In just 15 minutes you can have this beautiful mix of South Indian spices that will give you a memorable taste of Kerala. Use it as a substitute for the more readily found store-bought North Indian garam masala in all sorts of dishes. And, if you are feeling adventurous make a Goan garam masala, Madras Curry Powder, and Biryani Masala too.
About South Indian Masala
There are many types of garam masala. Fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper star in a Kerala garam masala. While the North Indian garam masala is built on coriander and cumin. However, both masalas share cloves, black pepper, fennel, and cinnamon, in varying amounts.
Even in Kerala the ingredients and amounts vary from cook to cook. So I encourage you to tweak the spices to your taste after you make this spice mix at least once.
This garam masala starts with the whole spices of Kerala. You will need:
- Black peppercorns
- Star anise
- Mace, optional
How to Make
Gather and measure out the spices.
With a heavy pan, meat mallet, or mortar and pestle break the nutmeg into several pieces to make it easier to grind with the other spices.
In a preheated pan over medium heat, toast all the spices except for the nutmeg.
TIP: Don't be tempted to use a higher heat. Moderate heat gives time for the flavors to develop and ensures the spices don't burn. This will take about 2 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant.
Allow the spices to cool for 5 minutes, stir in the crushed nutmeg, then grind in a spice (coffee) grinder or mortar and pestle.
How to Store
South Indian masala will keep well in an air-tight container in a dark place for one to two months. You can tell when it is past its prime if the blend is no longer fragrant. You can also pop the spice mix in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Recipes that Use Kerala Garam Masala:
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Please rate by clicking stars ⭐️ on the recipe card and/or let me know in the comments below. Thank you! ~Alonna
Recipe Card 📖
Spices of Kerala (Garam Masala)
- 1/4 cup whole fennel seeds
- 1 heaping teaspoon whole cloves ~ 30 cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns ~ 30 peppercorns
- 2 cinnamon sticks ~ Broken into pieces (6 inches)
- 1 star anise
- 4 teaspoons whole green cardamom pods ~ Or 2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
- 1 whole nutmeg ~ Do not toast
- 1 piece whole mace ~ Or 1/2 teaspoon ground mace. Optional.
- Gather all your ingredients.
- Using a mortar and pestle or a heavy pan, crush the nutmeg into pieces. With a spice grinder, grind the crushed nutmeg into a powder and set aside.
- In a frying pan over medium-low heat, add all the other spices (EXCEPT the nutmeg) and toast for 2 to 3 minutes, or until you see the fennel turn a slightly darker shade and the spices become fragrant. See Notes below.
- Remove the pan from the burner and allow the spices to cool for 5 minutes. Grind the toasted spices and nutmeg pieces in a spice (coffee) grinder, or mortar and pestle into a fine powder.
- Store the Kerala garam masala in an airtight container. It will keep for 2to 3 months. If you store it in the refrigerator or the freezer the spice blend will be good to use much longer. Smelling the masala gives you a good idea of whether it is still fresh enough to flavor your cooking.
- Be sure to buy good quality spices for Kerala garam masala.
- When toasting the spices, use medium heat so as allow the essential oils from the spices to be activated before they get too brown. Don't be tempted to use a higher heat. Moderate heat gives time for the flavors to develop and ensures they don't burn.