Garam Masala VS. Curry Powder
The aromatic spices of your favorite curry establishment waft out the door and greet you in the face. How do they make such a flavorful concoction? What role do Garam Masala and curry powder play in the creation of curries and other dishes? What is the history behind these spices?
Spices can be a confusing subject. It is important to have a basic understanding of spices, their relationships to each other, and which ones to never use together. Two spices that you may not be as familiar with are garam masala and curry powder. In this guide, we will explore each spice, their profile, and how they can be used.
Both of these spices add color and flavor to recipes. Garam Masala is an Indian spice, while curry powder seems to be Britain’s attempt to emulate this flavor. As usual, Western interpretations of a culture vary. Both spices can vary in ingredients based on the region you are in.
Curry powder and Garam Masala are as at odds with each other as their founding countries. Cooks in India will take offense at the suggestion that these two spices are interchangeable. Knowing and appreciating the difference between these spice concoctions is essential to your cooking journey.
Let’s begin by defining this spice. Garam Masala actually means “hot, blended spices” in Hindi. This is not meant to convey a meaning of spiciness, but a meaning of pleasant warmth.
This spice is used after the dish is finished cooking. This spice is often a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and other spices that create a sweet profile. This spice blend is often ground fresh daily, whereas curry powder is not.
Garam Masala is sometimes blended with coconut milk, vinegar, or water to make a paste. Onions, nuts, and other ingredients may be mixed into it. A lot of what is contained in Garam Masala comes down to personal taste, making this another complex blend.
Uses of Garam Masala
Garam Masala is the base of a variety of Indian dishes.
Some of these dishes are:
- Smoked Mackerel
- Cooked vegetables
- Chicken tikka
- Chicken masala
- Stuffed pita
These are just a few examples. The list of dishes that Garam Masala can be present in are endless!
Health Benefits of Garam Masala
One of the best things about cooking is finding out how different foods and spices affect your body in a positive way. Garam Masala offers many health benefits!
Here are a few of the ways that Garam Masala can make you healthier:
- Reduces pain and inflammation
- Increases the absorption of minerals, protein, and vitamins
- Slows down the effects of aging
- Fights disease and builds immunities
- Assists with weight loss and reduces bloating
- Detoxifies the body
- Helps with bad breath
- Soothes upset stomachs, heartburn, and other gastrointestinal issues
- Lowers your glycemic index, which will lower blood sugar levels
Garam Masala is a great spice to use to help keep your body in excellent shape! Combined with foods such as onion, garlic, and vegetables, Garam Masala is a great aid!
Unlike Garam Masala, curry powder is used during the cooking of the recipe. This spice has turmeric as a base, although much of the flavor profile comes from fenugreek and cumin. There are, however, over 20 ingredients in this spice blend, and it can vary depending on who you ask.
The history of curry powder is a fascinating one. 18th century British colonialists that wanted to participate in the Indian spice trade misunderstood what curry actually was. They based their understanding of the dish off of a mix of spices that local Indians used to flavor many different meals. It is these colonialists that named the blend “curry powder”. The Indians call their blend “Garam Masala”.
Uses of Curry Powder
Since curry powder is not a traditional Indian spice blend, it can be used as an all-purpose seasoning. Some of the dishes curry powder is used in include:
- Soups and Stews
- Sauces and marinades
- Deviled eggs
Curry powder can also be used as a basic seasoning if you are trying to avoid salt. The distinct flavoring makes your food delicious, and the powder itself is not hot unless you add hot peppers to it.
Health Benefits of Curry Powder
Curry powder also carries multiple health benefits. Especially with the heavy use of turmeric, curry powder is wonderful for the body.
A few of the benefits include:
- Fighting cancer
- Fighting Alzheimer’s
- Reducing inflammation
- Fighting bacteria
- Assisting your heart
- Helping with digestion
- Spreading antioxidants through your body
As with Garam Masala, combining this spice with onion, garlic, and vegetables offers numerous health benefits for your body.
Curry Powder Versus Garam Masala
As you can see, these are two different spice blends with two different cultures behind them, but they are both very useful to keeping healthy. In traditional Indian cuisine, Garam Masala is the key ingredient to many dishes. As a traditional British all-spice, curry powder makes its presence known in almost every area.
As chefs get more creative with innovative dishes, we see these spices being used in untraditional ways as well. While Garam Masala is traditionally a fresh blend, you can sometimes find a ground version in your local store. Curry powder is also available dried. If you have the opportunity to buy it fresh or make your own, fresh spices are always better for taste and health benefits.
Let’s All Get Along
Both of these spices belong in the pantry and on the table. Each one contains ingredients necessary for healthy living and utilizing both spice profiles will keep a wide variety of flavor in your dishes. Both curry powder and Garam Masala are wonderful blends with unique histories.
The next time you are in the store, make sure to add some ingredients to your list that will allow you to try Garam Masala and curry powder. You may find your next favorite dish has been under your nose all along.