Tandoori masala is my secret special spice combo that I tend to add to a lot of my curries to perk them up. It’s also great for adding some colour to your Indian dishes. Sadly, my dirty little secret is that mine is the store bought variety. Which is pretty bad as I’m building up this blog based on creating all these wonderful and delicious spice mixtures you can make at home!
So, prompted by an intrepid reader of this blog, Pete L., another obvious spice enthusiast, I decided to answer his call to devise and publish my homemade tandoori masala recipe here. (This one’s for you Pete!)
Quick Background About Tandoori Masala
I’m not going to delve into a whole ton of background info on this spice mixture. A tandoor is an Indian clay oven and the masala is most often used in combination with a yoghurt based sauce or marinade. That means generally mixing yoghurt with the spices, adding chicken or some other meat and leaving for a few hours so the flavours can penetrate.
Then it’s into the tandoor to cook the delicious dry curry, such as tandoori chicken. That’s it! You can find a bit of extra background here if you like.
The picture above is the commercial tandoori masala recipe – it is (obviously) bright red in colour.
For me, this has always been a good thing. I love adding that warm red glow to a curry. And of course, a quick finger dip and taste of the commercial powder is all you need to know this contains a decent slug of hot chili. So, hey, that’s fine. Red colour from chilies, right? Err, wrong! It’s those pesky food colourings again.
I have to say I was a tad mortified by this. But! Well, I spent this afternoon in the kitchen mixing and testing and tasting and came up with a pretty good version. And it doesn’t have the red colour. Tastes very similar though. And that’s the second bone of contention! The store bought stuff is pretty darn salty.
In my recipe, I have tried to minimize the amount of salt while retaining the right flavour. You might decide to leave it out altogether. That’s fine. Or when you cook using the spice mixture, just remember there’s salt already in it. And taste your curries before adding any more seasoning. (Ahem, but you should be doing that already, right? 😉 )
Tandoori Masala Recipe
- Coriander Powder (2 tbsp)
- Cumin Powder (1.5 tbsp)
- Fenugreek Powder (1 tbsp)
- Onion Granules (2 tbsp)
- Hot Chili Powder (1.5 tsp)
- Garlic Powder (1 tsp)
- Ginger Powder (1 tsp)
- Ground Cloves (1 tsp)
- Ground Cinnamon (1 tsp)
- Black Pepper (1 tsp)
- Ground Mace (1 tsp)
- Ground Nutmeg (0.5 tsp)
- Green Cardamom Powder (0.5 tsp)
- Celery Salt (0.5 tsp)
- Salt (0.5 tsp)
- Bay Leaves (3 dried & finely ground)
Yes, this is a very complex recipe, and it’s pretty funny that I left out the salt until the end. It hardly tasted like the store bought mixture. Then I added the salt and bam! There it was.
So I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to include salt in this mix and be careful with extra salting later. Obviously some people like to keep a tight rein on their sodium intake. If this includes you, then at least you know where all the salt is now and can manage it better.
The other ingredient that I feel is optional is the bay leaf. My recipe tasted fine without, and it was a pain to grind it up with my electric blitzing machine. Alternatively, you can make your curry, using this tandoori masala recipe (without bay leaves) – but add a whole bay leaf to the pan while cooking. Just remember to remove it at the end of cooking and you’re golden.
Of course, if you like the red colour and are not worried about E-numbers and additives, feel free to experiment by adding red colouring to the mixture. (Apart from a bit of saltiness – again – it doesn’t add any extra flavour.)
When and How to Use It
The typical use of tandoori masala is for the marination of chicken tikka and tandoori chicken. It’s also used as one of the several ingredients in the masala sauce for a chicken tikka masala curry.
However, you are your own master. You can drop a teaspoon of this mix into any other curry you like. Or rub it into meat for a barbecue, like any other seasoning mix. The sky’s the limit. Anywhere you need a curry-type zing with a touch of chili heat, this mix will be amazing.
Hope you have fun with it. It’s delicious!