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.
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.
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.
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
- 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)
- Add all whole spices, except saffron, to a spice or coffee grinder. Grind to a fine powder.
- Add saffron and any powdered spices. Pulse 3 times.
(Originally posted February 25, 2013; updated August 16, 2022)