South Indian Masala (Spices of Kerala)

Kerala garam masala is fragrant with fennel, star anise, and mace. Quick to make and the mix of spices adds that extra something to stews, curries, eggs, rice, and dals.

In just 15 minutes you can have this beautiful mix of South Indian spices that will give you a memorable taste of Kerala. Use it as a substitute for the more readily found store-bought North Indian garam masala in all sorts of dishes. And, if you are feeling adventurous make a Goan garam masala, Madras Curry Powder, and Biryani Masala too.

  • About South Indian Masala
  • Ingredients
  • How to Make
  • How to Store
  • Recipes that Use Kerala Garam Masala:
  • Recipe Card

About South Indian Masala

There are many types of garam masala. Fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper star in a Kerala garam masala. While the North Indian garam masala is built on coriander and cumin. However, both masalas share cloves, black pepper, fennel, and cinnamon, in varying amounts.

Even in Kerala the ingredients and amounts vary from cook to cook. So I encourage you to tweak the spices to your taste after you make this spice mix at least once.

This spice powder is often paired with coconut, mustard seeds, and curry leaves. Use it to flavor my Kerala beef curry or a weeknight ground chicken (turkey) burger.


This garam masala starts with the whole spices of Kerala. You will need:

  • Fennel
  • Cinnamon
  • Black peppercorns
  • Cloves
  • Star anise
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg
  • Mace, optional

How to Make

Gather and measure out the spices.

With a heavy pan, meat mallet, or mortar and pestle break the nutmeg into several pieces to make it easier to grind with the other spices.

In a preheated pan over medium heat, toast all the spices except for the nutmeg.

TIP: Don’t be tempted to use a higher heat. Moderate heat gives time for the flavors to develop and ensures the spices don’t burn. This will take about 2 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant.

Allow the spices to cool for 5 minutes, stir in the crushed nutmeg, then grind in a spice (coffee) grinder or mortar and pestle.

How to Store

South Indian masala will keep well in an air-tight container in a dark place for one to two months. You can tell when it is past its prime if the blend is no longer fragrant. You can also pop the spice mix in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Recipes that Use Kerala Garam Masala:

Crispy, Juicy Kerala Fried Chicken

Creamy Kerala-Style Chicken Curry

Kerala Beef Curry with Coconut Milk

Chicken Burger Kerala-Style

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Please rate by clicking stars ⭐️ on the recipe card and/or let me know in the comments below. Thank you!

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