentioned earlier, curry powder has a yellow hue that seeps into your recipe and changes its colour. This change is mainly due to the presence of turmeric in most curry powder brands. Additionally, it is a non-verbal standard to add curry masala at the very first of the cooking process. And you add garam masala at the end.

What does garam masala taste like?

Garam masala is a combination of warm spices such as coriander, cumin, cardamom, and more. It has an earthy, spicy feel to it, but since its composition changes from region to region, the taste varies too. For example, garam masala is mild, aromatic, and soft to the senses in some parts of India. And the recipes cooked using it show these characteristics too. However, you’ll notice a stronger composition in many other parts that can be very close to overwhelming. Such type of strong garam masala has added warmth and displays an overpowering nuance.


Garam masala has enriched Indian cuisine for years, and it is on the path to continue to do so for many more decades. And deservingly so! Not many other spices have the level of depth and warmth garam masala brings to the table. But their popularity doesn’t always ensure their availability, which is why this article will help you whenever you need a garam masala substitute. If you are looking for a naan recipe to accompany your curry, then give our 2 ingredient naan recipe a go!

If you’re someone who likes to practice with cuisines or want to try new flavours for mouth-watering experiences, we strongly recommend you to start adding garam masala or a substitute in your dishes. We assure you, you won’t be disappointed. Another great addition to your curry are protein dals, never heard of them? No worries we’ve got you covered with our top 10 protein dals!

Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!