Is Garam Masala the same as curry powder?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Is Garam Masala the same as curry powder?”, and list down their differences. We will also mention whether you can substitute curry powder for garam masala and vice versa, and tell you how to maximize their shelf lives.

Is Garam Masala the same as curry powder?

No, garam masala is not the same as curry powder. They have different composition, flavor profile, and the way they are used in cooking.

What is the difference between garam masala and curry powder?

People often get confused between curry powder and garam masala and whether they are the same or not. Let us try to clear that confusion.

Curry powder originated from the British while garam masala is a staple spice blend in almost all Indian homes.

Although both are a complex blend of Indian spices, the ingredients used to make them are different.

Garam masala literally means ‘hot spice’ because it is very hot and is used to add spiciness or to heighten the flavor profile of a dish. It is used during or at the end of cooking to enhance the flavor.

On the other hand, curry powder is milder and sometimes even sweet. It is added during the cooking process to make the base sauce. It is much like a main ingredient used to make curry rather than an addition for enhancement of flavor. 

Curry powder is usually yellow in color while garam masala is brown so you can tell them apart without the labels.

There is no standard recipe for both of the spice blends. Everyone makes or uses the spice blend that works better for them.

Some ingredients used to make curry powder are turmeric, chili powder, black peppercorn, fennel seed powder, mustard powder, cumin, fenugreek and ginger powder.

On the other hand, ingredients used to make garam masala blend are stronger and aromatic. These include cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg, and black cardamom.

Can you substitute garam masala for curry powder?

Ideally, garam masala and curry powder should not be substituted for each other as they both have different flavor profiles. Curry powder has a milder flavor while garam masala is more stronger and pungent. 

A lot of recipes mention using garam masala in place of curry powder because the two terms have been a matter of confusion among people. 

Although garam masala is not a suitable substitute for curry powder, you can still use it if you have no other substitutes or alternatives but in moderation. This should be your last resort. 

If you do not have curry powder and still wish to make curry, try using turmeric, cumin powder, and coriander powder mixed together. 

On the other hand, you can use curry powder as a substitute for garam masala as curry powder is milder and does not overpower the dish. You can add a tablespoon of curry powder in place of garam masala.

How to maximize the shelf lives of curry powder and garam masala?

To maximize the shelf life of curry spices, it is better to store them in a proper manner rather than having to throw them out and wasting money.

Keep the spices in airtight containers in a cool, dry and dark place. It can be the pantry, a cupboard, or a drawer.

Limit their exposure to air, sun, heat and moisture. It is best not to keep them close to the stove as the heat may affect them. If they are left out on the countertop, the temperature fluctuations and exposure to light will not be suitable for them

People usually use plastic containers but we would rather suggest you use glass containers because glass containers can be tightly sealed and they do not even absorb any flavor. On the other hand, plastic containers tend to absorb the flavor and give the spices a weird smell.

Metallic containers are also a good option but they are heat conductors and heat is not good for the freshness of spices.

It is better to not keep them in the refrigerator because refrigerators have moisture inside them and as we have mentioned before, moisture is not good for aromatic curry spices.

If you follow these practices, the curry spices will definitely last you longer and give the maximum flavor to your curry.

Find out the shelf lives of spices here.

Other FAQs about Curry powder that you may be interested in.

Can you mix curry powder and garam masala?


In this brief guide, we answered the question “Is Garam Masala the same as curry powder?”, and listed down their differences. We also mentioned whether you can substitute curry powder for garam masala and vice versa, and told you how to maximize their shelf lives.


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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.