Curry Powder vs Garam Masala: What’s The Difference?

Curry Powder

If you are a fan of Indian cuisine, you have most likely heard of both curry powder and garam masala as they are popular spices in many dishes.

These two ingredients can be fairly similar but they are not the same and you will need to learn the difference between them to use them correctly in your recipes.

The main difference between these two ingredients is that they use different ingredients which gives them different flavors as well.

You will notice right away that garam masala doesn’t contain turmeric-like curry powder and it has a more intense taste.

Curry Powder vs Garam Masala: Comparison Chart

Features  Curry powder  Garam masala 
Origin  India, Great Britain  India 
Ingredients  Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chili powder, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger powder, mustard powder, fennel seed powder, and black peppercorn Cloves, green and black cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seeds, nutmeg, and cumin seeds
Flavor  Sweet, spicy, mild Sweet, pungent, warm, intense 
Dishes  Soups, stews, stir-fries, marinades, veggies, and meat  Soups, stews, stir-fries, marinades, veggies, and meat
Cooking  Used as a base for food, during the cooking process Used as a cooking ingredient but also as a final touch ingredient 

Can You Substitute Garam Masala For Curry Powder?

As a general rule, you should avoid using these two spices interchangeably as they will give your food different flavors.

Garam masala will add a stronger taste to your dish due to the notes of garlic, cardamom, and cinnamon. The curry powder, on the other hand, is bringing a milder taste thanks to the cumin, turmeric, and fenugreek in it.

Even with these notable differences in terms of taste, many people choose to use these spices interchangeably. If you like both their flavors you can definitely give it a try as well.

The best way to use garam masala and curry powder are some Indian dishes is together. When combined, these two spices can offer your food a very rich flavor!

Is Garam Masala And Curry Powder The Same Thing?

Garam Masala

If you are not familiar with the diverse world of Indian spices, it will be easy to think that garam masala and curry powder are the same but that is not the case.

These two spice blends come from different spices and are used differently in cooking. So, you will not obtain the same taste from both of them.

You can make both of these spices at home or find them already made in stores. However, curry powder tends to be more popular worldwide, compared to garam masala.

What Can Be Substituted For Curry Powder?

If you don’t have curry paste but you want to use a similar spice, you can make your mix out of turmeric, coriander, and cumin. You can also mix turmeric with as many spices as you find that are common with the ingredients in the curry powder.

There are people that choose to use garam masala instead of curry powder. While this can turn out good enough for your final dish, it is important to know that you will not get the same taste.

Also, if you want to use garam masala instead of curry powder, use a lot less quantity of it as this spice has a stronger taste.

What’s The Difference Between Masala And Curry?

Curry powder

There are many differences between these two spices so we will address each one separately to give you a better idea of both of them!


Starting with the origin of these two spice blends, you might be surprised to find out that curry powder is not coming from India alone.

Curry is a way to define Indian spices in a more simplified manner, established by British people. So, while the recipe of curry powder and other curry-based spices is originated in India, the form of curries that we know today was altered by the British people as well.

Masala, however, is the type of spice that represents traditional Indian recipes. Therefore, garam masala is closer to the core of the Indian cuisine than curry powder. Garam masala is as common as salt in Indian families and it is one of the basic ingredients to many dishes.


There are many recipes for both garam masala and curry powder that you could encounter, and there are also some common ingredients in all of them. With that being said, we will refer to the recipes that are closer to traditional Indian cuisine.

Garam masala is a mix of cloves, green and black cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seeds, nutmeg, and cumin seeds. These ingredients are mixed in equal amounts but you will notice the cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom taste stronger than other spices.

Curry powder includes cardamom, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chili powder, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger powder, mustard powder, cinnamon, fennel seed powder, cloves, and black peppercorn. The fenugreek, turmeric, and coriander give the curry powder that mild flavor people like in Indian food.


The flavor of garam masala is more intense than the one of curry powder.

The translation of garam masala actually means “hot spice”. That should give you a good idea about its pungent taste.

The combination of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and the rest of the spices, give garam masala a sweet and warm taste that can add flavor to any dish.

In comparison, curry powder contains spices with a milder flavor such as turmeric powder. This makes curry a perfect base for your foods, however, not a powder that will be as pungent in taste as garam masala.


There are significant differences between garam masala and curry powder when it comes to using them in the cooking process as well.

Garam masala can be used as part of the cooking process or as a seasoning at the end of the cooking time. Both times, this spice will add a rich flavor to your dish.

Different from garam masala, curry powder should only be used during the cooking time as it tastes much better when it is heated.

When using garam masala, it is important to only use a pinch of it as it can overtake the other flavors in your dish. When it comes to using curry paste, you can add a more generous quantity since it has a milder taste.

Final Words

Both curry powder and garam masala can offer you the flavor you want to have in your dish.

But make sure to use them according to the recipe because adding too much garam masala can really take over your other flavors. When you are preparing an Indian dish, spaces are the secret to your success.

And once you get familiar with using these two spices, you might want to add them to different other dishes as well so allow yourself to be creative! 

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