tandoori masala – homemade tandoori spice mix

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.

Spoons full of ground spices and scattered whole spices.

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.

Whole spices toasting in a pan

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.

Chicken tikka made with tandoori masala marinade

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.

Bowl of tandoori masala from above.
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5 from 5 votes

tandoori masala

Tandoori masala is easy to make and fresh ground spices make it special.
Course spice mix
Cuisine Indian
Keyword tandoori masala, tandoori spice mix
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 227kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen

Ingredients

whole spices

  • 3 tbsp coriander seed
  • 1 tbsp cumin seed
  • 3 blades mace
  • 1 tsp black pepper corns
  • 1 inch cinnamon not cassia for a change
  • 3 clove
  • 3 green cardamom

ground spices

  • 1 tbsp paprika for colour
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 4 tsp amchoor powder
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic powder

Instructions

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.

Nutrition

Serving: 8tbsp | Calories: 227kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 94mg | Potassium: 771mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 4762IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 261mg | Iron: 11mg

18 thoughts on “tandoori masala – homemade tandoori spice mix”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

  2. Hello,

    Would I be able to substitute the 3 blades mace for mace powder instead? By just putting it in with the ground spices.

    Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
  4. 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!!

    Reply
    • 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…

  5. 5 stars
    Hola Romain!

    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!

    Reply
    • Haha. Yes. In part because you pushed me to do it. And in part because commercial blends were messing up my recipes too!

  6. Just a quick question on the cardamom. Do you toast and grind the complete pod or remove the seeds and discard tthe pod casing?

    Reply

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