Garam masala is an aromatic blend of spices that is usually added at the end. The reason why garam masala is added at the end is :-
- The whole spices used in the Garam Masala blend are already toasted before being grinded. Thus, it does not need to be cooked.
- If we add the garam masala sooner then it would get overcooked and loose its flavors.
- The aromatics used in garam masala need very little heat to release its aroma and flavors. This can be perfectly achieved by adding it at the end into the hot dish.
Is garam masala always added at the end?
No, garam masala can be added at the beginning as well as end depending on how we are using it. There are 2 types of Garam Masala i.e. Sabut or whole garam masala and powdered garam masala. When using it as whole spices it is added at the beginning in hot oil to release all its flavors and aroma. If it is being used as garam masala powder then it does not need to be cooked in high heat and is added at the end.
Both sabut and powdered garam masala are made up of the same spices i.e. cinnamon, mace, peppercorns, cumin, coriander and cardamom. However, the sabut or whole garam masala as the name suggests is made up of whole spices that have not been grounded.
The sabut garam masala whole spices are added to hot oil at the beginning of cooking so they can release their essential oils and flavors in it. Common examples of whole garam masala spices that are added initially at the beginning of cooking are – bay leaf, cinnamon, cumin and cardamom.
The powdered garam masala contains the same spices but they have been roasted and ground. As the spice blend is already roasted and grounded it requires much less heat to release the aroma and flavors. Thus, the powdered garam masala is added at the end.
The garam masala regardless of how it has been added i.e. whole or powdered imparts the food delicious aroma and earthy flavors with some heat that comes from the peppercorns.
If you are looking into make your own garam masala spice blend then we have the complete recipe here.
There is a common misconception about garam masala that it is spicy, we share the complete flavor profile of each spice used as well as the garam masala to debunk this.
Garam masala has an interesting name which literally translates to “Hot Spice Blend” in hindi, for more details on why and how the name was coined please refer to this post.