Food Operations - Indian Masalas & Gravies

Secret of happiness is variety. But secret of variety like the secret of all spices is knowing when to use it.

…Daniel Gilbert, American Social Psychologist and Writer.

There is a common string connecting all Indian cuisines though; and that is: the spices. Indian cuisines are incomplete without spices.

Indian masalas or the spice mixes are the hearts of cooking stews and curries. They provide taste and aroma to lentils, veg and non-veg stews, curries, and rice dishes. What’s more, the Indian street food is also treated with spices. The masalas are prepared with the intention of balancing hot and tangy taste of the food.

Indian Masalas

The dry masalas (powdered spice mixes or curry powders) are used to flavor lentils, vegetables, seafood, and meat. The ingredients are roasted over low heat until they release a faint aroma. A fine powder is made and they are stored in an airtight container.

Some of the popular spice mixes used in Indian cuisines are given here −

Biryani Masala

It is used for savory spiced colorful and flavorful rice.

Fennel Seeds 50 gm Black Cardamoms 10 gm
White Poppy Seeds 40 gm Star Anise 10 gm
Cumin Seeds 30 gm Caraway Seeds 10 gm
Cinnamon Powder 30 gm Bay Leaves 10 gm
Whole Cloves 20 gm Mace 10 gm
Green Cardamoms 20 gm Nutmeg Powder of 2/4 piece

Chhole Masala

It is used for chick pea curry.

Coriander Seeds 2 tbsp Cloves 4-5
Cinnamon 1” piece Cumin Seeds 2 tbsp
Black Cardamom 3-4 pods Anardana (optional) 1 tbsp
Bay Leaf 1 Whole Dry Chilies (optional) 1 or 2
Black Peppercorns 1 tbsp

Coastal Fish Masala

It is used for fish curry and fish fry.

Dry Coconut Grated 3 tbsp White Pepper Corns ¼ cup
Sesame Seeds 1 tbsp Green Cardamom Pods ½ cup
Mustard Seeds 2 tblsp Cumin Seeds ¾ cup
Saffron Strands ¼ tbsp Nutmeg Powder ¼ cup
Black Pepper Corns ¼ cup

Garam Masala

It is a usual spice mix used in stews.

Coriander seeds 4 tbsp Black Cardamom 3-4 large pods
Cumin seeds 1 tbsp Cloves 2-3 pieces
Black Peppercorns 1 tbsp Cinnamon 2 × 1” pieces
Black Cumin seeds 1 ½ tbsp Bay Leaves 2 Crushed
Dry Ginger Powder 1 ½ tbsp

Kala (Goda) Masala

It is used to flavor lentils and Masala Rice.

Coriander Seeds 500 gm Mace Flower 50 gm
Dry Red Chilies 250 gm Cinnamon Bark 50 gm
Dry Coconut shredded 250 gm White Poppy Seeds 50 gm
Dry Turmeric Roots 50 gm Caraway Seeds 50 gm
Asafoetida Chunks 50 gm Sesame Seeds 50 gm
Cloves 50 gm Sesame Seeds 50 gm
Black Pepper Corns 50 gm Bay Leaves 50 gm
Flower Stone 50 gm Green Cardamom 25 gm
Whole Nutmegs 5 pieces Black Cardamom 25 gm
Indian Masalas

Meat Masala

It is used to flavor chicken and lamb dishes.

Cumin Seeds 20 gm Ginger Powder 5 gm
Coriander Seeds 8 gm Garlic Powder 5 gm
Cloves 5 gm Red Chili Powder 5 gm
Cinnamon 2” Stick Turmeric Powder 5 gm
Orange food coloring 1 gm Mace Powder 5 gm
Salt 5 gm

Pao-Bhaji Masala

It is used in a tangy stew paired with pao (bun-shaped bread).

Red Chili 50 gm Black Cardamom 4-5 pieces
Coriander Seeds 50 gm Dry Mango Powder 25 gm
Cumin Seeds 25 gm Fennel Seeds 10 gm
Black Pepper 25 gm Turmeric Powder 1 tbsp
Cinnamon 25 gm Star Anise 2 pieces
Clove 25 gm

Rajmah Masala

It is used to spice kidney beans curry.

Cloves 4 pieces Black Peppercorns 4 pieces
Cardamom 2 pieces Cumin Seeds 1 tbsp
Cinnamon Stick 1” stick Cumin Powder 1 tbsp
Bay leaf 1 piece Ginger Garlic Paste 1 tbsp
Coriander Powder 1 ½ tbsp Garam Masala Powder ½ tbsp
Red Chili Powder 1 tbsp Dry Mango Powder ½ tbsp

Sambar Masala

It is used to flavor a curry named Sambar; prepared with cooked pigeon peas, drumsticks, tomatoes, pumpkin pieces, and cubes of other vegetables. Sambar is paired with Idli, Urad wada, Uthapam, or various types of Dosai.

