Whole garam masala also known as Sabut garam masala in Hindi, consists of the same spices that are used in making the garam masala powder but these are used without grinding.
Whole garam masala is made up of cinnamon sticks, brown cardamom, peppercorns, mace, bay leaf, cloves, cumin seeds and star anise.
It is used when preparing dishes like biryani and pulao. The whole spices are added in the beginning in hot oil. When added to the hot oil they release their essential oils and add their aroma and flavors to it.
Commonly used whole garam masala spices are – cinnamon, brown cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, cumin.
List of Whole Garam Masala Spices
- Bay Leaf or Tej patta
- Black Cardamom or Badi Elaichi
- Green Cardamom or Choti Elaichi
- Cloves or Laung
- Cumin or Jeera
- Mace or Javitri
- Black Pepper or Kali Mirch
- Star Anise or Chakr phool
When do we use Whole Garam Masala?
We use whole garam masala when we want the dish to be aromatic and have light earthy flavor of the whole garam masala spices but we do not want the flavor to be as strong as the garam masala powder.
We also use whole garam masala when the dish has its own flavor blends, for example biryani.
Biryani has its own spice blend so we do not use powdered garam masala in it because that might overpower the biryani masala flavors. But we do add the whole garam masala spices in the hot oil. This makes the aroma and flavors infuse in the biryani making it delicious and fragrant.
The whole garam masala flavors are less intense than the powdered garam masala and thus it makes the dish aromatic and adds a mild flavor of the spices complementing the dominant spice blend which is biryani masala in this case.
Can we substitute Whole Garam Masala and Powdered Garam Masala with each other?
Even though they use the same spices they cannot replace each other because while whole garam masala makes the dish more aromatic, its flavors are less intense than the powdered garam masala.
So if looking for strong earthy flavors of garam masala then you can use powdered garam masala and for mild aromatic flavors use whole or sabut garam masala.
How to use Whole Garam Masala?
When you heat the oil in the pan before adding any other ingredients like onion, ginger, garlic etc. first add the whole garam masala spices. Do not overcook as they might burn and give the curry a burnt flavor and make it bitter.
Once the whole spices have been added, add the aromatics like onion, ginger and garlic.
Here are the step by step details on how to use whole or sabut garam masala in any dish-
- Heat oil in the pan
- Once hot add some cinnamon sticks, cloves, bay leaf and brown cardamom.
- Cook them well but make sure they do not get burnt
- Add the aromatics like onion, ginger, garlic and proceed as per the recipe instructions of your dish/curry.
Can I grind Whole Garam Masala?
Yes, you can take the whole garam masala spices and then grind them to make your own garam masala spice blend. A freshly roasted and grinded garam masala can elevate any dish to next level. Here is a family favorite recipe that we have been using for years.