Tandoori masala is one of the most popular spice blends—who can resist anything tandoori? This North Indian spice mix is beautifully flavored with coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom, and other warming spices. Mildly hot from Kashmiri chili powder and a hit of black pepper.
Use it in a marinade, a dry rub, or in curries. Chicken and lamb work especially well so try my tandoori chicken tikka biryani or my tandoori grilled chicken thighs with this masala! And for another tandoori twist, try the very tasty Tandoori Chicken Tikka Tacos.
What is Tandoori Masala and How to Use
Tandoori dishes are named for the clay tandoor oven they are traditionally made in. And there are as many spice combinations as there are cooks. Give your poultry, meats, vegetables, paneer, and tofu a memorable flavor boost. You will find yourself using this magical masala powder over and over again—it is so good.
This recipe is informed by the great food blog Glebe Kitchen's tandoori masala powder and paste. Romain's addition of garlic powder and tangy dried mango powder (amchur), takes this magical spice mix to a new level. If you don't have amchur powder you can simply replace it with lemon juice added to the marinade or sauce.
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
- Commercial blends tend to use cheaper spices and a lot of salt
Tandoori masala is made with 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 it with 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).
Tandoori Powder Substitutes & Best Brands
What is a quick substitute for tandoori spice?
If you are in a bind and don't have a tandoori masala take an equal amount of garam masala and add as much red Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne pepper as you wish.
You might start with a teaspoon of Kashmiri chili and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. A big pinch or two of dried mango powder (amchur) and powdered garlic would also add some tangy savory notes.
If you are buying this spice mix
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.
For a U.S. small-batch artisanal product, I am partial to the Spicewalla tandoori masala blend. And if you want to buy spices online see my "Where to Find the 20 Best Indian Online Groceries" list.
How to Make
The most challenging part of making this spice mix is measuring your spices. So, not hard at all! 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 for about 10 minutes, then grind to a powder in a spice grinder. Stir in the ground spices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tandoori dishes are usually quite mild. Ground red Kashmiri chili powder is mild and you can use as much or little as you wish.
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 while tandoori masala is a part of the marinade to add flavor from the beginning.
Savory from powdered garlic, sweet and warming from cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. Paprika, Kashmiri chili powder, and cumin give hints of smoke. The chili powder also lends a mild heat, and the dried mango powder (amchur) offers some welcome tanginess!
Yes! This tandoori spice blend brings so much flavor to whatever you are cooking, you will be delighted with your final dish.
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 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 optionally kasoori methi.
The amount of tandoori spice powder this recipe yield is enough for approximately 10 tandoori dishes. Use immediately, or store in a tightly sealed jar in a cool, dark place. The masala will stay fresh for about two months. If you don't think you will be using up the mix within that time, it freezes well and will stay fresh for up to 4 months in the freezer.
How to Get that Bright Red Color?
Known for its 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
- More paprika
- 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 not to worry about the color at all, which is what I typically do.
Some Other Spice Mixes You Will Love
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
- 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 mace or 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 for up to 24 hours or until you run out of patience. If you are marinating meat or poultry for longer than 4 hours, don't add the lemon juice until just before cooking. It tends to make the meat mushy.
- Paprika: If you are wanting a deeper red color you can increase the amount of paprika. See the recipe introduction 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.
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