Mallika is a foodie who loves her native Indian cuisine. She enjoys exploring the cuisine and sharing it with others.
What Is Masala Powder?
Indian cuisine makes frequent use of different types of masala powders. Masala simply means "blend of spices," and a masala powder is the ground powder of a whole spice mixture. According to Ayurvedic medicine, these powders are believed to elevate body temperature.
Each type of masala powder features key ingredients that provide a unique flavour to the dish it is used in. In order to prepare a masala powder, the ingredients are lightly toasted in a pan with or without oil or ghee, cooled, and then ground to a fine powder in a blender or mixer.
What's the difference between masala powder and podi?
Podis are consumed as side dishes, whereas masala powders are used to flavour other dishes. A podi is a combination of spices, pulses (legumes), and nuts that are roasted and blended into a powder. They are served as side dishes with rice, idli, dosa, etc.
Now let's take a look at the top 15 masala powders of Indian cuisine.
1. Simple Coriander Masala
This is the simplest masala powder, and its main ingredient is coriander, which appears as a base ingredient in many masala powders.
- Use: Suitable for daily cooking. Also good for those who prefer a lighter spice blend.
- Key ingredient: Coriander
- Full ingredients: Coriander, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon
2. Garam Masala
In Hindi, garam means hot. In the West, this popular masala is produced commercially and is widely available in stores.
- Use: Daily cooking
- Origin: North India
- Full ingredients: Coriander, cumin, black peppercorns, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon, green/black cardamom
3. Panch Phoron
"Panch phoron" means "blend of five spices" (in Hindi, panch means five and phoron means spices). It is one of the more unique masala mixtures.
- Use: Traditionally used in tempering, in mustard oil and ghee, in the cooking of vegetables, chicken, mutton, fish, lentils, and pickles.
- Origin: Eastern states of Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Assam
- Key ingredients: Nigella seeds, mustard seeds
- Full ingredients: Nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin, black mustard, fennel (usually in equal parts, though some use fewer fenugreek seeds due to its bitterness)
4. Chaat Masala
This tangy masala is a common ingredient in street food (chaat). There is another variety of this masala called fruit chaat masala, which is used in fruits salads. This variation has less cumin, coriander, and ginger; and more pepper, black salt, amchur, and asafoetida.
- Use: Chaat (Indian street food)
- Origin: Uttar Pradesh
- Key ingredients: Amchur, black salt, carom seeds
- Full ingredients: Amchur (dried mango powder), cumin, coriander seeds, dried ginger, black salt, black pepper, asafoetida, red chilli powder, carom seeds, mint powder (dried and powdered mint leaves)
5. Goda Masala
Goda masala is one of the two most popular masalas in Maharashtrian cuisine (the other is Kolhapuri masala). In the Marathi language, goad means sweet—and true to its name, this masala has a distinctive, subtly sweet flavour that comes from the incorporation of stone flower. Except for sesame and coconut, all of the ingredients are roasted in one or two teaspoons of oil before being ground in a blender.
- Origin: Maharashtra
- Key ingredients: Stone flower, sesame, dry coconut, cassia buds
- Full ingredients: Coriander, cumin, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, mustard seeds, stone flower, dry coconut, dried red chilli, asafoetida, sesame seeds, fenugreek seeds, cassia buds
6. Kolhapuri Masala
Kolhapuri masala is the famous Maharashtrian spice blend from the Kolhapur region. This masala contains the largest number of spices; it often contains up to 32 different ingredients! It is extremely spicy, hot, and has a fiery bright red colour. All of the ingredients are roasted in oil before they are powdered.
- Origin: Kolhapur region of Maharashtra
- Key ingredients: Red chillis, Triphala, cubeb berries, dry ginger
- Full ingredients: Two to three types of dried red chillis (e.g., Kashmiri chilli, lavangi chilli, byadagi chilli), coriander, cumin, black pepper, poppy seeds, bay leaf, whole turmeric, asafoetida, nutmeg, clove, star anise, cinnamon, mace, black and green cardamom, carom, cubeb berries, Triphala, black stone flower, fennel, sesame, black mustard, fenugreek, dry ginger, oil, salt, dry coconut, onion, garlic
7. Biryani Masala
This masala, which has a strong smell, is used in Biryani dishes.
