Can I use garam masala instead of curry paste?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can I use garam masala instead of curry paste? We will discuss the differences between garam masala and curry powder, the uses of the two spices in the kitchen, and great alternatives if you don’t like either. 

Can I use garam masala instead of curry paste?

You can use garam masala instead of curry paste, but there are many chances that your recipe will not have the expected taste. 

The taste of curry paste is generally relatively mild.  Much of the flavor of curry powder comes from fenugreek, cumin, and other spices used in the mixture. In contrast, garam masala is made entirely of hot spices and therefore has a more pronounced taste. Thus, your dish will taste different if you use garam masala instead of curry paste. 

If you are experienced enough to jump into a recipe that can include toasting and grinding multiple spices, you should definitely try making your curry powder and garam masala.  Most of the spices used in these blends are easy to find.  

What is the Difference Between Curry Powder VS Garam Masala Powder?

As written above, the most important difference between curry powder and garam masala powder is the taste. 

The word “garam” in Hindi means “hot” while “masala” means a mixture of spices. 

When marketed as an already ground mixture, garam masala is seldom the main seasoning in a recipe. It is added only in small quantities, especially at the end of cooking time, which suggests that its role is to enhance other ingredients’ flavors and taste. This secondary role was one of the causes of its many variants. Basically, anyone can create their combination.

Curry paste is a name with Tamil origins. It refers to a sauce, but also to a tree, whose leaves have a special aroma. Curry is prepared in hundreds of ways, each with a special flavor. Among the most famous variants of this spice is Tikka Masala.

The Spices Used in Curry Masala VS Garam Masala

All the spices that make up garam masala are spicy (but not hot) and known to warm the body, so garam masala is extremely popular in northern India, where the climate is a bit colder. Also, for this reason, it does not contain hot peppers, an ingredient that, in the end, cools the body through sweat and is, therefore, used mainly in areas with tropical climates.

However, almost all garam masala variants contain black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

The most essential ingredients of the curry paste are:

  • Galangal – a ginger-like root, but its aroma is considerably stronger;
  • Chili peppers;
  • Esalota onion;
  • Coriander. From this plant, the root, stem, leaves, and seeds are used
  • Asian lemongrass. The syrup obtained from this plant is particularly popular;
  • Garlic
  • Numerous spices, such as turmeric, cumin seeds, white pepper, black pepper, and salt.

And to be more specific: 

Green curry – contains fresh coriander leaves but also green hot peppers;

Yellow curry – has as main ingredient turmeric but also specifically Indian spices. The taste of coriander is much more pronounced than in other varieties of curry. Also, this assortment is the only one that does not contain shrimp paste. Thais often use it in chicken dishes. A delicious combination!

Red curry – has a pronounced hot taste due to the coriander it has in its composition.

Red curry paste is an indispensable ingredient in Thai cuisine. It has a spicy and aromatic taste, and we find it in different dishes based on vegetables and lamb or chicken, but also delicious seafood.

Other FAQs about Curry which you may be interested in.

What can I add to a jar of curry sauce?

What can I add to curry paste?

What can I use if I don’t have curry paste?

The Uses of Curry Powder and Garam Masala in Cooking

Historical records show that garam masala is a very old blend. The use of expensive ingredients – such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and saffron (some of them imported from Indonesia) – along with cheaper local ingredients – such as coriander, ginger, and cumin – suggest that in the beginning, a few hundred years ago, a mixture specific to the diet of wealthy people. But times have changed, and today it is widely used.

Garam masala is sold in two forms: ready-made or as a mixture of whole spices. Professional chefs prepare their own “masala” because they can “match” it better with the ingredients of the recipe. And I prefer to work with my version of garam masala because it goes well with any kind of meat and is easy to prepare.

Curry paste is commonly used in Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Thai chefs follow the basic recipe, but the final taste varies from one chef to another. However, we find it in the three main variants mentioned above: green, yellow, and red. 

However, they all have some common ingredients: shrimp paste, kaffir leaves, galangal, and lemongrass. In its 100% traditional version, this paste is prepared in a mortar. 

Instead, you can use the blender. The ingredients are added gradually, in a not accidental order. The ones to start with are the hot, and dry ingredients, and the wet and sweet ones are left behind. If you don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you can buy curry paste from specialty stores.

The Best Spice Substitute for Curry Powder and Garam Masala.

If you do not want or like to use wither garam masala or curry paste/powder in your dishes, here are some delicious alternatives:

Allspice and Cumin: – To make this garam masala and curry paste substitute, just mix 1 part cumin with ¼ of allspice. This relationship will create a very pleasant flavor for whatever dish you are preparing.

A special mix of 3 parts cilantro and cinnamon, 1 part cumin and cloves, and ½ part cardamom and pepper.

Chaat Masala: – Chaat masala is an Indian refreshing spice mix. Click here for the recipe. 

The bottom line

In this article, we answered the following question: Can I use garam masala instead of curry paste? We discussed the differences between garam masala and curry powder, the uses of the two spices in the kitchen, and great alternatives if you don’t like either. 

We remind you that you can use garam masala instead of curry paste, but your dish will taste different since garam masala is made of hot spices, while curry paste tastes relatively mild.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!