Punjabi Garam Masala

Garam masala is among my oldest cherished spice blends, and I am proud to say that I have never bought it packaged. It is so easy to put together that you needn’t. The home made kind is more potent as it has none of the cheap spices that bulk-up commercial blends. A small amount goes a long way.

First things first. All Punjabi food does not use garam masala. If you don’t believe me, ask Punju Girl. Garam masala does not Punjabi cuisine make. Despite the fact that I love this spice blend and cook Punjabi food almost every other day, I use garam masala only occasionally, and sparingly.

garam masala

The ‘garam’, meaning ‘hot’ or ‘warm’, in this masala comes from the use of spices that (according to Ayurveda) are considered warming , such as clove, pepper, and cinnamon. You may sun the spices to dry them out completely before grinding, but the spices are not to be roasted. Since the spices are not roasted, their oils are retained better and the masala will stay aromatic for over a year. I usually make the amount in this recipe (which makes about a cup and a half or so of masala) which lasts me a whole year (after sharing some with a friend or family); every winter it’s time to make a fresh batch.

This is my mother-in-laws recipe that she shared with me shortly before she passed away. She ‘measured’ out the spices on a thali for me to grind, knowing it was the last time she would be doing so. I record it here today – for my family and yours.

You may use whatever measure to scale the recipe; the proportions are by volume. I start with 100gm of moti elaichi (black cardamom) = 4 parts

garam masala
Punjabi Garam Masala

4 parts moti elaichi (100 gm)
1 part zeera (cumin)
1/2 part cinnamon (or cassia bark, if cinnamon is not available)
1/2 part black peppercorns
1/2 part cloves
5-6 tejpatta (not bay leaves!)

Measure out the spices and sun for half a day (or leave in a barely warm oven for an hour). Grind to a powder (as fine as possible) and store in a dry jar.


And if this heart-warming masala is not the best thing to send to Zlamushka’s spoonful of Christmas, what is!


  • This is a very pungent spice blend. You will feel the ‘heat’ of the warming spices at the back of your mouth and throat. In a dish that makes 6 servings, I will usually use 1/3 teaspoon only.
  • This is also a good substitute for Kashmiri garam masala (which does not have cumin).

My Gobhi aloo (cauliflower with potatoes) is incomplete without this magical masala added right towards the end of the cooking process…Recipe follows…till then put together the masala!

Tags: garam masala, punjabi cuisine, spice blends, Punjabi masala


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61 thoughts on “Punjabi Garam Masala”

  1. I was hoarding a freshly made garam masala in my freezer. Now I can use it without worrying where my next batch will come from! Thank you!

    No coriander seeds?

    Nope, no coriander! That’s why a little goes a looooong way.
    You take good care of that masala – mine just sits in the spice cabinet.

  2. I appreciate this post so much. It is very sweet of you to share this family recipe, Anita. I am hoping I can find some tejpatta here in the US…have seen only bay leaves as far as I can tell.

    Pel was able to find these at an Indian grocer…look for a North Indian shop maybe…Or substitute away till you find some! Tejpatta are very large leaves with parallel veins…

  3. no corainder? thank you. i am so sick of the turbo-charged garam amsala from the store. there’s a guy from wisconsin 😀 who sent me some good garam masala and it has a pinch of saffron in it. it makes such a lovely difference.

    Absolutely no coriander 😀 . Saffron would make it really special!

  4. “..knowing it was the last time she would be doing so..”
    That was very touching.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    I bet she’s happier now that I have shared it with all of you!

  5. thanx for ur wishes..nice tribute to ur ma in law.
    garam masala is a must in my house too..i rely on my mom’s spice mix which she picked up from her punjabi friends..there are subtle differences..she uses regular elaichi. i guess the moti ones gives it the pungency.

    There are probably as many variations for garam masala as there are for gun powder – every family ends up having their own twist! More so because no one writes down the recipe to begin with! My MIL just eye-balled the quantities for me – I measured them out using a cup so I would have it exact, without twisting it further!

  6. What a coincidence… I just posted Jaffrey’s garam masala! I love the addition of tej patta. Must try it. So nice of your ma in law to share her trusted recipes with you.

    There are many recipes that are now lost – she was an awesome cook. She would have loved the blogs! I keep wishing she’d kept a blue diary like Manisha’s mom…

  7. Hugs to you for saying that tejpatta is not same as bay-leaves! i made a huge batch last year and ended up distirbuting it to everyone around :). I picked up a really cute masala recipe from my Mallu friend: its got cloves, cinnamon and fennel (she wasn’t sure of the proportions), but i used it like 7-8 cloves, 1 tsp. fennel and half a stick of cinnamon and it worked wonders!

