Q: What exactly is garam masala? Is it easy to find, or can I make it at home?
A: Garam masala is an Indian spice blend, and everyone’s (and their mother’s) formulation can vary. However, the warm flavors dominating garam masala are consistent: coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon are staples, while nutmeg, cloves, mace, fennel, and dried chiles frequently turn up as supporting players.
Unless you’re readily stocked with every component at hand, concocting this complex spice blend at home isn’t always practical. In search of a good-tasting commercial garam masala, we tested a few of the top brands.
Our tasters’ favorite was McCormick Gourmet Collection Garam Masala for its ability to assimilate into dishes and also round out their acidic and sweet notes. Widely available in supermarkets, McCormick won praise from tasters for adding a mellow, well-balanced aroma to most dishes.
See if you can taste the warm spices of garam masala in our recipe for chickpea cakes; experiment with it in other dishes, too. If you live near a few international or gourmet markets that carry smaller or more specialized brands, try and compare the tastes of each blend.