These 11 Indian spice mixes are key to a variety of delicious, homemade traditional Indian dishes. They are commonly found across Indian households and are helpful to have on hand for your favorite dish!
Indian spices are key to authentic Indian cuisine. While essential spices which are used daily are kept in my masala dabba or Indian spice box, I also have some Indian spice mixes on hand.
Some of these are used daily like garam masala or chai masala powder. Others like chaat masala are used when making a variety of chaats such as Samosa Chaat or Fruit Chaat. Then, you have spice blends like Sambhar Powder which is used specifically for a warm hearty bowl of sambhar that you might pair with Beetroot Dosa.
Indian cuisine is VERY varied and diverse despite being often clumped together as a bunch of “curries.” Dependent on your preferences and cooking habits some or all of these Indian spice blends will be useful to stock in your pantry.
11 Popular Indian spice blends
1. Garam Masala Powder
Garam masala, which translates to warm/hot (garam) spice (masala), is a blend of spices that combine to make a key ingredient in authentic Indian cooking
This Indian spice mix is made by roasting whole spices, letting them cool, and then grinding them into a fine powder. That spice blend is then added to dishes in addition to OTHER spices to make various dishes. The layering of spices is part of what makes good, authentic Indian cuisine taste amazing.
There are many variations of garam masala recipes because the approach can vary from family to family. If you are familiar with Indian cuisine, you know how vastly varied the food is across the country from one region/state to another. So different spices may be used across regions.
This is what I love about garam masala spice blend, you can make your own masala with common spices. My family uses a recipe my grandmother passed down. So, it is a key part of what makes my food taste like home
A good garam masala substitute that makes for a quick fix when you don’t have garam masala on hand or in your masala dabba is to use ground spices in your spice cabinet. While it is not a perfect match for roasted whole spices which are then ground, it will get you a spice mixture closer in flavor than using something generic like curry powder.
DIY Garam Masala Substitute
2. Chai Masala Powder
Chai masala powder or tea masala powder is key to a good cup of homemade authentic masala chai. The key to a good cup of chai is the chai masala powder which is a blend of spices that give your cup of tea the way, yummy flavor, and beautiful aroma. It’s what makes your chai taste so heavenly!
This blend is added to water, milk, and tea leaves (black tea) to make the ultimate cozy cup of tea!
There are five main ingredients used commonly across chai masala or chai spice. These are cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon, and g,inger. In Indian households, you will sometimes see other spices added in such as fennel or nutmeg.
Chai spice can be adjusted to your liking and even mood!
3. Cumin Coriander Powder Dhana Jeeru or Dhaniya Jeera
Cumin coriander powder is a quintessential spice blend used very often in Gujarati cooking and can be used in many Indian dishes across regional Indian cuisines. It is a very handy Indian spice to keep on hand, I keep a cumin and coriander powder blend in my masala dabba or spice dabba. It is one of the most commonly used Indian spice mixes.
10 Minute Homemade Coriander Cumin Powder (Dhaniya Jeera Powder)
- Whole coriander seeds taste: warm, citrus notes, hints of lemon pepper
- Ground coriander powder taste: Deeper/smoky notes than coriander (above) as they are roasted and ground
4. Chaat Masala
Chaat masala powder is a popular Indian spice blend that tastes tangy and tart with a small hint of spice. It’s primarily used for making chaats such as samosa chaat, which are a popular street food especially, in Northern India. There are many kinds of chaats which use with chutneys and a blend of other ingredients such as puffed rice, garbanzo beans, potatoes, etc. (dependent on the type of chaat).
I love to use this spice blend for many other purposes like sprinkling on some hot, buttery popcorn!
My Chaat Masala Recipe uses 6 individual spices. It is very easily found in Indian supermarkets everywhere. Just peek down at the spice powders aisle.
6 Ingredient, Authentic DIY Chaat Masala Recipe
5. Sandwich Masala
Sandwich masala powder or Bombay sandwich masala is a spice blend that is key to lip-smacking Indian sandwiches!
This sandwich masala recipe is easy to make and is essential to get the chatpata taste of popular sandwiches such as Bombay sandwich and masala toast. You could even use it for a veg sandwich Chili Cheese Toast.
10 Minute Sandwich Masala Recipe
6. Methi Masala or Achar Masala
Methi masala is a spice blend that can be used to make achars (pickled dishes such as Indian Carrot Pickle), sprinkled on khichu or khakras, or just added to, any dish to spice it up!
Achar Masala or Methi Masala
7. Tandoori Masala
Tandoori masala is an Indian spice mix that can be used in a variety of popular dishes like Paneer Tikka. This can be used as a spice blend added to a dish or often it is turned into a paste and used to marinate things like paneer and vegetables. It is then cooked traditionally in a tandoor.
Tandoori masala is made using a variety of ground spices that add a delicious depth of flavor. Often Kashmiri chili is used which gives dishes a bright red color.
8. Sambhar Powder
Made of a mixture of spices and dals. It also often has fenugreek seeds. Like most dishes across India, there is diversity in approach and taste from region to region.
This Indian spice mix, sambhar powder is most often used to make sambhar which is a thick lentil and vegetable-based “soup.”
FAQ uses of sambhar powder
9. Pav Bhaji Masala
Pav bhaji masala is essential to make the super popular Indian street food, Pav Bhaji. It is essentially a spiced, mashed buttery, spiced mashed potato, and vegetable mix that is, served with hot, buttery bread or pav.
Dry roasted spices are ground to make this Indian spice mix. Black salt and amchur (mango powder) give a tang to the blend.
I like to make an Indian Fusion dish with this as well, Pav Bhaji Nachos.
10. Panch Phoron
Panch phoron is a blend of 5 aromatic spices commonly used in Bangladesh and Eastern India, especially in Bengali, Assamese, and Oriya cuisine. Panch means five and phoron means tadka or tempering. So it’s used often in the tempering of oil.
Unlike the other Indian spice blends on this list, panch phoron is used as a mix of whole spices.
It can be used in dals, chutneys, and other dishes.
11. Biryani Masala
Biryani is a popular rice-based dish. It is made with repeated layers of rice, spiced vegetables, and yogurt.
It is a delicious, aromatic dish with great flavors. Biryani masala is used specifically to spice the dish and is an essential ingredient.
Making Indian Spice Mixes At Home
All of these spices can be easily found at your local Indian grocery store. They are readily available online as well.
I hope this list inspires you to make some homemade spice blends which are key ingredients in an Indian kitchen. It is fun to make your own spice mixes! All you need is basic spices, a pan to dry roast spices, and a grinder such as a coffee grinder in most cases.
Making your own blends with fresh spices will elevate most Indian recipes.