    😀 So, is yours similar to mine?
    Did you use it in place of your regular garam masala or for Kerala dishes?

    1. Hi, love the recepies! I have a question… What is the difference between tejpatta and bayleafs because even Google can’t tell the difference. I always thought they are the same thing.

  8. Thanks for sharing this Anita, I’ve just finished writing it down in my kitchen manual. The only thing is that I am not familiar with tejpatta leaves 😦

    A question, you said that you use 1/3 teaspoon when cooking that makes 6 servings, is that all? Did you mean tablespoon instead?

    I usually mix the spices together in a jar (without roasting of course) and then when I am ready to use it, I roast whatever portion I am going to use and grind it fresh.

    I am sure you will be able to find tejpatta leaves at an Indian store – they are used in everything from curries to pulaos…

    Yup, 1/3 teaspoon it is! This spice blend uses spices that are unequal in size and may not mix homogeneously enough to take out a little bit to grind fresh, but the recipe can be scaled down easily. This particular garam masala calls for no roasting…on the other hand, the garam masala used in Maharashtrian cooking is a blend of roasted spices…

  9. I found today’s post very touching! Thanks for sharing the family recipe.
    I learned something new – tejpatta/bayleaves not the same. I knew that there are two bayleaves varities – one california kind and one turkish. but somehow thought that they are same as our tejpatta.
    Now that I have “Sumeet”, I think I will be able to make this masala to the right consistency.

    For the longest time I would substitute tejpatta wherever bay leaves were called for!
    Yes, Sumeet should make short work of this! That’s what I use!

  10. wow nice post, had a punjabi aunty who would cook pretty similar to this but would add this to ghee thadka.

    That’s interesting – I have never added this in a tadka…what do you say, Musical?

  11. Thanks for sharing.
    Between your masala and Ashwini’s version, I’m set. Just *hate* the generic version sold in stores.

    Easy peasy! You’ll never go back to the packaged stuff now!

  12. Anita, that was beautifully-written, and I offer a deep bow to your late mother-in-law. I have, in my posession, a garam masala, given to me by a dear friend, which is quite similar to this and which I absolutely love to use- especially with chana! And when it runs out, I will certainly prepare a new batch for myself using your mother-in-law’s recipe, and think of her every time it performs its magic!
    Thank you so much for sharing.

    On a tangent: once many years ago, I purchased a ready-made blend. It wasn’t bad, but the shop clerk suggested adding freshly-ground elaichi to any dish prepared with it, as what little it contained had long since lost most of this aroma. One day it seemed pointless to use anymore so I pitched it, and since then always make my own (or use a gifted home-made one!). The flavour just can’t be beat!

    It is magical,isn’t it?! Yes, great in chhole! Now use it with gobhi-aloo.

  13. Nothing like “hommade”! and can you please tell some more people that garam masala is NOT to be used in every other dish!!!

    LOL exactly my point!

  14. I have never made garam masala and i am not scared to do so now. Thank you, this recipe goes to my collection.

    It is really hardly any work to make this masala! Let me know what you think once you’ve used it.

  15. A lot of people add garam masala in the tadka, rather than a sprinkle on top. i personally use the sabut masale for tadka, though. I use my friend’s garam masala recipe for standard Punju dishes and some of our stir-fries that we used to make together, very different,and gives a whole new flavor to the routine sabzi. She did use it in certain Mallu recipes too. As for my garam masala, my basic recipe is similar to yours. But every once in a while, i get a “fitoor” and blend some other ingredients for a different flavor 😀 like last time, i added star anise and shah zeera 😉 It did taste great!

  16. Lovely post, Anita. 🙂 I was really touched by the story about your mother-in-law.

    It was interesting reading the discussion here as well. At the moment I have a box of shop-bought garam masala that tastes a lot of coriander, and now I know why it tasted ‘all wrong’ to me – it did not have the warming properties that garam masala should have. I had a jar previously that did have these properties. Can’t wait to use this one up…

    Yes, shop-bought blends do tend to add coriander (and lots of it!) which is a very inexpensive spice to bulk up the quantity. Naturally, it lacks the ‘garam’ in the masala! Try it, you’ll love it. It can also be used in place of Baharat in middle-eastern cuisine (hmm, I should share my recipe for that too…).

  17. hai anita

    nice post.thanks for sharing the recipe.though i do not know what tej patta means .i stay in saudi & can u tell me the english name for it,so that i can enquire here.

    thanks again.

    I am sure all the Indian stores in Saudi sell it by the Indian name of tej patta or tamala patra…in English it would be the leaves of Cassia lignea plant. Read the different names.

