Whenever you hit an Indian restaurant, their menus will never miss tandoori chicken. In fact, it is one of their signature dishes, just like butter chicken or chicken tikka masala. This dish is seasoned with the most unique blend known as tandoori masala that includes many flavorful tandoori masala spices.
Like many other spice mixtures from Indian cuisine, this blend also could have slight variations from recipe to recipe. However, the common spices can include:
- Green Cardamom
- Black Cardamom
- Kashmiri Red Chilies
- Black Pepper
- Fenugreek Leaves
Some versions even occasionally contain spices like fenugreek seeds and star anise.
The variety of these spices is the true essence of this blend, and let’s go and see how they offer their ultimate flavors.
What Spices Are In Tandoori Masala?
This spice blend is earthy, gentle, versatile, and packed with flavors. As we mentioned on top, the spices in this mix are customizable. And, most Indian homes make this according to their taste preferences.
However, in our article, we will be focusing on the common spices used in a majority of the store-bought ones and homemade recipes.
01 – Cumin
Being one of the staple tandoori masala spices, cumin provides its nutty, slightly sweet, and warm elements to this mix. Often, whole cumin seeds are dry roasted with other spices when adding to this.
This spice pairs well with other warm flavorings in the combination, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and coriander. In fact, its unique earthy notes add a depth of flavor to this masala.
02 – Green Cardamom
Green cardamoms offer an exotic aroma and a distinctive flavor to this blend. They have a minty herbal warmth that could combine well with spices in this masala.
This spice enhances the taste of this mix by complementing the flavors of coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and ginger. Also, green cardamoms are used as a whole and ground with other ingredients.
03 – Black Cardamoms
This is an exceptional ingredient which is a signature flavor in many Indian dishes and spice blends. Black cardamoms are smoky, pungent, and taste much different from green ones.
This spice pairs with cinnamon, cumin, and black pepper in tandoori masala and gives uniqueness to the overall flavor of the mix. Black cardamoms are also often used as a whole along with others.
04 – Coriander
Dry whole coriander seeds are added to this after being ground with the rest of the spices. This ingredient is also another staple in the masala.
Coriander is mildly sweet and fresh with citrus and floral notes. The flavor and aroma profile of this spice works to build up the base flavor of this mix. This often pairs with other spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.
05 – Cinnamon
Cinnamon is one of the most adaptable spices in tandoori masala. Its amazingly subtle sweetness and woody and citrusy hints make this blend taste special.
Just like other whole spices, cinnamon is also often dry-roasted with others before being ground. This spice gets along well with other warm flavorings like cloves, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, and ginger.
06 – Cloves
Cloves are sharp, strong, and intensely flavored with a pungent aroma which can take this masala mix to the next level. This spice is also used as whole pods that are dry-roasted to intensify the flavor before being added into this.
This spice becomes good friends with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and coriander in the blend to add a depth of savor.
07 – Kashmiri Red Chilies
Kashmiri red chilies is a spice that comes from the traditional tandoori masala mix. Actually, it is not a very hot type of red chili but could add an amazingly deep flavor and a vibrant color to the blend.
Whole dried chili peppers are usually dry-roasted with other spices and then pulverized into the mixture. While providing a mild heat, this spice blends well with all the other ingredients used in this.
08 – Ginger
Ginger, typically used in its powdered form, is another standard found in most store-bought and homemade masala versions.
The slightly peppery, sweet, and floral hints of this spice bring a pleasant taste to the mix dispersing its flavor consistently all over. Ginger powder is versatile and pairs well with all the tandoori masala ingredients.
09 – Garlic
Garlic is a ubiquitous spice used in an array of Indian dishes. So, it is no wonder why it becomes a part of this mix too. Like ginger, garlic is also used in its ground form in this blend.
Some recipes irrationally omit this ingredient, but we believe that garlic powder adds a distinctive zing to this blend. Since this spice mix is typically used in meat dishes like chicken, garlic’s intense flavor and powerful fragrance can essentially complement all the other ingredients used.
