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What Spice Makes Indian Food Hot?

May 10, 2022

The quick answer is Garam Masala which translates as ‘hot spice’. The level of spiciness or “heat” you feel in your mouth comes from the red chilies that are used in Garam Masala. This spice is not only an Indian food staple but a traditional spice.

Where did this spice come from? Why do Indians love this spice so much? What makes Garam Masala sometimes spicy or “hot”? Let’s explore this very popular, very common Indian spice together.

What is Garam Masala?

Garam Masala is a blend of ground spices originating from India. The spices for Garam Masala are usually toasted to bring out flavor and aroma, then ground. The powdered spice form is typically gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian. The spice is known as the “King” of Indian spices in Indian recipes.

There are multiple ways to make Garam Masala. The ingredients differ according to the region as well as each chef’s individual preference. Garam Masala from Northern India, including the Punjab region, often has only black pepper for a hot element and mostly focuses on aromatic and sweet spices. This Garam Masala will be relatively mild, and any heat in the dish will come from adding serrano or hot peppers

The farther south you go in India, the spicier or “hotter” Garam Masala is likely to be as red chiles are part of the blend. The spices also change, based on what is common locally. Garam Masala is to Indian food as basil is to Italian food. Indispensable and traditional.

Garam Masala recipes are regional and also passed down through generations. Learning to mix spices (to be a masalchi) is a matter of pride in India, and each cook strives to make the best Garam Masala blend.

What is Garam Masala Made Of?

Usually, Garam Masala is made of Coriander, Cumin, Cardamom, Cloves, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg. All of these spices are in our pre-measured spice blends!

In variations, ingredients may include Turmeric, Saffron, Fennel Seeds, Ginger, Garlic, Mustard Seeds, Star Anise, Tamarind, Fenugreek, Bay leaves, Malabar Leaves, and Dried Red Chiles.

What is Garam Masala's Origin?

Garam Masala is known to have originated in Northern India where it’s especially found in traditional Mughal dishes. In Ayurvedic medicine, the spices in Garam Masala are warming