  18. Very touching story Anita.May your mother in law’s soul rest in piece.Really very nice of you to share a family recipe.I never attempted to make garam masala at home because of the roasting part.Definately try your’s.ISn’t tejpatta called bayleaf in english?Till now i was under the impression that both are same.Thank you once again.

    No roasting in the Punjabi garam masala!

    Tej patta is Indian bayleaf, while there is also laurel or the bay leaf more common in the West. Two different plants. Tej patta is the leaf of the Indian Cassia, the bark of which is commonly used in place of the more expensive cinnamon.

  19. This truly is the most touching entry I have received so far. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe of your Mother-in-law. Excuse my poor “measuring” knowledge, but what is thali?

    No, thali is no unit of measure. It is that stainless steel giant ‘plate’ you see in the first picture holding all the whole spices! It is the traditional Indian metal plate for serving meals everyday!

  20. Thank you—in one of those just-at-the-right-time moments, I told myself I need to make a new batch *and* catch up on blog-visiting this weekend!

    You’ll love to use it in this cold weather!

  21. It was lovely. will you also pls tell what is panch phoran used in parathas.And how to make delicious traditional punju aloo parathas

    Panch phoran is a blend of five spices – equal amounts of fennel, fenugreek, mustard, cumin, and nigella seeds, usually used for tadka in Bengali cuisine.

  22. Hi Anita,
    Thanks so much for this recipe.Had just one question,
    does the moti elaichi have to be peeled or used as is.The spices are drying out in the oven,just waiting for u to get back to me.Then I am set to make this fabulous garam masala!

    Use the whole elaichi. If it is well-dried it will grind to a powder very easily.
    Let me know how it turns out.

  23. Hi Anita,
    I made your Garam masala yesterday.What can I say except WOW!!! I have it stored in a double ziplock bag in the refrigerator,yet everytime I open the door the fragrance that wafts out lingers long after.The moti elaichi imparts this camphor like fragrance.
    Thank you so much.Today I plan to use it in your Aloo gobhi recipe.Will let you know how that turns out.

    You are welcome. And gobhi aloo is the best recipe to use it in – I never cook that dish without a dash of this masala.

  24. hi, anita can u tell me in which dishes i can use this masala

    Use it (sparingly) in sookhi gobhi aloo, Punjabi Chhole, mutsch, panch-ratan dal, in place of Baharat even…I don’t use it in everything! But there is a version of moong dal that I will post (one of these days 😉 ) which needs this.

  25. Hi Anita,
    Thanks to ur Mother-in-law for sharing this wonderful Punjabi garam masala recipe through you…! it’s kind of u that u have shared with us equally. our dadi or elders always have best tactics and tricks for adding more flavours to recipe. I always miss my mom and grandma here as they are so far from me. I have settled in Australia since 2004.
    BTW, keep it up Anita.
    I always love to visit to you via ur blog.

    I hope you are planning to give it a try!

  26. Dear Anita,

    I came across your blog some time back and love reading it. Yesterday I made garam masala following your recipe. It turned out great.

    The aroma of the ground spices was heavenly. I for one am never again going to buy garam masala. Thank you for sharing your mother in law’s recipe.


    It really is very simple to make your own garam masala – and once you do, ther eis no going back to packaged ones!
    Welcome to The Party!

  27. thank u anita, it is very sweet of u to sharing in making such a wonderful garam masala powder .. thank u

  28. Hi Anita,
    I cant wait to make this garam masala blend! Since keeping the spices out in the sun is not an option in this cold weather, what would u suggest as an alternative to make sure they dont roast? I know u mentioned barely warm oven, but how barely warm? 🙂

    Hmmm just barely warm. 🙂 Maybe turn it on for 5 min and then turn it off and keep the spices inside? Or maybe even heat a heavy pan or kadahi, turn the heat off, and keep the spices in it – the idea being to ensure that the spices are quite dry so that they can be powdered easily.

  29. Hello Anita… I am a vegetarian for more than 30 years so naturally I love Indian food; the most varied flavorful and delicious cuisine that I have ever come across! I’d like to make your recipe for Paneer Tikka using this Punjabi Garam Masala. I have a question that may be self evident for most of your subscribers, but in any case, I’d like to know if the quantity of the moti elaichi is before or after peeling the pods. I assume it is after… is this correct? And thanks for your great Blog!

    Hi Mark!
    The quantity is for whole badi elaichi – husk and all! No need to peel and throw anything away! Enjoy the masala and tikkas!

