Beloved chaat masala, epic poems should be written in your honour, or beautiful florid sonnets singing about your wonders to alter lives forever and bring us unending joy. A flavour that is both familiar and yet, exotic, filled with mystery and promise….
For anyone who is a fan of chaat (indian street food/snacks) than this is something you are quite familiar with, even if you don’t know it. For those of you who have yet to experience this divine powder, i envy you, you will never forget your first taste of chaat masala. Rich, complex, filled with umami, punchy acidity, salty, slight sweet notes….it’s everything all in one. Much like garam masala, there is no single exact recipe for chaat masala that is considered the “standard”, the usual suspects found in this brilliant powder of kitchen sorcery are often cumin, coriander, fennel or anise, kala namak (black salt), chile powder, and amchoor (unripe mango powder), and often hing….their amounts vary dramatically, as well as the other ingredients used. This blend is a nicely balanced amalgam of flavours and scents, with no one note standing high, with a nice burst of tartness, a touch of heat, and just enough salt to pull everything together without overwhelming it. I’ll point out here that this is a blend mostly for savory dishes, chaat masala is also used for fruit and sweets, but that’s best handled (in my opinion) by a slightly different blend that will grace these pages someday.
13g | 2 Tbsp whole cumin seed
8.5g | 2 Tbsp whole coriander seed
2.5g | 1 tsp whole fennel seed
3.5g | 1 tsp whole ajwain/carom seed
5g | 1 tsp hing/asafoetida (compounded)
13g | 2 Tbsp amchoor powder
16g | 2 Tbsp amla powder*
8g | 1 Tbsp garam masala
1.5g | 2 tsp dry mint (spearmint)
3.5g | 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
10g | 1 Tbsp ground ginger
7.5g | 2 tsp kala namak (black salt)
2g | ½ tsp kashmiri chile powder**
3.5g | 1 tsp onion powder
3g | ½ tsp citric acid***
25g | 2 Tbsp fine salt
Toast (individually) cumin, coriander, fennel, ajwain, and hing, set aside to cool
Once cool, grind toasted spices with mint and salts until fine, then blend in powders to combine
Will keep for 3 months tightly sealed, or 6 months in the freezer
Because of the amchoor, amla, and salts in this blend, keep it VERY TIGHTLY sealed, or add some desiccant packs to the container, otherwise it clumps very easily
*if you can’t find amla powder, sub with the same amount of amchoor **you can reduce or eliminate the kashmiri chile powder for a milder blend, or substitute with a milder chile powder. Or, if you prefer spicier, use more! ***citric acid powder is pretty cheap and easy to find, brewing supplies, cheesemaking supplies, bodycare making supplies, or you can find it as vitamin C powder (just check to make sure it’s just citric acid and not chelated.) you can also sub the same amount of True Lemon or True Lime, which will give some nice citrus flavor as well
Let’s talk about some of the ingredients here, amchoor and amla (indian gooseberry) powders bring in wonderful fruity, sweet and tart elements, this is very important to a good chaat masala, and can not be skipped. They’re easy to find in any indian grocer, as well as the interwebs, if you’re not able to find the amla (slightly less common to find outside of capsules) you can easily sub an equal amount of amchoor, but you will lose some of the nice cherry-esque notes the amla brings to the table. Fennel brings in even more sweet notes, mint some herbaceous brightness to lighten things up, cumin for it’s earthy/woodsy tones, paprika for richness and fruity notes, kashmiri chile for heat, ajwain for some bitterness and ethereal airy notes that really help to balance things, onion to help meld flavors and bridge some gaps, ginger for zing and more earthiness, citric acid for added clean tartness.
Now, there are two ingredients here you may not have encountered before, and you may scream in revolt when you do….hing (or asafoetida) and kala namak (black salt)…both of these have rather pungent sulphur smells when raw, overwhelmingly so for some people. They are absolutely vital here, they can not be skipped, don’t do it. IF, and only IF you find them so repugnant that you simply can not bring yourself to use them, add some garlic powder/granules to the mix instead, but this will not be the same at all. You will lose some soft, rich, umami notes that you’re just not going to get otherwise. You just have to trust me on this one that they will elevate this blend, pinch your nose and go on with it. The hing will be dramatically changed by some light “toasting” giving you this, hard to describe, oniony, garlicky sort of umami-ness….but softer than either, and drier….it’s very hard to describe, and also, again, very hard to replace. The hing i use is a powdered “compounded” hing (which is also the only version i’ve seen fro sale in the states), if you’re making this gluten free, make SURE you buy one that doesn’t have wheat starch as this is a very common compounding agent used with hing.
Much like garam masala, the toasting of the spices is crazy important here for the final flavour (i talk more specifically about the changes that occur in that post) and especially for the hing (for the reasons mentioned above.) Don’t skip it. Seriously. Don’t. Do the hing last, reduce the heat to low so you’re relying more on the heat left in the pan, keep it moving around and you’ll know it’s done when it smells like i described before, oddly familiar of onions and roasted garlic, without the harsh raw sulphur scent.
Try and grind this one up as fine as you can, and make sure you store it very tightly sealed and/or with desiccant as the powdered fruit and salt make this very prone to clumping. This is also best after allowing the flavors to meld for a few days before using, but at least overnight. Use it to top chaat, roasted nuts, popcorn, tostones, chips, fries….and ESPECIALLY guacamole, it is so so so good on guac, like crazy insane ridiculous good. whatever you desire to shake this onto is thumbs up, it goes good on an enormous amount of stuff. You will also see us use it in several recipes here, most notably, chutneys, so it’s good to have on hand for that as well.