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Top 23 Garam Masala Alternatives That Every Household Should Have

Garam masala is a popular combination of spices used in a range of recipes most commonly used in Indian dishes, as well as Bangladeshi, Nepalese, and Pakistani cuisines.

Each garam masala will vary slightly depending on regional differences, wherein some regions will substitute one spice for another to achieve a slightly different flavor. 

When added to a meal, garam masala adds a hearty level of flavor and warm spice to emphasize the other flavors in the dish.

The Best Garam Masala Substitutes Reviewed And Ranked

However, not everyone has garam masala readily available in their cupboard, nor do they have all the spices required to make the combination of garam masala.

Sure, you can chuck a load of spices in and hope for the best, but ideally, you’d want to mimic the flavor of garam masala as well as possible. 

If you’re halfway through a recipe and you’ve been hit with a sense of overwhelming dread at your lack of garam masala, fear not – here are the best garam masala substitutes, reviewed and ranked!

1. Curry Powder

The simplest – and possibly the most accessible – substitute for garam masala is curry powder.

Curry powder is a blend of spices that make up for that classic comforting and warming curry flavor, which is most prominent in mild curries like korma and tikka masala.

In fact, curry powder doesn’t taste too dissimilar to garam masala – except for one key difference. Curry powder contains turmeric, which is why it is slightly muskier and aromatic than garam masala.

Curry powder also contains cumin, ginger, cardamom, and coriander, among other spices. 

Due to the key ingredient difference being turmeric, it’s best to add the curry powder to your own taste preference rather than substitute it completely for the recipe’s garam masala instructions.

Also, be prepared for the dish to look more yellow than if you were to use garam masala. This is purely down to turmeric powder!

How To Substitute

The simplest spice to replace garam masala is curry powder, which has a comforting and warming taste. The powder contains cumin, cardamom, ginger, and coriander, giving it a musky and aromatic flavor that works well in chicken masala, korma, and other recipes that call for garam masala.

2. Chicken Tikka Powder Or Sauce 

While it’s not ideal to use a pre-made sauce when attempting to make a curry from scratch, if you’re struggling to find a substitute for garam masala, you can always use a jar of chicken tikka masala sauce.

These jars are cheap and easy to find in any grocery store and work to create a curry sauce with minimal effort on your behalf.

A jar of chicken tikka masala sauce generally consists of cream, tomato, and a range of Indian spices (including garam masala) to replicate a homemade chicken tikka masala.

This means that you can technically use a tablespoon or two of tikka masala sauce in replacement for garam masala!

If you don’t want to use the ready-made sauce, you can always opt for tikka masala powder instead.

Sure, it’s still a pre-made mix of spices, but considering this mix contains most of the spices found in garam masala, it works well as a good substitute. 

How To Substitute

The Indian spice blend garam masala is a staple in many Indian dishes. However, if you are looking for a quick and easy replacement, try the Indian spice blend Chicken Tikka Powder or Sauce. Chicken Tikka Powder or Sauce is a blend of various ingredients, making it one of the best replacements for garam masala.

3. All Spice And Cumin Seeds

If you’re not interested in using multiple spices simply to make a garam masala mix (it can be expensive to buy all those spices if you’re not going to use them all, after all), then you’ll like this substitute.

The combination of allspice and cumin works brilliantly to mimic the flavor and spice of garam masala without the need to use a variety of spices. 

Cumin is one of the key spices in garam masala, particularly cumin seeds, which keep their flavor longer than ground cumin.

Cumin seeds provide a nice aroma with a nutty yet sweet flavor, which is then balanced out by allspice. Allspice is often likened to nutmeg or cinnamon alongside some other spices in garam masala. 

We recommend combining one part cumin to ¼ allspice to replicate the flavor of garam masala.

Plus, if you make more than one serving of this substitute, it’ll save you from having to go to the store to buy an actual jar of garam masala!

How To Substitute

Instead of shopping, try making your substitute with allspice and cumin seeds. Cumin seeds are a vital ingredient in garam masala, making it a perfect replacement with allspice that balances the sweetness of cumins.

RELATED: 10 Of The Best Alternatives To Chinese Five-Spice To Use In Your Cooking!

4. Sambhar Masala

If you’re something of a curry-making aficionado who isn’t looking for a simple substitute for garam masala, it might be worth trying your hand at making sambhar masala.

Sambhar masala, like garam masala, is a combination of spices that are typically found in South Indian dishes (whereas garam masala is typically found in North Indian dishes). 

To make sambhar masala, you will have to make a combination of cumin, cinnamon, dry coconut, mustard seed, dried red chilies, and a variety of other spices.

The beauty of making something like sambhar masala is that you can add or remove certain ingredients depending on your personal preference. 

