Tandoori masala is a little bit of Indian BBQ fairy dust. The stuff that makes grilled chicken magic. Or lamb chops crazy tasty.
You can buy tandoori masala. Just about anywhere. Every Indian grocer on the planet sells it.
Super convenient.Comes in a nice neat container even. But it has a fatal flaw. And I just can’t take it anymore.
There is too much salt in commercial tandoori masala
And that makes me a little crazy. Commercial tandoori masala is made to season meat right before it hits the grill. Nothing else.
So it’s salty. Like commercial dry rubs. Or cajun spice. Salt is sometimes even the first ingredient.
It works. It’s ridiculously expensive for something that’s mostly salt. But it works. A one trick pony. A good trick. Grilled chicken likes salt.
But it is a real pain when you want to use it as an ingredient. In a chicken tikka masala for instance.
You have to figure out how it will impact your salt balance. That’s the part that drives me crazy.
And every brand is different. Some have more salt than others. Some use a mix of salt and MSG. Two separate ingredients. So they go lower on the list of ingredients. Sneaky.
Makes it really hard to write recipes. One brand works but another one is way too salty. That’s why I am doing this post. I’m tired of being limited.
I’m working on a hotel style chicken tikka masala right now. And commercial tandoori masala is messing with my ability to get the results I want. So it has to go.
Amchoor is the secret ingredient
I thought a lot about this recipe. Tasted a lot of spice mixes. Ate a fair bit of tandoori chicken. Not a hardship. I love tandoori chicken.
I came to the conclusion that the error bars on tandoori masala are pretty big. A little more of this. A little less of that. Doesn’t make a huge difference.
Except for one ingredient. Amchoor. Ground dried mango powder. There’s a tang to tandoori masala. It’s important. Critical even.
That tang has to come from somewhere. Cheaper blends use citric acid. The better ones use amchoor. I’m going with amchoor.
Red doesn’t mean anything
Tandoori chicken is red. Right? It’s always red. Here’s the thing. It’s really supposed to get its colour from a whole lot of chili powder, paprika and turmeric.
That’s the awesome version. Maybe not for the faint of heart though. So the watered down version uses food colouring.
Food colouring adds no flavour. None. Looks good though. It’s what people expect to see.
Think of red icing. Does that taste like tandoori? No? Same stuff. Zero added flavour. Literally. Pure cosmetics.
I don’t know where it started. It has to be bright red/orange or it’s not tandoori. Why is that even a thing?
I’m feeling the shame here though. The hypocrisy is almost more than I can bear. Almost. I’m bad. I use food colouring when I take pictures for glebekitchen.
Terrible. I know. But red sells. Nobody would care otherwise. Which is unfortunate. But also fact. I am guilty of propagating the myth.
I’m going to stop. Enough is enough. Truth in tandoori chicken here from now on. Well mostly anyway. Like I said. Red sells.
Fresh ground spices make a big difference
I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate how big a deal freshly ground spices are. Game changer. Mind blower even. Huge.
I clearly remember the first time I did it. Was a long time ago. My memory sucks. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning.
But I remember that first bite. A simple chicken curry. An extraordinary chicken curry.
I don’t always do it. It’s work. I’d have some of the best recipes on the internet if I asked everyone to grind their spices for every dish.
I’d also have the smallest audience on the internet. So I try to keep it in check. It’s a balance. I save it for when it really matters.
There’s a time and place for everything. Your kitchen is the place. This is the time. Tandoori masala is so worth the effort. Try it. You’ll see.
Small batches are best for tandoori masala
This recipe does not make a lot of tandoori masala. And there’s a reason for that. The wonder that fresh ground spices brings does not last forever. It fades.
It does scale though. If you need a lot of it just use the slider in the recipe card. You can make a kilo of it if you want.
I like to keep my batches small. Use it up. While it’s still amazing. And then make some more.
Tandoori masala from scratch
It’s not hard to make tandoori masala. Dead easy really. If you can measure spices you can make it.
Toss some whole spices in a pan. Toast them until fragrant. Grind. Mix with some ground spices. That’s it. Boiling water is more complicated.
You control the salt. You control the colour. And you enjoy the flavour that only fresh ground spices can bring.
If you are really hung up on eating red chicken then do it. A little red food colouring changes nothing. Flavour-wise anyway. Doesn’t really matter.
