Literally translated, “garam masala” means “warm spice mix” in Hindi; its components are considered to be warming spices because they raise the temperature of the body; rather than being spicy, they're incredibly aromatic. Every Indian cook who makes garam masala at home has some sort of variation of the types and amounts of spices he or she use. For that reason, you might notice that one version of garam masala smells and tastes a little different than another made in a different state within India.
It’s one of the most popular spices used in Indian kitchens and though you can buy garama masala in stores, it’s one spice mix I believe should be made at home. Not only is it easy to prepare, but you’ll be able to vary the spices to your liking. —Nik Sharma
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and then add all the spices and toast gently by rotating the pan until the spices begin to toast and release the fragrance. This should take about 2 minutes. Be carefully not to burn the spices—if they burn discard and start fresh.
Transfer the toasted spices to a spice mill or a mortar and pestle. Grind until a fine powder is obtained. Store the spice mix in an airtight container for up to six months in a cool dark place.
Nik Sharma is a molecular biologist turned cookbook author and food photographer who writes a monthly column for Serious Eats and the San Francisco Chronicle and is a contributor to the New York Times. His first cookbook, Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food, was a finalist for a James Beard Foundation award and an International Association of Culinary Professionals award. Nik resides in Los Angeles, California and writes the award-winning blog, A Brown Table. Nik's new book, The Flavor Equation will be released in October 2020.