What is the difference between masala and garam masala?

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “What is the difference between masala and garam masala?” We will also discuss the different types of masala found in the market as well as the different spices used in garam masala.

What is the difference between masala and garam masala?

Masala is a generic term for any kind of spice blend while garam masala is a particular type of masala. It basically means “spice blend” while garam masala is translated to “hot spice blend”. 

As the names themselves suggest, masala can be any type of spice blend, there are different types of masala available in the market depending on the recipe you’re making. 

On the contrary, garam masala is a combination of different hot spices which gives more intense flavors than any other masala.

What are the different types of masala?

The different types of masala that can be found in the market are:

Tandoori masala

Tandoori masala is typically used to marinate meats before cooking them in a tandoor, a type of clay oven. The smokiness from the tandoor brings out the best flavors in any tandoori dish. Tandoori masala is a vital ingredient in any typical Punjabi dish. 

It usually consists of spices like coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves, ground ginger, ground garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, Kasuri Methi, red chili powder, and turmeric powder.

Garam masala

Garam Masala is a traditional Indian spice blended with different spices like coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, black peppercorns, nutmeg, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, etc.

It was originally used in India and other southeast Asian countries like Nepal, Srilanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan for cooking varieties of dishes but today it’s a name that is familiar to all of us throughout the world. 

Basically, garam masala tastes like a complex blend of all of these ingredients used while making it but it also adds a unique taste and aroma to your recipe that none of those spices can give when used individually.

Chaat masala

Chaat masala gives a sweet and sour variation to your dishes with a few tangy flavors. It is popularly used in traditional Indian fast food recipes like Pani puri, Dahi puri, bhelpuri, chaat, etc. This masala can also be sprinkled in refreshing drinks and salads for some extra flavors. 

Some common ingredients used in chaat masala are mango powder, cumin, coriander seeds, black pepper asafoetida, red chili powder, carom seeds, and mint.

Sambar masala

Sambar powder is another popular spice used in Indian cuisines. It is very popular, especially in south Indian dishes. The key ingredients used in sambar masala are coriander seeds, Bengal gram, red chill, fenugreek, curry leaves, cumin, black pepper, asafoetida, and turmeric. 

Can we substitute one type of masala with another?

Since each masala has its unique flavors and aromas and is used only for a specific recipe, you cannot use one type of masala to replace the other. Each masala uses different spices, and none of them are identical to each other. 

Some of the spices like cumin and coriander may be common but usually, the key ingredient used in one type of masala varies from the key ingredient in another.

What are the spices commonly used in garam masala?

The different spices used in garam masala are discussed below:

Coriander seeds

The coriander seeds are the main ingredient that forms the base of garam masala. It has a mild aroma and flavor so it also helps to tone down and balance the flavors of other spices, especially the pungent and bitter side.


Cardamoms add a bit of sweetness to your garam masala. Its sweet aroma adds a unique flavor to the spices. You can use the whole pods or just the seeds inside according to your preference.

Black peppercorns

Of course, the king of spices black pepper can’t be missed out. It adds smoky flavors and a pungent taste to the garam masala. 


Nutmeg is a unique spice that adds delicate and sweet flavors and aroma to your garam masala.

Bay leaves

It is also known as “tej patta” which is pungent. It is optional so you may avoid it if you don’t like its strong smell. Get some best quality bay leaves here.

Cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon adds a great flavor to your garam masala. Its unique taste and aroma give you perfect flavors when used in a reasonable quantity. Avoid using too many of these to balance your flavors.

Other FAQs about Spices that you may be interested in.

Are cloves edible?

Do spices expire

Do bay leaves go bad

Can I use cardamom instead of coriander?


In this brief guide, we have addressed the query, “What is the difference between masala and garam masala?” We have also discussed the different types of masala found in the market as well as the  different spices used in garam masala