We do first eat with our eyes. It’s your kitchen. Your call. I’m about flavour. Colour is up to you.
Bottom line. If you want maximum flavour this is for you. Tasty stuff. Red or not.
- 3 tbsp coriander seed
- 1 tbsp cumin seed
- 3 blades mace – about 1-2 grams
- 1 tsp black pepper corns
- 1 inch cinnamon not cassia for a change
- 3 clove
- 3 green cardamom
- 1 tbsp paprika for colour
- 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 4 tsp amchoor powder
- 1 tsp granulated garlic powder
Toast your whole spices
- Pre-heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Toast the spices, shaking the pan constantly, until fragrant. This should take about 2 minutes.
- Allow whole spices to cool. Transfer to a spice grinder (I like my old blade style coffee grinder for this). Grind to powder.
- Combine with powder spices and shake well to combine. Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place.
Use your tandoori masala
- You can use it as is in dishes calling for tandoori masala. You may need to up the salt. If a recipe calls for store-bought tandoori masala they are counting on the salt in the mix.
- To make a simple tandoori marinade combine 3 tbsp tandoori masala, 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste, 2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of kasoori methi and 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. A little naga pickle is nice if you like some extra heat. A little mint sauce is a nice touch as well if you have it. Stir to combine.
- Pour over your chicken and mix. Marinate up to 4 hours. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon and mix again. BBQ. Preferably over charcoal. Or in your pizza oven to mix things up.
39 thoughts on “tandoori masala – homemade tandoori spice mix”
I’ve been looking at Tandoori masala recipes for a while and like yours. I used to cook tandoori chicken most weeks, my partner’s favourite. But I have become aware that some TM have been adulterated with some dangerous red dyes. So I want to make my own. I want to use oak-smoked paprika instead of any chili powder, as this seems to have adulteration issues, and what is and what is not Kashmiri chillies. But I would like to point out one thing in your recipe, that of ‘roasting’ certain spices. The idea behind roasting spices is to initiate the Maillard reaction in certain spices, including coriander, cumin, fenugreek and fennel. Other spices, such as cinnamon, cassia, nutmeg, mace and cardamoms do not change much, and only lose flavours to the atmosphere (instead of the dishes). Also, I would not roast pepper, as this contains about a dozen flavour chemicals, which are lost at different rates when heated (or just stored). This is why it is (or should be) crush just before use. I hope that you find this useful.
Can you point me to your source? I’m guessing you are a food chemist? I’ve never seen anything suggesting Maillard with spices (reducing sugars and amino acids + heat). My understanding was volatile oils are released in the presence of heat. I’m genuinely interested…
What would the outcome of this be like without mace? I’m actually having some trouble finding it in any Indian grocers around where I live!
Got everything else though
It would still be good. Just one less flavour in a pretty flavour loaded spice blend.
In step 2 of your note on making a tandoori marinade you mention mint sauce. Do you mean raita or the British style (spearmint, white wine vinegar, salt, bit of sugar) served with roast lamb? Assume the former, but wanted to check 🙂
I’m right with everyone else on the excellence of this blog. Best I’ve come across. Deeply appreciated.
So happy to hear you are enjoying the blog!
I mean mint sauce – I think Coleman’s is the big brand in the UK, not raita.
Ok, and it does make tastebud sense, for sure…
Next time 🙂
Looking forward to trying this recipe. One question, in the pan are whole cardamom pods, do you grind the whole pod to powder or remove the seed before grinding? Thanks
I just grind the whole pods.
Where has this recipe (and your website) been all my life?!?!? (And if you’re in Glebe, Sydney then I’m only over the bridge from you!)
I love, love, love Tandoori anything but refuse to buy the store bought mixes due to the insane level of sodium and/or MSG in them and the other powders I’ve tried making just didn’t taste much like tandoori at all. So even though I’ve not made it yet I’m confident this will be my holy grail tandoori mix! Can’t wait to try this and other recipes like the Ceylon chicken curry!
Delighted you found it. Hope it lives up to expectations.
I’m in Glebe Ottawa. But Glebe Sidney is on my list to visit. You’re not the first person to point that out to me!
