Not the Usual Holiday Spice: Garam Masala

published Nov 8, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Garam masala is a classic spice mix in Indian cooking, but this mix of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and other spices also includes the warm and cozy flavors we usually associate with the holidays. This year I’ve pushed aside my bottle of pumpkin pie spice and am experimenting with the comforting but slightly more exotic taste of garam masala.

It all started with a batch of spiced almonds. Looking for an interesting way to season them before I popped them in the oven, I grabbed the bottle of garam masala. As the almonds toasted, the whole house filled with the scent of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. It was the smell of the holidays, I realized, with a compelling undercurrent of cumin, coriander and cardamom. The almonds were addictively good, and just as familiar-yet-intriguing as the scent of toasting garam masala.

Since then I’ve been adding garam masala to everything that could use a little autumnal flair: homemade applesauce, hot toddies, bowls of oatmeal. Since I grind the spice mix from scratch using Faith’s recipe (minus the chiles), the mix has the added benefit of being very fresh, so the flavors are even more pronounced. Next I’d like to tackle a few classic holiday desserts like pumpkin pie and gingerbread, swapping out the usual spices for garam masala.

Do you cook with garam masala? How do you like to use it?

Related: Beyond Pie: Pumpkin Pie Spice