Some people will often take out dried coconut in replacement for something else, as this can alter the taste of a dish that is meant to include garam masala.

As a result of this, it is recommended only use small quantities of sambhar masala as a substitute for garam masala. 

How To Substitute

Garam masala is a spice blend used in Indian cooking. Sambhar masala is a similar blend with different spices and ingredients. Sambhar masala has a flavor that is sweet and mild. Sambhar masala is commonly made with coriander, cumin, and black pepper.

5. Chaat Masala

If you live in a South Asian household, you’ve almost definitely got chaat masala in your pantry or kitchen cupboard.

Not only is it used in a variety of dishes, but chaat masala is regularly sprinkled over snacks to create a tangy topping. These snacks include fruit salads consisting of papaya, banana, and apples. 

However, the combination of spices that make up chaat masala is slightly different from garam masala’s spice combination.

Chaat masala typically consists of dried ginger, salt, coriander, cumin, dried mango powder, chili powder, and black pepper, making for a tangy yet spicy aromatic flavor. 

As the spices in chaat masala are quite different compared to garam masala, you’ll have to use it sparingly when substituting garam masala in a recipe.

This is also because the spices in chaat masala will respond differently depending on the ingredients in the dish, so it’s mostly a matter of trial and error. 

How To Substitute

Chaat masala is a blend of dried Indian spices used in various dishes for a sour and spicy taste. Chaat masala is typically used in Indian street food and brings a tangy and aromatic flavor. However, it would help if you used it sparingly since both masalas contain different spices.

6. Cinnamon, Cumin, And Cloves

Almost every kitchen across the globe has cinnamon, cumin, and cloves somewhere in their pantry.

If you don’t have these three spices, you can easily find them in a grocery store due to their availability, making them a true staple in the kitchen. 

Cinnamon and cumin work brilliantly together due to their warm tones, with cinnamon being slighter and spicier and cumin adding a hint of earthiness.

When combined with cloves, providing a bitter tone, the three spices balance each other out to make a hearty, spicy, earthy, yet sweet concoction that is fairly similar to garam masala.

In fact, garam masala generally contains cinnamon, cumin, and cloves, so it only makes sense to combine these three to make an easy garam masala substitute!

The ideal combination of cinnamon, cumin, and cloves is 1:2:1. 

How To Substitute

Cinnamon, Cumin, and Cloves are ground spices you can use in place of garam masala in several recipes that call for garam masala. Garam masala is a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cumin, fennel, and black pepper. However, they provide a bitter tone but taste similar to garam masala.

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7. Cardamom, Cumin Seeds, And Coriander

Similar to the substitute above, the combination of cardamom, cumin seeds, and coriander makes a decent substitute for garam masala.

In fact, used alone, these spices can be used to substitute for garam masala – but for the best results, we recommend combining them. 

Cumin seeds are undoubtedly packed with more flavor than ground cumin, but either works fine. Cumin seeds are slightly nutty, spicy, and packed with warm and earthy tones.

Cardamom shares a similar flavor to nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, making for an autumnal taste.

Coriander is fairly fruity thanks to the linalool and pinene terpenes, creating an overall flavor that is nutty, spicy, and quite aromatic. 

It is best to blend these ingredients together to get the most out of their flavorings and to mimic the texture of garam masala.

We recommend blending ½ a teaspoon of cardamom pods with a teaspoon of cumin seeds and 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds. 

How To Substitute

The mixture of cardamom, cumin seeds, and coriander gives you the perfect combination to substitute garam masala. It provides a nutty, aromatic, and spicy flavor to your dish. These spices can stand alone and replace the garam masala, but combining them will give you the perfect outcome.

8. Coconut, Curry Leaves, And Mustard Seeds

8. Coconut, Curry Leaves, And Mustard Seeds

While not everyone will readily have access to shredded coconut, curry leaves, and mustard seeds, this substitute for garam masala is certainly one to experiment with if you’re passionate about cooking and flavors. 

The reason these combination works is due to the balance of flavors.

Mustard seeds are zingy and spicy to mimic the dried red chilies in garam masala, while the curry leaves provide a wholesome, robust, and rich flavor that makes the dish heartier than ever.

The inclusion of shredded coconut helps to dull the spicy and hearty tones to prevent them from being too overwhelming.  

The best way to combine these ingredients is to put a teaspoon of mustard seeds, a teaspoon of shredded coconut, and 12 curry leaves into a pan on low heat.

It will eventually turn into something like a powder, which can be used as a substitute for garam masala. Just make sure to taste as you go, otherwise, the powder might taste too much like coconut. 

