Garam masala is a lovely blend of several ground spices. It originated and became famous as a part of Indian cuisine, and it has since become a worldwide cooking phenomenon.
Many cooking enthusiasts have become enamored with Garam masala due to its versatility and exceptional taste profile. However, you could want to try things differently and get a substitute for it.
So, what is the best substitute for Garam masala? Curry powder is the closest thing you can find for a Garam masala substitute as both share several characteristics. They are both ground spices, and they also provide relatively similar taste profiles. You will also love that curry powder is a one-for-one substitute that is easy to work with.
An Overview of Garam Masala
As explained earlier, Garam masala is a mixture of spices that originated in India. The word “masala” loosely translates to “spices,” while “garam” translates to “hot.” Most of the spices combined to make Garam masala are toasted to highlight their aroma and flavor. Then, they are ground and intricately mixed.
Despite its spice constituents, Garam masala doesn’t necessarily have to be a spicy blend. You can find it in powdered form, which is vegan and gluten-free. Some of the spices combined to make Garam masala include black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.
Garam masala provides sweetness, warmth, and a little bit of heat to your dish. With a combination of flavors and fragrances, it is a versatile spice that you should definitely give a try in your dishes. Note that while it contains ingredients like cumin and turmeric, Garam masala is generally not a fiery spice.
Most people add Garam masala after cooking, so it perfectly seasons a dish and adds its fragrance. You can also sprinkle some of the spice on the dish to make it look aesthetically pleasing. Generally, your application for the spice depends on you.
Why Replace Garam Masala?
- Flavor differences: Some people might not be overt fans of Garam masala and its flavor profile. If you’re looking to switch your palette and taste something else, you can find different substitute options available.
- Non-availability: If Garam masala isn’t readily available, you can get a substitute to work in its stead and see how well it works for you.
- Heat profile: Although Garam masala isn’t fiery, some people might not do so well with spices due to their heat. Thankfully, you can find a cold blend of spices that do better for your dish.
Options for Garam Masala Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Garam Masala: Curry Powder
Curry and Garam masala aren’t two ingredients that you would think can come with similarities. However, they are more similar than most people might be willing to admit. Like Garam masala, curry powder is also a ground spice. It comes with chili powder, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and many more – many ingredients you can also find in Garam masala.
When you consider that you also get the same blend of sweetness, earthiness, and spiciness in curry powder, you will find that it provides the perfect substitute for Garam masala on several fronts. In fact, “curry” comes from the Tamil word “kari,” which translates to “sauce.”
Keep in mind that there are differences between curry powder and Garam masala. For one, while their tastes are similar, Garam masala has a more intricate mix of sweetness and sourness than curry powder. Still, curry powder definitely works as a substitute nonetheless. You can always add some curry leaf to your curry powder to enhance its taste and make for a better flavor.
Curry powder is an ideal one-for-one substitute for Garam masala. However, given that their taste isn’t precisely the same, you might want to experiment with the additions to see how you like it.
Best Flavor-Based Substitute: Cumin and Allspice
Allspice is a famous condiment gotten from the dried berries of Pimenta dioica – a plant that is native to the Caribbean region and a part of the myrtle family. It has a flavor that is reminiscent of peppers, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. While it is a predominant spice in the Middle Eastern region, allspice has become more widely used worldwide as well.
You can combine allspice with some cumin to provide a better alternative to Garam masala. All you have to do is mix one part of cumin with ¼ part allspice. The cumin improves the allspice’s flavor, making it more of an ideal substitute for Garam masala. You will also love the fact that the combination is easy to make. So, you don’t have to stress so much.
Best Substitute in a Time Crunch: Chaat Masala
Chaat masala is a famous blend of cooling spices. On the flip side, Garam masala is a warm spice blend. While Chaat masala isn’t the ideal substitute for Garam masala, it works as a substitute if you’re pressed for time and just want to whip up a meal.
With Chaat masala, you get cumin, mint leaves, caraway seeds, ginger, black salt, and much more. Chaat masala has more of a tangy and salty taste, although you could add some sweet spices to balance things out and make it more ideal for your dish.
It is generally easy to incorporate Garam masala with your food, but you will need to be careful. Chaat masala comes with a relatively strong flavor, and adding too much of it could overwhelm your dish and essentially ruin it.
As long as you add it in moderate amounts, Chaat masala can work relatively well as a substitute for Garam masala.