Another great recipe! Question: can I substitute the coriander, cumin & mace for pre-ground at the same measurements? I’ve not been able to find those as whole spices…
This is an example of where weights are a far better measurement system. I would guess that you should probably roughly half the volume converting whole spices to ground.
I got excited about your description of the homemade tandoori spice mix and I’m going to make this too. In the photo, however, your skillet appears to have a lot more than 1 tsp black peppercorns. Is that right?
Glad you are excited! The photo has the ingredients listed in the recipe. I always take pictures of the actual dish when I’m making it.
I can only repeat whats been said already ie your recipes do seem much more flavoursome than most the others i have made and seem a lot simpler to follow. My only gripe is could you please write a book of all your recipes i am sure you would sell thousands 🙂 In the meantime keep up the good work as you can see your recipes are really appreciated by many but a book to take to the kitchen would be fantastic 😉
Thank you so much for saying! I do try to make the instructions as absolutely clear (and sometimes hopefully entertaining) as possible.
I do get asked for a book fairly often. The thing is glebekitchen is my hobby. I work full time in the real world so a book is just too big an undertaking for me at this time.
Just a quick question a blade of mace is it’s weight 14g as I’m unsure on 3 blades as they are all different sizes. Thanks for your help.
A gram or two should do it. If you have a 14 gram blade of mace you have something I don’t get here. See the picture for an idea of how much I am using…
Until now I always bought tandoori spices. But then you don’t know what is in it. Next time I will use your recipe at home. Thanks for sharing it!
Great to hear. No need to pay for mostly salt either!
Hey Romain, your tandoori masala was absolutely killer. Stupid question, with the simple marinade you made (3T masala, etc.) would this be for 1 pound of chicken? I thought it was perfect for 1 lb. but I added too much salt (not paying attention), otherwise perfect! Thank you, thank you.
It could probably do near double that. 1 1/2 lbs anyway. Or a whole chicken cut up. That’s actually what I did those proportions for. I tend to do tandoori over tikka because for me everything is better on the bone!
Would I be able to substitute the 3 blades mace for mace powder instead? By just putting it in with the ground spices.
I expect so. Just a good sized pinch I would think.
Hi, going to try this, I have all of the ingredients but not sure what 3 blades of mace is, can you help please? I have made some of your curries with great success, thank you.
That is a bit imprecise, I agree. Three pieces about the size of your index fingernail? Not a huge amount. That’s one I really should provide by weight.
I made this tandoori space mix, it’s the best that I have ever used, thank you very much.
Awesome to hear!
Ever since you released this recipe, I have been checking everyday waiting for that hotel style chicken tikka masala!! This is 100% the best website for indian cooking I have ever found. It beats every single website and youtube channel I have ever seen. No comparison, your recipes are on a whole other level nothing i’ve ever found even comes close to your technique and flavours.
Before I found your website, I thought I would never be able to cook Indian. I didn’t know much about technique or ingredients, and every other website I had tried was extremely underwhelming, and not one of them mentioned anything like a curry base!! In retrospect, you seem to be the only one that knows what you are doing and it certainly shows! My friends and family all absolutely love the recipes I have made from this website, each one has turned out completely brilliant. I have even made the Pad Thai a couple days ago and that was delicious, too.
Ever since I have found your site I have felt this is it. Glebekitchen is all I ever need. No one can match your incredible recipes. Thank you. I will just be sitting here waiting for the next one!!
Wow. Thank you. I am truly happy that I have been a part of your journey to cook Indian food! Absolutely delighted!
The tikka masala recipe gets published Monday if things go to plan. Sorry to make you wait…
Rahul (from YT) this side. Finally you decided to reveal it!! BBQ can wait, but can’t wait to try this for my tikka masala curry!
Haha. Yes. In part because you pushed me to do it. And in part because commercial blends were messing up my recipes too!
Oh wow! 😋😋An absolutely mind blowing recipe
Packed with delicious flavour
Thank you for sharing
Delighted to do so. Hope you like it!
Just a quick question on the cardamom. Do you toast and grind the complete pod or remove the seeds and discard tthe pod casing?
Just toss them in to toast and grind the pods up intact along with the other whole spices.
I had a feeling you’d be releasing this recipe! Looking forward to whizzing it up for the tandoori vindaloo.
The salt thing has been driving me crazy for a while. Hope you enjoy it.