10 – Nutmeg
Pleasantly aromatic nutmeg enriches this masala powder with its unique warm, nutty, and slightly sweet flavor elements. In this blend, either whole nutmeg is dry-roasted with the rest of the spices, or powdered nutmeg is mixed with the other ground spices.
This spice incorporates well with other warm ingredients in the mix like cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, and ginger. Although some recipes do not include nutmeg, it still brings a remarkable taste to this mix when added.
11 – Mace
Mace is the closest relation to nutmeg and also an integral ingredient in this spice blend. Whole pieces of mace are often dry-roasted and ground with other flavorings to be added in this.
This spice is actually a less concentrated version of nutmeg with woody and a warm flavor. It gives a mild pungent touch to the masala with a subtle nutmeg-y aroma. In addition, it can get along well with others in the blend like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, and ginger.
12 – Black Pepper
Black pepper is one of the most paramount tandoori masala spices that offers a nice peppery kick. As we mentioned before, since this is a spice blend that goes with many meat-based dishes, the black pepper flavor is a crucial component.
This spice has the capability to pair well with most warm spices in the blend and amplify its inherent flavor. As usual, black peppercorns are toasted and ground with other flavorings.
Like black pepper is a part of tandoori masala, it is also a staple in chaat masala. There are many other flavorful ingredients used in chaat masala, and we have a comprehensive feature covered all about this spice blend right here.
13- Fenugreek Leaves
Interestingly, dried fenugreek leaves act both as a spice and a herb. Popularly known as “Kasuri methi” in many Indian dishes, it goes to this blend in its dried form. And, the addition of this spice is usually happening during the last stage of making this masala blend.
Dried fenugreek leaves have an earthy and slightly bitter taste. Shockingly, it also has a flavor resemblance to that of maple syrup! Consequently, the complex flavor profile of fenugreek leaves brings a profundity to the taste of the overall masala. And it significantly gets along with spices like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger used in this.
Other Tandoori Masala Ingredients
This blend is basically a mix of spices. However, the store-bought ones may sometimes include some color additives, salt, and other preservatives in addition to the main spices.
Moreover, we noticed that some homemade recipes include red or orange food coloring or beetroot powder.
Roasted chicken is just a name. But Tandoori Chicken is an emotionAnonymous
Is Tandoori Masala Spicy?
The only heaty element used in tandoori masala is particularly Kashmiri red chilies. Moreover, a peppery note is given by incorporating black pepper.
Apart from these two ingredients, no ingredients are traditionally used to make this mix very spicy. Hence, this blend is mildly spicy but not fiery hot to blow your heads off!
What Is In Tandoori Masala Spice Mix?
To begin with, tandoori masala spice mix and tandoori masala are essentially the same. So, as mentioned on top, this spice blend includes spices and sometimes salt, color additives, and preservatives.
Is Tandoori Masala The Same As Garam Masala?
Garam Masala and tandoori masala are NOT the same. They are two different spice mixes, although both include some common spices.
In India, tandoori masala is typically used as a marinating or seasoning mix to marinate meat (usually chicken) made in a special clay oven known as the “Tandoor”.
While on the contrary, Garam Masala is an essential cooking spice mix that is included in many meat or vegetable dishes. It is much stronger than tandoori masala, and all the spices used in Garam masala are warm and intense. So, in the basic idea, tandoori masala is milder and less hot than Garam Masala.
Isn’t Life Good With Some Tandoori Masala!
Among the spice blends or seasonings in Indian cuisine, this combination marks its uniqueness thanks to its deep flavor. All the tandoori masala spices have a depth of savor, intense, and aromatic that this blend has been able to gain its popularity even outside of India.
So, if you have tasted tandoori chicken even once in your life and ever wondered what made it so delicious, we hope you got your question answered right here!