- Use: Biryani dishes
- Key ingredients: Bay leaf, shah jeera, nutmeg, black cardamom, star anise
- Full ingredients: Bay leaf, coriander, shah jeera (black cumin), cumin, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black and green cardamom, star anise, black pepper, fennel seeds
8. Chettinad Masala
This masala is famously used in Tamil Nadu cuisine from the Chettinad region in South India. It appears in dishes like Chettinad chicken curry, Chettinad fish fry, Chettinad potato fry, etc.
- Use: Tamil Nadu cuisine
- Origin: Chettinad region in South India
- Key ingredients: Star anise, stone flower, fennel, fenugreek
- Full ingredients: Star anise, stone flower (lichen), tamarind, red chillis, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, black pepper, cumin, fenugreek
9. Sambhar Masala
Sambhar is a famous dish from South India. It is a spicy vegetable stew, and there is no sambhar without the sambhar powder.
- Use: Sambhar
- Origin: South India
- Key ingredients: Coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida
- Full ingredients: Coriander seeds, Bengal gram, black gram, toor dal (pigeon pea), red chillis, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, cumin, black pepper, asafoetida, turmeric
10. Tandoori Masala
This masala is important in Punjabi cuisine. Dishes like Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and tikkas are incomplete without this spice blend.
- Use: Tadoori dishes
- Origin: Punjab (North India)
- Key ingredients: Kasuri methi, red food colour
- Full ingredients: Coriander seeds, cumin, peppercorns, cloves, dry ginger powder, garlic powder, bay leaf, Kasuri methi, cardamom, cinnamon, mace, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, amchur powder, red food colour, sugar, salt
11. Pav Bhaji Masala
This masala is used to make pav bhaji, which is a popular street food that originated in Mumbai. In Hindi, pav means bread and bhaji means mixed vegetable curry.
- Use: Pav bhaji, Mumbai tawa pulav
- Origin: Mumbai
- Key ingredients: Amchur (dry mango powder), bay leaf
- Full ingredients: Coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, bay leaf, black cardamom, fennel seeds, turmeric, amchur, red chilli powder
12. Chole/Chana Masala
Popular in North Indian cuisine, this masala is used to make chole curry and Kabuli chana, both of which feature chickpeas.
- Use: Chole curry, Kabuli chana
- Origin: North India
- Key ingredients: Kashmiri red chilli, dry ginger, black salt, amchur (dry mango powder)
- Full ingredients: Kashmiri red chillis, black and green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, bay leaf, coriander, cumin, fennel, shah jeera, black pepper, dry ginger, black salt, amchur
13. Rajma Masala
Another masala from North India, this blend plays a starring role in rajma (red kidney bean) curry.
- Use: Rajma (red kidney bean) curry
- Origin: North India
- Key ingredients: Dry pomegranate seeds, carom seeds
- Full ingredients: Dry pomegranate seeds, carom seeds, amchur (dry mango powder), bay leaf, coriander, shah jeera, cumin, nutmeg, black cardamom, cloves, black pepper
14. Rasam Masala
Rasam is a popular South Indian soup-like dish. Rasam means juice, and this dish is said to aid in the digestion of food.
- Use: Rasam
- Origin: South India
- Key ingredients: Pigeon pea, curry leaves
- Full ingredients: Coriander, cumin, black pepper, dry red chilli, pigeon pea, curry leaves
15. Masala Tea Powder
Masala tea is one of the most popular beverages in India. A special and aromatic spice blend is used in this tea.
- Use: Tea
- Primary ingredients: Cloves, green cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, dried ginger, nutmeg
- Optional ingredients: Fennel, saffron, dried rose petals
Happy cooking! Please comment below with your questions and feedback.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on June 29, 2020:
Very good article. Really good explanations about all the different spices.