How To Substitute

The coconut, curry leaves, and mustard seeds make a fragrant, slightly spicy, and versatile spice mix that you can use in savory or sweet dishes. Coconut, curry leaves, and mustard seeds create a similar spice blend that you’ll find in garam masala, making it one of the best replacements for garam masala.

9. Throw In A random Mix Of Spices

If you’re not too fussed about making mistakes, or perhaps you’re interested in what combinations of spices make what flavors, a good substitute for garam masala is to combine a bunch of spices together and hope for the best.

Garam masala is a mix of many spices, after all!

While this is quite a risky move, it might work in your favor because it allows you the freedom to control how much of everything you use.

You can combine whatever spices you like, but in the spirit of creating a substitute for garam masala, we recommend using a mixture of different ingredients.

You may use mustard seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin seeds, or ground cumin, fennel seeds, cloves, nutmeg, bay leaves, and black peppercorns to prepare this substitute.

You might need to do a bit of blending and altering until you have created the best replication of garam masala!

How To Substitute

If you are passionate about cooking, making your garam masala is a small thing to make a substitute to garam masala. With the mixture of spices with different flavors according to the requirement of your recipes, you may prepare the replication and similar taste to garam masala.

10. Tikka Masala

Although garam masala and tikka masala are both spice blends used in Indian cuisine, they are not interchangeable.

Garam masala is a mixture of ground spices used to flavor savory dishes. In contrast, tikka masala is a creamy, tomato-based sauce often used as a marinade or finishing sauce for tandoori-style dishes.

If you’re looking to substitute one for the other in a recipe, keeping this distinction in mind is essential.

How To Substitute

You may use a small quantity to your recipe till you get your desired flavor. You may go for 1:1 substitution, too, but then you have to adjust other dish ingredients.

11. Tandoori Masala

Tandoori masala is another spice blend that is commonly used in Indian cuisine. It typically contains a mix of chili powder, coriander, cumin, ginger, and garlic.

While you may use it can be used in many different dishes, it is often used as a marinade or rub for meats cooked in a tandoor or clay oven.

If you don’t have garam masala on hand and need to use it in a recipe, you can substitute it with tandoori masala. Remember that the flavor will be slightly different, but the dish will still be tasty.

How To Substitute

For a delicious outcome of your recipe, you may substitute garam masala in equal quantity.

12. Cumin

There are a few things to remember when substituting garam masala with cumin. First, garam masala is typically a blend of spices, while cumin is just a single spice.

It means that you’ll need to adjust the proportions of the other spices in the recipe to compensate for the lack of complexity that garam masala typically provides.

Secondly, cumin has a much more intense flavor than garam masala, so you’ll need to use less to avoid overwhelming the dish.

Finally, cumin is a warm spice, while garam masala is a bit more versatile in terms of its flavor profile, so keep that in mind when making your substitution.

How To Substitute

You may use the same quantity of cumin in your recipe. Although, you must remember to make some changes to the other ingredients.

13. Mace

Mace is a common ingredient in garam masala and can be used as a substitute if needed. 

Mace is a spice made from the outer covering of the nutmeg seed and has a similar flavor to nutmeg. When substituting mace for garam masala, use about half as much mace as you would garam masala.

How To Substitute

if your recipe calls for one tablespoon of garam masala, use 1/2 tablespoon of mace.

14. Nutmeg

Garam masala is a typical Indian spice blend that typically includes cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and black pepper.

Nutmeg is a common ingredient in garam masala so it can be used as a substitution. Remember that nutmeg is a very potent spice, so a little goes a long way. Make sure to start with a small amount and add more to your taste.

How To Substitute

When substituting nutmeg for garam masala, use a 1:1 ratio. So, if a recipe calls for one teaspoon of garam masala, use one teaspoon of nutmeg instead.

15. Turmeric

Turmeric is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine and is often used in place of garam masala. However, turmeric has a strong flavor, so it is best to use it sparingly.

When substituting turmeric for garam masala, be sure also to add other spices to the dish to round out the flavor.

How To Substitute

To replace garam masala with turmeric, use one teaspoon of turmeric for every tablespoon of garam masala called for in the recipe.

16. Saffron

If you’re looking for a substitute for garam masala, saffron is a good option. 

While it doesn’t have all the same spices as garam masala, it does have a similar flavor profile. However, saffron is a bit more intense than garam masala, so you’ll want to use less.

You may add a pinch of saffron to the dish and other spices like cumin, coriander, and pepper.

How To Substitute

Start substituting 1/4 teaspoon of saffron for one teaspoon of garam masala. Of course, you can always add more saffron if the flavor is too weak.

17. Ginger

Ginger is one of the best substitutes for the shortening of garam masala. However, there are a few things to remember when substituting garam masala with ginger.

