Chai Masala, A Family Recipe

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Chai is one of those drinks that evokes strong memories of childhood for me. There is nothing quite like a cup of chai to help lift my spirits. The secret to a great cup of chai is the masala, the spice mixture. Chai masala is an essential Indian spice blend.

Chai masala

You can buy chai masala from the store, but I prefer a freshly ground chai masala from spices I have toasted myself. When it comes to stocking an Indian spice cabinet, these masala spices are simple necessities that I always have on hand.

I don’t make a new batch of chai masala every time I make chai. I make sure to always have some on hand. That has led me to experiment with using it in other ways.

Spices of chai masala: black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, saffron, ginger, cinnamon
The spices in my family’s Chai Masala. Clockwise from the top: Black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, saffron, ginger. Middle: Cinnamon.

Other Uses of Chai Masala

While distinctly Indian, chai masala has a very similar flavor profile to pumpkin spice blends. That is because of the shared flavors of ginger and cloves. I use chai masala a lot when baking in the fall.

I love the way this spice blend tastes in cinnamon rolls, cookies, and, of course, the classic cup of chai.

Making Chai Masala

This chai masala comes to us from a great aunt. For the best flavor, it is important to start off with whole spices. In India, my mom would have them specially ground at our local mill in small batches.

I use a coffee grinder that I use exclusively for grinding spices. But if I don’t have the whole spices, I won’t hesitate to create a mix from store bought powered spices. In fact, I did this a lot in my 20s when I didn’t own a spice grinder.

Make sure to clean out your grinder between use. Grind some white rice in the grinder a few times to clean it out between spices you don’t want to mix. 

Feel free to experiment with the proportions depending on the flavors you like most.

When I made this batch of masala, I did not have any dried ginger on hand. So I just cut up a ginger root into slices and stuck it in the oven at 200°F for about 2.5 hours. Perfectly dried ginger! Then I just ground that up in the coffee grinder.

Chai Masala, A Family Recipe

The spice mixture that gives Masala Chai (Indian Tea) its character
4.74 from 45 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Spice Mixtures
Cuisine Indian
Servings 50
Calories 2 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 21 g cinnamon sticks (3 Tbsp ground)
  • 12 g ginger (2 Tbsp ground)
  • 6 g cardamom seeds (1 Tbsp ground)
  • 1 g nutmeg (1 tsp ground or grated)
  • 3 g cloves (1 1/2 tsp ground)
  • 5 g black pepper (1 1/2 tsp ground)
  • ¼ tsp saffron (1 big pinch)

Instructions
 

  • Add all whole spices, except saffron, to a spice or coffee grinder. Grind to a fine powder.
    Add whole spices
  • Add saffron and any powdered spices. Pulse 3 times.

Notes

Break up your cinnamon sticks into small pieces before adding it to your grinder or you may have trouble getting it to grind completely.
If you substitute powdered spices for any whole spices, grind all of the whole spices first, then add the saffron and powdered spices to mix them in.

Nutrition

Serving: 5gCalories: 2kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 0.05gFat: 0.03gSaturated Fat: 0.01gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.01gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.005gSodium: 0.3mgPotassium: 6mgFiber: 0.3gSugar: 0.02gVitamin A: 2IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 6mgIron: 0.1mg
Keyword chai, masala, spice mix
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

(Originally posted February 25, 2013; updated August 16, 2022)

37 comments

  1. I’ve been seeing recipes for chai so many time now that it would be a sin not to make it! Love the sound of this recipe and will definitely try it. Thanks so much in sharing yours for the home made challenge! Loving the photos!

  2. Thank you for this beautiful post, but how do you use the masala spices, tea, and milk into chai? What are the proportions and do you need to strain out the spices before serving in a cup? Thank you!

  3. Hello, I’m on a mission to make the perfect cup of chai.

    The best chai I ever had in America was from Kasa eatery. Their chai has a wonderful pop of cardamom in it, along with other spices and a rich tea taste. I’m wondering if ground spices are better to use than whole spices? I heard that grinding the spices in small batches can bring out the flavor a little better.

    1. Hello,
      This ground spice mix is what my mom uses to make chai. I know I’m biased, but I think my mom makes the best chai around!
      Grinding the spices increases the flavor and aroma of the spices. Because ground up spices lose flavor faster, I grind mine in small batches (just as the recipe above). This recipe makes about 1/2 cup of chai masala. If you don’t think you can use up that much within a couple of months, just halve the recipe when you make it.

  4. What a lovely page. I am also a true chai fan in Vancouver missing my mum’s homemade recipe, but I discovered Trudy Ann’s Bombay Masala Chai. She’s Vancouver-based and only really sells at local Farmers Markets and stores, but she now sells online and her recipe is spot on! I like your suggestion of saffron – will definitely try it!

  5. Namasté!

    I have been a spice nut since I don’t know when… Visiting India, Nepal and Sri Lanka was a spice nut dream come true!!! It could be interpreted as weird but I put chai masala in my homemade bread. I just can’t live without it!!! Very destabilizing, very unusual taste but once tasted: there is no coming back to white bread. Dhanyavard!

    Marc. Lamarre, [email protected]

      1. Sounds like a wonderful fall recipe! Do you measure the cloves and pepper before or after you grind them?
        Thanks

        1. Hi!\Namasté!

          Take all desired spices and weigh them before grinding. After, I mix them with flour before adding wet liquids (water/milk). Marc

  6. This is the greatest chai Masala I’ve ever seen, it include saffron.
    Thanks alot for this post. Could you believe that, after making your own recipe, I had to discard the previous spice.

    Beautiful picture, and lovely cinnamon stick.

  7. Hi Puja, just what I was looking for. I have to say I cheated and used pre-ground spices, so it’s not as good as it should be, but I do go through a lot, so to feed my masala chai addiction every day at work without having to resort to expensive pre-made spice blends or “chai” tea bags (which here in Scotland seem to be uniformly bland and disappointing no matter how much money one spends on them) this is perfect. The next best thing to being able to pop out to the chai wallah, thank you!

  8. //stuck it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 2.5 hours//
    Ginger will lose a lot of its flavour. Instead use sun-dried ginger. This is true for any spice.

  9. This Chai Masala is mind blowingly delicious. The saffron adds something special to the mix and I don’t recommend skipping it! My fiance and I love it so much that we’re going to bottle it for favors at our wedding. Thank you for this!

  10. Hello, Do you toast the whole spices in this chai masala recipe before grinding them? Thank you for sharing this recipe! I am very excited to try it!

  11. 5 stars
    I add this to my apple butter and it’s delicious. The only change I make is to grind up 4-5 dried vanilla pods and add that to the mix. I make my own vanilla so I always have plenty of beans around.

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