whole food ~ well made

Sliced roasted butternut squash with garam masala

Love Pumpkin Spice? Get Garam Masala

This toasted spice blend is a great complement to savory soups and side dishes featuring pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes.

It’s the season for spices. Pumpkin spice is more popular than ever. But did you know about the other cinnamon-spice-and-everything-nice mix?

It’s called garam masala, and it brings a world of wonderful flavors to all your fall and holiday dishes–from winter squash and lentils to meats, stews and soups.

Garam means “warm spice mix” according to food writer, Monica Bhide. Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves meet coriander. cumin and black peppercorns for a sweet-meets-savory combination.

And since this is the time of year when I urge you to refresh your spice rack, add garam masala to your spice list.

Is Garam Masala Like Curry?

With the exception of tumeric, curry seasoning and garam masala share several spices. The main difference is that curry is added at the beginning or during cooking. Garam masala is typically a finishing touch.

That’s because this is a blend of toasted spices. Whole toasted spices get heated in a dry pan to release their aromas before grinding. An electric coffee grinder is the speediest.

If you try making your own garam masala, you will experience the deliciously heady flavors before you even taste it!

Like so many spice blends–especially in the diversity of Indian cuisines–there is no single formula. I’ve adapted a recipe from Julie Sahni {once again} for a Gujarati garam masala from western India. It adds fennel, sesame seeds and dried chile to the more usual suspects.

How to Use It

To start, try sprinkling garam masala on top of your next batch of vegetable curry or lentil soup. It is an easy way to spice up a pot of beans, savory oatmeal or plain brown rice.

Winter squash is terrific with this spice blend. I love it in place of rosemary in this roasted butternut squash soup. You can use it to season squash slices for roasting or stir it into plain yogurt to drizzle on top once it comes out of the oven.

Pumpkin and sweet potato are also big fans of this toasted spice blend. So toast up your own to experience the freshness of grinding whole spices.

And add flair to holiday side dishes–maybe even in your pumpkin pie.


and become a forager

What is your favorite holiday spice? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.

Garam Masala

This version of the warm spice mix called garam masala is extra savory from fennel, sesame seeds and dried red chile flakes. It is traditionally used to finish curries and other vegetable dishes. This recipe is adapted from Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking. The toasted blend is a great complement to savory soups and side dishes featuring pumpkin, squash and sweet potato.
Course Spice
Cuisine Indian
Keyword garam masala
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Servings 1 cup
Author lynnes


  • Spice grinder


  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick, cracked
  • 1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg


  • Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add all the spices, except for the nutmeg and bay leaf, and toast them. Swirl the pan over the heat until they give off a roasted scent and begin to darken slightly in color, about 8 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Use a spice mill or electric coffee grinder {reserved for spices only} to grind them in batches with the bay leaves to make a fine powder. Stir in the nutmeg. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months.


  1. Orian

    Hi Lynne, love this post. Can’t wait to try the garam masala recipe. I have a nice heavy cast iron skillet ready to toast the spices. The only thing I don’t have is cardamom seeds, but I’m sure I can get some at a nearby Indian grocery store.

    1. Thanks, Orian! I bet the smells from toasting and grinding the spices will fire up your imagination. And your spice cabinet will love you for supplying cardamom seeds.

  2. Orian

    I did find some green cardamom. I asked the shop owner about it because I noticed it was in its pods. He explained that I had to remove the seeds from the pods. When I got home I did remove a few from it’s pods and the little seeds sure had an amazing aroma. I’ll probably shell enough of then for the recipe when I have more time this weekend. Happy cooking and writing!

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