What is tandoori masala? It is one of the most popular spice blends in India, and who can resist tandoori anything? Known for lending food a bright red color, this North Indian spice mix is at once smoky, slightly bitter-sweet, and beautifully flavored with Kashmiri chili, cardamom, and other warming spices. Try my tandoori chicken tikka biryani or my tandoori grilled chicken thighs with this masala!
This tandoori masala recipe is informed by the great food blog Glebe Kitchen's tandoori masala. Romain's addition of garlic powder and amchur (dried mango) powder, takes this magical spice blend to a new level. If you don't have amchur powder you can add a tablespoon of lemon juice when mixing up the marinade.
What makes this homemade spice mix so special?
- This spice blend is easy and quick to make
- Freshly ground and blended spices make your food so much better
- While I love this recipe as it is, you can tweak it and make it your own
- It is so versatile that it enhances any protein or vegetable you are working with
- Comercial blends tend to use cheaper spices and more salt than required
How to Get that Tandoori Red Color?
Tandoori dishes are named for the clay tandoor oven they are traditionally made in. And there are as many spice blends are there are cooks. You will find yourself using this magical masala powder over and over again—it is so good.
Known for their bright red color, food cooked in the tandoor was traditionally given a vibrant color with a hard-to-find spice ratan jot, but Indian restaurants often use cheaper red food coloring.
Alternatively, if you would like to add color without food coloring, here are some ideas:
- Red beet juice or powder
- Additional Kashmiri red chili powder
- Ground annatto
- A combination of harissa paste and turmeric
- Tomato paste
- Pure pomegranate juice
- Dried hibiscus flowers steeped in hot water, strained
- Cranberries boiled with enough water to cover, strained
Or you can decide to spice as you wish and not worry about the color at all, which is what I typically do
Ingredients and Substitutions
Tandoori masala has a combination of whole and ground spices:
Whole Spices: Coriander, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, and mace. If you don't have mace, you can substitute nutmeg.
Ground Spices: Red Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, paprika, amchur powder (or add additional lemon juice in the recipe), and optional kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves).
How to Make Tandoori Masala Powder?
The most challenging part of making this spice mix is to measure your spices. So, you can see it is not hard at all to make. In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat, toast your whole spices until they are fragrant. This will take about 2 minutes.
Allow the spices to cool about 10 minutes, then grind to a powder in a spice grinder. Stir in the ground spices, use them immediately, or store them in a tightly sealed jar in a cool, dark place. The masala will stay fresh for about three months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tandoori dishes are usually quite mild. The red Kashmiri chili powder ingredient is relatively mild, and you can use as much or little as you prefer.
Take an equal amount of any garam masala and add as much red Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne pepper as you wish. You might start with a teaspoon of the Kashmiri chili and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper.
They do have overlapping ingredients, but the tandoori spice often has ground red chili, sometimes mace/nutmeg, and in this recipe, amchur and garlic powder. Also, garam masala is often added at the end of cooking a dish, and the tandoori masala is a part of the marinade to add flavor at the beginning.
There are many commercial options. The most popular tandoori masala brands are Shan Tandoori Masala, Everest Tandoori Chicken Masala, MDH Chicken Masala Powder, and Swad Tandoori Masala. If you want to try a U.S. small-batch artisanal product, I am partial to the Spicewalla tandoori masala blend.
What is tandoori paste?
Tandoori paste is simply tandoori spices mixed with a few fresh ingredients. If you would like to make it, see my quick and easy paste recipe below. If you want to buy it, Patak's tandoori paste (marinade) is a favorite brand. For a quick paste you will need oil, garlic ginger paste, tandoori masala, salt, and the optional kasoori methi:
Once you've made your tandoori masala powder you can use it for any protein or vegetable you want to make comforting and more exciting. Give my whole tandoori chicken a go.
Some other amazing spice mixes you might like:
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 📖
Easy Tandoori Masala Powder From Scratch
- 1/4 cup coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 inch cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
- 4 whole mace ~ Or 1 teaspoon of ground mace or nutmeg
- 4 green cardamoms
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri chili powder ~ Substitutions
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 to 3 tablespoons paprika ~ Not smoked. See Notes below.
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspooon ground nutmeg ~ Only if you didn't use whole mace above
- 1 tablespoon green mango powder (amchur) ~ Or add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to the marinade
- 1 tablepoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) ~ Optional
Quick Tandoori Paste Recipe--FOR 2 POUNDS OF PROTEIN*
- 1/4 cup tandoori masala powder ~ See Notes for substitutions
- 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste ~ Or 1 tablespoon each of grated garlic & ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea or table salt ~ Or to taste. See substitutions
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) ~ Optional
- Gather your spices.
Tandoori Masala Powder
- In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat, toast your whole spices until they are fragrant. This takes about 2 minutes. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes.
- Grind the cooled spices into a fine powder in a spice grinder. If there are any larger pieces, grind again. Add in the ground spices and combine well.
- This recipe makes about 48 grams or about 3/4 of a cup. It will keep for up to 3 months in a tightly sealed container away from heat and light.
Tandoori Paste & Marinade
- Mix all the ingredients and thoroughly coat your ingredients. Allow them to marinate until you run out of patience or up to 24 hours. If you are marinating meat or poultry longer than 4 hours, don't add the lemon juice until just before cooking. It tends to make the meat mushy.
- *If you are using the paste for vegetables you probably want to 1/2 the marinade recipe, as they are more delicate.
- Paprika: If you are wanting a deeper red color you can add the higher amount of paprika. See the recipe instruction for other ways to add color if that matters to you.
- Substitutes for the homemade tandoori masala:
- Measure an equal amount of any garam masala and add as much red Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne pepper as you wish. You might start with a teaspoon of the Kashmiri chili and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper, since it is hotter.
- Or buy: Shan Tandoori Masala, Everest Tandoori Chicken Masala, MDH Chicken Masala Powder, and Swad Tandoori Masala. If you want to try a small batch made by a U.S. producer, I am partial to the Spicewalla tandoori masala blend.
- The nutrition information is for the tandoori masala only; not the marinade paste.