This is the comprehensive guide to chaat masala. Explore where to purchase this aromatic spice blend and discover a variety of recipes that showcase the irresistible flavors of this lip-smacking ingredient.
Chaat masala is a spice blend used in the popular category of street food called chaat. To give you an understanding of what chaat tastes like, it helps to understand the meaning of the word chaat. The word chaat comes from the Hindi word chaatna which literally means "lip smacking". When you eat chaat or chaat masala you’ll often make a puckering or lip smacking motion with your mouth because it is salty, sweet, spicy, and citrusy all at once.
Ingredients in chaat masala
Chaat masala is a spice blend that is made from combining different powders and spices. Each brand makes their own seasoning mix with a different ratio of spices to set their chaat masala apart from the others. Here is a list of the most common ingredients in chaat masala and what flavor notes they bring to the table.
- Black Salt (Kala Namak): Pinkish hue pungent salt that smells like sulfur and is sour
- Dehydrated Mango Powder (Amchur Powder): Sweet and tart
- Cumin Powder: Earthy and peppery
- Coriander Powder: Earthy and herbal flavor
- Salt: Salty, allows all the spices to shine
- Dried Mint: Herbal freshness
- Asafetida (Hing): Umami
- (Optional) Chili Powder: Heat
Chaat masala vs. garam masala
Chaat masala and garam masala are two different spice blends in Indian cooking that have their own flavor profile and use cases.
- Chaat masala has more of a sour and tart flavor from dried mango powder (amchur) and black salt (kala namak) whereas garam masala has more warm and earthy flavors derived from turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom.
- The only three spices chaat masala and garam masala share in common are cumin powder, coriander powder, and salt.
- Some chaat masala recipes contain a bit of garam masala in them but not the other way around.
- Chaat masala is the main spice blend used in the broad category of street food called chaat whereas garam masala is used more in prepared stews and marinades.
Why does chaat masala have a funky smell?
Chaat masala's funky smell is due to a combo of kala namak (black salt) and hing (asafetida) in the seasoning. Kala namak is a pinkish sulfuric salt that smells kind of like rotten eggs if you smell it on its own. In addition, the spice blend has hing which has its own funky pungent smell that it also contributes.
However, without the sour taste from the black salt and the umami from hing you wouldn't have a lip-smacking chaat masala. So please bear with the smell and I promise you that you will get something delicious.
Homemade vs. store-bought chaat masala
I usually recommend that you make spice blends like garam masala at home but chaat masala is the exception. While it is possible to create a personalized homemade version of this spice blend by combining various individual spices according to personal preference, I find it more convenient to purchase the ready-made blend.
The main reason for this preference is the ease of acquiring the blend already prepared. Moreover, many of the powders included in this spice blend, such as dried mango powder, pose a challenge to make fresh at home. As a result, the homemade version essentially becomes a composition of store-bought powders, thereby diminishing the notable distinction between the store-bought and homemade variations.
Where to buy chaat masala
Chaat masala is still quite difficult to get at American grocery stores but if you have a local Indian grocery store near you I highly recommend going there and supporting them. Otherwise, here are my recommendations for chaat masala brands that you can purchase online:
- Diaspora Co's Chaat Masala ($15) - Freshest and most ethically sourced chaat masala. Diaspora Co has single-origin spices that they sell online. It is a bit on the pricer side because the spice blends haven't been sitting on the shelf for ages so the price is worth the flavor it brings to the table!
- MDH Chunky Chat Masala - Has musk melon powder and a bit of chili for a light kick.
- Shan Chaat Masala - The spiciest brand amongst the three brands listed.
Recipes that use chaat masala
How can you use chaat masala? Well, here are some recipes and ideas for you to put that seasoning sitting in your pantry to good use!
Chaat masala for fruits
Chaat masala is a great addition to fruits. It is such a great summer time or picnic snack to sprinkle chaat masala on your favorite fruits. Some fruits I recommend adding chaat masala to are:
Chaat masala substitutes
If you run out of chaat masala, here are some things you can substitute instead:
- Pani Puri Masala - Oftentimes this is very similar if not identical to chaat masala.
- Kala Namak - Black salt. Add a bit of black salt for tartness from chaat masala.
- Amchur Powder - Mango Powder. Add a bit of this to mimic the sweetness in chaat masala.
- Lime juice, sugar, cumin powder - This isn't a perfect substitute but lime juice will add tartness and sourness, the sugar will add sweetness, and cumin powder will add depth.
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