Chana Daal ¼ cup Black Peppercorns ¼ cup
Urad Daal (black gram) ¼ cup Dry Red Broken Chili ¼ cup
Coriander Seeds ½ cup Dry Grated Coconut ¼ cup
Cumin Seeds ¼ cup Mustard Seeds ¼ cup
Fenugreek Seeds ¼ cup Turmeric Powder 2 tbsp
Dried Curry Leaves 20 pieces Asafetida Powder 2 tbsp

Tea Masala

It is used to prepare flavored tea.

Black Cardamom 1 pod Black Peppercorns ¼ tbsp
Cardamom Seeds From 25 pods Dry, Ground Ginger Powder 1 tbsp
Cloves 4 pieces Ground Cinnamon Powder 1 tbsp
Fennel seeds ½ tbsp Carom Seeds (optional) ¼ tbsp

There is a very large variety of spice mixes for side dishes such as curd based salad named Raita, appetizers such as Jal-Jeera and Chhach, sweet flavored milk named Thandai, and Indian street food named Chaat.

There are also some other spices such as pickle masala, a combination of five spices named panch-poran used in eastern states of India. The list goes on according to the taste preferences and diversity in cultures.

Basic Indian Gravies

Gravy is the soul of Indian cuisine. Gravy is a thick liquid of saucy consistency that provides body and flavor to the curries and other food preparation. It provides the basic five tastes − bitter, hot, sweet, sour, and salty. In this section, we will discuss some popular gravies −

White Gravy

A basic gravy that adds body to the curries.


Chopped Onions 300 gm Green Cardamom 2 pieces
Cashew nuts 200 gm Bay leaves 2 pieces
Water 200 ml Chopped Green Chilies 2
Ginger-Garlic Paste 25 gm Oil 5 tbsp
Sweet Yogurt 200 gm


  • Put cashew nuts in boiling water for five minutes.
  • Drain the water and put fresh water and chopped onions into it.
  • Cook till onions turn soft.
  • Drain the water and grind to fine paste.
  • Heat oil in a wok.
  • Add cardamoms, bay leaves, and chopped green chili.
  • Add yogurt into it and cook for a while.
  • Add cashew nut-onion paste and cook further till oil separates.
  • Cut the heat and let it cool for storing.

A variation named Yellow Gravy is prepared by adding turmeric and saffron and replacing green chili with yellow chili.

Red Gravy

It is tomato based gravy that introduces sour taste.


Tomatoes 1kg Ginger Garlic Paste 20 gm
Onions 500 gm Garam Masala 10 gm
Tomato Puree 250 ml
Chili Powder 30 gm


  • Boil tomatoes by adding onions and whole Garam Masala till they turn soft.

  • Blend them together till smooth.

  • Add ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chili powder, and tomato puree in this mixture.

  • Boil the mixture for 20 to 25 minutes.

  • Yet another version of this gravy called Makhani Gravy is prepared with addition of butter 100 gm, 200 ml cream, and 2 tbsp fenugreek powder.

Brown Gravy

It is used as a base for preparation of meat curries.


Chopped Onions 1 kg Red Chili Powder 30 gm
Tomatoes 500 gm Tomato Puree 200 ml
Garam Masala 5 gm Oil 5 tbsp


  • Heat oil in a pan.

  • Add Garam Masala, chopped onion into it and cook till the onion turns brown and translucent.

  • Add red chili powder, tomatoes, and tomato puree.

  • Cook on medium heat till the tomatoes leave water.

  • Grind this mixture into fine paste.

Shahi Gravy

This gravy is used in gourmet Indian cuisine.


Cashew nut 200 gm Onions 50 gm
Almonds 75 gm Green Cardamom Powder 5 gm
Poppy Seeds 25gm Bay Leaves 2
Ginger-Garlic paste 10gm Garam Masala 1 tbsp
Oil 4 tbsp


  • Boil cashew and poppy seeds together.

  • Boil onion and almonds separately.

  • Grind them to fine pastes.

  • Take oil in a frypan.

  • Add Garam Masala, bay leaves, and cardamom powder.

  • Add all pastes except cashew-poppy seeds paste.

  • Cook for a while on low heat by stirring occasionally.

  • Add cashew-poppy seeds paste.

  • Cook further for a couple of minutes and cut the heat.

  • Yet another version of Shahi Gravy called Korma Gravy is prepared using 1 cup dried solid milk (Khoya) and 1 cup yogurt.

Green Gravy

This gravy is used in gourmet Indian veg and non-veg cuisine. Its main ingredient is coconut.


Fresh grated coconut 2 cups Fresh Chopped Cilantro with stems 1 cup
Green Chilies 4 pieces Mint (Optional) ¼ cup
Salt ½ tbsp. Ginger 1 ½” piece


  • Put all the ingredients in a blender.
  • Grind to fine paste of thick consistency by adding a little water.