  30. I’m really excited to try this recipe – thanks Anita! I’m just starting out into the homemade world of delicious Indian food. Is moti elaichi black or green cardamom? I just recently purchased both. And could you recommend a good book or site that will explain the differences in the regional cooking as they are very obviously different? I’m sure I could learn alot from you and some of your guests.

    Sorry, for not getting to this much much sooner….
    Moti elaichi=black cardamom.

    1. Hi Kindri,
      In this recipe she’s using the big cardamom pods: the black ones.

      Here‘s an encyclopedic cooking reference book by a North Indian woman, Neelam Batra, geared toward U.S. kitchens and adapted for U.S. measurement standard that has a plethora of great reference and background information. It’s a broad treatise, but mostly geared toward northern food. This book and “660 Curries” by Raghavan Iyer are both great general references in English. The Iyer book probably has more supplemental background information, including more Southern and other regional dishes–although I’m partial to the actual recipes in the Batra book 🙂

      In case you have trouble finding the tejpatta I’ve found I can get them here. Their picture looks like regular bay leaves (single-spined), but what they send is actual cassia leaves (bigger and 3-spined).

  31. Do you belong to the camp that adds powdered garam masala at the oil stage to extract more of the flavour, or do you add yours near the end of the cooking process? I have seen a lot of debate about this. I know whole garam spices should be added at the oil stage, but it was news to me that some people add their powdered GM at the oil stage also. I have been told that garam masala should only contain cassia or cinnamon, cloves, mace and/or nutmeg and brown cardamom. The pepper should not be added unless the mixture is going to be used straight away, as pepper changes its flavour quite a lot once it has been ground up, thus changing the flavour of the GM if it is stored for more than two weeks. The pepper should be ground fresh as and when it is needed. How do you think this recipe would work out if I was to add black cumin seeds in place of white cumin seeds? Do you make different garam masala blends for each dish you are making? Such as Kashmiri GM for rogan josh etcetera and Punjabi GM for other dishes? Or do you just make up one blend and use that accordingly? Many questions I know. Loved the post BTW.

    Hi Andy. I am no expert but I will tell you what I do (a mix of intuition and tradition….). I NEVER add garam masala to hot oil; always at the end (or very near the end) of the cooking. There is very little difference between this Punjabi garam masala and the Kashmiri kind, so I do cheat and mostly use this one that I make in not very large quantities (say, maybe, 150gms or so). If I know that I have a lot of Kashmiri cooking coming up for special occasions then I will make a small batch of Kashmiri Garam masala for that purpose.

    I understand what you mean when you say that black pepper is best used fresh, but (lazy that I am…) I do add it to the Punjabi Garam masala recipe and end up storing it for a couple of months (or more :D). Black pepper is an undernote in this masala so it’s not too worse for it. Wherever pepper is a top note, I use it fresh from the grinder. And what a aroma that is! You will find that the ratios of the different spices used, and even some of the additional spices (for example, mace, staranise…) vary with each family and the whim of the cook, so go ahead and add what you would like! The only thing to remember is, for a North Indian garam masala NEVER roast the spices and always add the masala when the cooking is done! If you can, make small batches and use fresh (something I am guilty of not strictly following…)

  32. Hi I am silent follower of your blog for a long time. Today I am here with a query related to GM, just can’t wait to try this, but am a bit confused, it would be great if you can help me with it, the confusion is with measurement as you say 100gm moti elaichi that equals to 4 of them, what does 1 part jeera mean ( like is it 100gm or 25gm) and also can I request the measurements in tbspn/tspn.

    Waitng eagerly for your response.


    Four parts moti elaichi, not four numbers! The recipe is by volume quantity, not weight.
    If you want to follow in tablespoon measures, substitute “Tablespoon” for “parts” – as simple as that, and adjust some of the other – minor – ingredients accordingly!

  33. She looks quite potent! 🙂

    I will try your recipe out when I make my next batch of garam masala. Right now I’m using one made from cloves, green & brown cardamom, cassia, cinnamon, nutmeg and Indian bay leaves.

    Assuming I read your recipe correctly, these measures would work (before I end up wasting spices)?

    80g brown cardamom
    20g cumin seeds
    10g cassia bark
    10g black pepper
    10g cloves
    5-6 bay leaves (tej patta)

    I’m glad to see it does not contain coriander seeds. I love coriander but I don’t like adding it to garam masala because I find it leaves a raw flavour when you sprinkle the masala over food towards the end of cooking. A lot of the recipes you see for this mixture tend to have coriander in them. 😮

    I may give your Punjabi Chhole a try tomorrow, it looks great.

    The recipe proportions are by volume, not weight! Different ingredients have different densities, so it cannot be converted into weight directly!

  34. Pingback: Garam Masala

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