First, use a lesser amount of ginger than you would garam masala. Second, add ginger to the cooking end, so its flavor is manageable.

And finally, consider using other spices in addition to ginger to create a more complex flavor profile.

How To Substitute

Use ginger in less quantity than the garam masala your recipe needs so it won’t overpower the flavor. Although, you can increase the amount if required.

18. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a common ingredient in garam masala, so it can be used as a substitute if you don’t have any on hand.

Add a bit of cinnamon to the other spices in the recipe, and you’ll be good to go.

Remember that cinnamon is quite a strong flavor, so you may want to use a bit less than the recipe calls for if you’re substituting it for garam masala.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 substitution ratio to use cinnamon instead of garam masala.

19. Cloves

Garam masala is a staple in Indian cuisine, used to add flavor and depth to dishes. However, if desired, cloves can substitute garam masala.

Add the cloves and spices to the recipe, and proceed with cooking as directed. The cloves will give the dish the same flavor and depth as garam masala without the need to use the latter.

How To Substitute

To substitute cloves for garam masala, use a ratio of 1:1, meaning use one tablespoon of cloves for every tablespoon of garam masala called for in the recipe.

20. Garlic

The main ingredients in garam masala are cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves, and pepper. Garlic can be used as a substitute for garam masala.

To make a garlic-based masala, toast garlic cloves in a dry pan until they are browned. Then, grind the cloves into a powder and add it to dishes in place of garam masala.

You can also use garlic paste or minced garlic in place of the spice blend.

How To Substitute

For best results, use a 1:1 substitution ratio to use garlic instead of garam masala.

21. Black Pepper

You can use black pepper if you’re out of garam masala and need a substitute. It won’t be an exact replacement, but it will work in a pinch.

To taste, you can also add other spices like cumin, cloves, and cardamom. This substitution will work best in dishes where the garam masala is used for flavor rather than color.

How To Substitute

Use 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper for every teaspoon of garam masala called for in the recipe. Remember that black pepper is much more potent than garam masala, so you may want to adjust the amount to taste.

22. Fennel

Fennel is a good option if you’re out of garam masala and need a substitute. This spice is similar to garam masala in blends of several spices, including cumin, coriander, and cardamom.

Fennel also has a slightly sweet flavor that can help to round out the flavors in a dish. Of course, you can always add more fennel if needed but always start by adding a small amount, primarily when you use it for the first time as a substitute.

How To Substitute

Use fennel for garam masala; start using a 1:1 ratio. So, if the recipe calls for one tablespoon of garam masala, use one tablespoon of fennel.

23. Cardamom

A cardamom is a good option if you’re out of garam masala and need a quick substitute. It’s a common ingredient in Indian cuisine and has a similar flavor profile to garam masala.

Remember that cardamom is a strong spice, so start with a smaller amount and adjust to taste.

How To Substitute

Use 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom for every teaspoon of garam masala called for in the recipe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Garam Masala The Same As 5 Spice?

While 5 spice is the Chinese equivalent of garam masala, they are not the same. Both garam masala and 5 spices are made up of multiple spices to make a distinctive flavoring.

Garam masala typically consists of cumin, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves. 5 spice, on the other hand, is made up of star anise, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns, cloves, and fennel. 

Can I Substitute Cumin For Garam Masala?

As cumin is an essential spice that makes up garam masala, you can technically use it as a stand-alone spice to substitute for garam masala.

However, without the inclusion of other spices, such as nutmeg, cloves, or coriander, cumin alone cannot replicate the complex flavors of garam masala.

Instead, use a mixture of cumin with coriander and cardamom as a substitute. 

What Is The Difference Between Tikka Masala And Garam Masala?

Garam masala is a seasoning typically used in Indian and other Asian cuisines, as it made up of a variety of spices in a way to compliment other ingredients in a recipe.

Tikka masala, however, is a curry dish that often uses garam masala in its ingredients alongside a tomato sauce base. 

The Best Garam Masala Substitutes: Reviewed And Ranked

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A review of the best garam masala substitutes that can be found in your pantry or easily bought from a grocery store.


  • Curry Powder

  • Chicken Tikka Powder Or Sauce 

  • All Spice And Cumin Seeds

  • Sambhar Masala

  • Chaat Masala

  • Cinnamon, Cumin, And Cloves

  • Cardamom, Cumin Seeds, And Coriander

  • Coconut, Curry Leaves, And Mustard Seeds

  • Throw In A random Mix Of Spices

  • Tikka Masala

  • Tandoori Masala

  • Cumin

  • Mace

  • Nutmeg

  • Turmeric

  • Saffron

  • Ginger

  • Cinnamon

  • Cloves

  • Garlic

  • Black Pepper

  • Fennel

  • Cardamom


  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith