Chaat masala has such an intricate flavor profile that can bring so much depth to a dish, but it also means that finding a substitute can be tricky!
The zesty and tangy flavor of chaat masala is so unique, but there are some other spices and substitutes you can use in its place if you have run out.
What are the best substitutes for chaat masala? The best substitute for chaat masala will depend on what you are using it for. Generally, the best substitutes include garam masala, curry powder, tikka masala, baharat, harissa powder, dried mango powder, and lemon juice. You could also make your own chaat masala mix with a few simple ingredients.
To help you out in a pinch, read on for the best chaat masala substitutes, how to use them in its place, and how to make chaat masala at home!
What Is Chaat Masala
Chaat masala is a spice mix typically found in South Asia, particularly in Indian cuisine; however, it is used for cooking all over the world.
The spice mix can vary depending on the recipe used, but generally, it is a complex mix of flavors and spices that add great depth to a dish. It is a blend of saltiness, tanginess, tartiness, spiciness, and some umami too.
Chaat masala can be used to flavor a whole bunch of different ingredients and meals, and the uses are really quite wide.
Ingredients can vary based on the recipe, but here are the common ingredients used to make chaat masala:
- Black salt
- Dry mango powder
- Dry cumin seeds
- Coriander powder
- Red chili powder
- Ajwain powder
- Black peppercorns
- Mint leaves
The ingredient list shows the complex flavor that chaat masala has, with some of the single ingredients having a complex flavor of their own.
The Best Chaat Masala Substitutes
Chaat masala is not an easy ingredient to substitute, but if you are stuck, the below options should do quite well.
When picking out the best substitute for chaat masala, keep in mind what you need the substitute for to pick out which one would be right!
1. Garam Masala
Garam masala is one of the most commonly used spice mixes in Indian cuisine, so it should be really easy to come by when you need a substitute for chaat masala — you might already have some sitting in the cupboard already!
Just like chaat masala, garam masala is a blend of spices that can vary depending on the recipe, but most commonly, garam masala is made with cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, red chili powder, and black pepper.
Some of these ingredients are similar to those used to make chaat masala, but there are some ingredients missing — this means you might notice a slight lack of flavor. The best way to tweak this is to add some salt to the garam masala.
Garam masala is best used as a substitute for chaat masala when you are cooking a dish, as it is not the best option to use as a seasoning once food has been cooked.
Start out with a small amount of garam masala in the dish, and then continue adding some in until the dish reaches the right flavor profile for what you are after.
2. Curry Powder
Similar to chaat masala, curry powder is a blend of a range of different spices and ingredients, giving it a complex flavor profile that adds so much flavor to a dish.
However, there are many, many types of curry powder mixes on the market, so you will need to look for the right one.
There are some curry powder mixes that can include many of the same ingredients that chaat masala does, so you can get pretty close to the same flavors.
Most curry powder mixes include coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chili powder, ginger, and more. Curry powder does not contain any mango powder or salt, so this will be lacking when you use it to cook a meal.
You should only cook with curry powder, and not add it to a meal once it has already been cooked, as the spices will need time to develop.
You should be able to replace chaat masala with curry powder on a 1:1 ratio, but add it slowly and taste as you go to make sure that the flavor is not too overwhelming and the dish doesn’t take on a flavor too far from chaat masala.
3. Tikka Masala
Tikka masala is another great substitute for chaat masala, as it is a specific blend of spices that are mixed together to create an aromatic and pungent spice mix.
There are some common ingredients found between tikka masala and chaat masala, such as black pepper, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and red chili powder.
Tikka masala can also include dried mango powder, which gives it a very similar flavor to chaat masala.
If you cannot find tikka masala with mango powder in the mix, it will still be fine to use, but you can also add in some of your own if you have some.
Tikka masala has quite a strong flavor, so you will need to add it slowly to the dish you are making to prevent it from being too strong or overwhelming.
You will also need to add the tikka masala into the dish as it is cooking; like curry powder, it will need some time to develop and it will not taste great if added in near the end, or once the food has finished cooking.
Baharat is the first substitute on our list that can be used almost identically as chaat masala, whether added in during the cooking stage or afterward as additional seasoning.
There are also similar ingredients found in baharat and chaat masala (such as black pepper and coriander seeds), so the flavor profile will be quite similar. Some recipes include mint as well, making baharat even more similar to chaat masala.
The only issue with using baharat is that it does not contain any tart ingredients, and it is often lacking in salt as well. You can add in some salt and a tart ingredient to make up for this if needed.
Use baharat when cooking aromatic dishes when you have run out of chaat masala, or even use it to flavor salads and other dishes which are already prepared.
As baharat can contain some strong ingredients, it is best to use it sparingly at first, and then work your way up to your preferred flavor and spice level.
Keep in mind that some baharat recipes can include paprika, which can increase the spice level, so check for this before adding it to a meal.
4. Harissa Powder
Harissa powder is not from a similar area as chaat masala, and instead, it comes from North Africa. However, like chaat masala, it is a spice blend with an aromatic, strong, and garlicky flavor that really is delicious.
Both chaat masala and harissa paste or powder contain cumin, coriander, mint, and chili peppers, the only difference being that harissa is much spicier.
Only use a small amount of harissa paste or powder in place of chaat masala to start, and then add more if needed to increase the spice level and the similar flavor to chaat masala.
You might also want to add a dash of lemon juice to add some tartness to the spice blend, which will help replicate the tangy flavor that chaat masala has.
5. Dried Mango Powder
One of the key ingredients found in chaat masala is mango powder, and it is commonly the ingredient that many other substitutes are lacking.
Mango powder in chaat masala is what brings the tart and tangy flavor, which is what makes chaat masala a favorite for so many.
So, instead of using other substitutes which lack the tartness, you could opt to just use some mango powder instead!
To replicate the flavors of chaat masala as closely as possible, you would want to add some black pepper to the mango powder. This adds some spiciness and depth of flavor to the meal.
Just keep in mind that mango powder will not have the same spice level or depth as chaat masala does, but if you are just after the tartness, then it works well, and the black pepper can really add to the dish too.
Add a small amount of mango powder to a dish, taste it, and then add more if needed.
6. Lemon Juice Spice Mix
If you are out of all other options, or if you are wanting to avoid using spices, then the best substitute you could use in place of chaat masala is lemon juice with some black salt.
Black salt plays a big role in chaat masala, and using it in place of chaat masala will still give you some of that great sulfurous flavor that chaat masala has.
This flavor can then be highlighted and balanced with lemon juice, which will give it the sour tartness that chaat masala has as well.
This is a quick and easy fix in place of chaat masala, but you will have to play around with the different ratios before finding the one that works best for you.
There are other spices you can mix with some lemon juice to make a substitute for chaat masala, such as cumin, coriander, black pepper, and red chili. You can adjust the seasoning to suit your tastes and to suit what it is you are making.
How To Make Homemade Chaat Masala
If you have run out of chaat masala, or your local grocery is out of stock and you do not want to use any other substitute, you could always make your own chaat masala.
This will require quite a range of ingredients, but once you have made the chaat masala, you will be able to use it for quite some time.
The benefit of making your own chaat masala is that you can adjust it to suit your tastes best, whether you want more tartness, more saltiness, or a higher spice level.
It will take sourcing the different ingredients and some preparation, but once you have made your own chaat masala, you will be really happy that you put in the effort!
Here is a basic chaat masala recipe to make at home — just remember you can adjust the quantities to your preference.
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp ajwain seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp dried mint leaves
- 3 tbsp mango powder
- 1 tbsp black salt
- 4 tsp tamarind powder
- 5 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- ¼ tsp asafetida powder
- 1 tsp crystal salt
- Place the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ajwain seeds, and fennel seeds into a dry pan and roast them on the stovetop until they take on a darker brown color and release their aroma.
- Leave the seeds to cool down.
- Place all of the remaining spices, along with the roasted seeds, into a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- Grind down until the seeds and spices make a fine powder.
- Place the powder into an airtight container and label it with the name and date.
You can have a small taste of the chaat masala to check if it needs any other spices, and add any that you think are lacking.
Once ground down and stored in an airtight container, the chaat masala should be used within 6-8 weeks for the best flavor and aroma.
Chaat masala is such a unique spice mix that it can be difficult to replace.
Ultimately, the best substitute for chaat masala would be making chaat masala at home, but if you are in a hurry and don’t have access to all of the ingredients needed, this might not be the right option.
There are some other great substitutes you can use in place of chaat masala, such as garam masala, curry powder, tikka masala, baharat, harissa powder, dried mango powder, and lemon juice.
These are obviously all different from each other, so you will have to consider what you are using the chaat masala substitute for before deciding on the best option.
Chaat masala can be cooked into a meal or added to food for seasoning, but not all of the substitutes can be used both ways, so make sure to read through our above guidelines to find the one that is best for you!
Now that we’ve learned all about chaat masala and some of its top substitutes, here are some additional questions we thought you may have.
What is chaat masala used for?
Chaat masala can be used in so many different ways, but popular uses include sprinkling it on aloo chaat, bhel, dahi puri, and other meals. The tanginess can add a pop of flavor and spiciness to a dish.
What is a good substitute for garam masala?
If you have run out of garam masala, you could make a blend of cumin and allspice. All you need is one part cumin to ¼ part allspice to have a spice mix similar to garam masala.