The garam masala powder is a flavor enhancer only and does not impart the key flavors of a dish. This is the reason why it needs to be used in moderation. For a dry dish serving 2 people you can add 1/2 teaspoon. If you are making curry or dal then you can add 1 levelled teaspoon for a 2 people serving.
Please note that it is not meant to replace the key masalas used in Indian cooking like coriander powder, cumin powder etc. These masalas are used in the cooking to impart the main flavors to the dish.
The garam masala is added at the end to add a slight earthy flavor, slight heat and aroma to the food.
If we add too much then it can make the dish bitter in taste. Also, too much garam masala can cause more harm than benefits. It is known for increasing metabolism, improving digestion. It consists of body warming spices and more on this can be found here. Excess use of this masala and these body warming spices can cause too much heat in the body. This can lead to other digestive and metabolism related issues.
Also, the garam masala is added at the very end when the dish has been removed from gas and is still hot. It is the only Indian masala which is added at the end. This post details all the reasons why we add the garam masala at the end.
It’s very common for it to get burnt and make the curry bitter.
There is a common misconception that we should not add too much as its spicy. This is not true as excess garam masala does not make the dish spicy but bitter.
Is it mandatory to use garam masala?
No, it’s not mandatory to use garam masala at all. You can choose to use the standard spices like coriander powder, cumin powder, black pepper powder, turmeric etc. to impart the key flavors. It can be completely skipped and is a matter of personal choice.
You can also check your taste preference by dividing the dish into 2 equal parts and then adding garam masala to one half only. As garam masala is only added at the end, this taste test can be easily performed. Based on your taste preferences you can choose whether you want to add it or not.
Also, if you are looking for more details on its history and why is it called garam masala we have an entire post on this.