We've all done it. Popped out, bought a jar, then scratched our heads, wondering why our curry doesn't taste authentic. While you can buy tandoori paste, making your own is far cheaper and tastier. You can make it in about the same amount of time it takes to make a cup of tea! Today I will show you how to make tandoori paste, just like the Indian takeaways do!
What is Tandoori Paste Made of?
Tandoori paste is made up of a few traditional Indian herbs and spices. These are things like coriander, fennel, cumin and turmeric. This is all mixed together then combined with a little oil and vinegar to make a thick paste that will provide a tasty addition to your curries.
Let's go into a detailed breakdown of what you'll find in my recipe: -
Unlike the coriander leaf, coriander powder is a lot more subtle. Coriander powder has a vague curry note, but the overwhelming taste is floral and citrusy. If you don't like coriander (yes, some people think it tastes like soap), don't worry. Coriander powder is a world removed from the leafy herb.
Fennel is a great additive for any meat dish, and using it in curry is no exception. When in seed form, they look like tiny oval grains of rice. They give a strong aniseed flavor, with a very slight sweetness when they are ground.
Cumin is a common feature in a lot of Asian dishes. You'll also hear it referred to as 'jeera'. Cumin has a smokey undertone along with a little bitterness. In this recipe, you will start using the seeds whole before grinding them later.
Black pepper (especially fresh ground black pepper) is a delight and far removed from the tasteless powder you'll get from the supermarket. When your roast and grind peppercorns, they smell almost citrusy.
Fenugreek, or methi, if you prefer, is another solid feature in lots of curry dishes. It is fairly mild in taste and adds a slight herby note, similar to bay leaves.
Cinnamon is another spice with a slight anise flavour. It is also a little bit sweet.
I'm a massive fan of Kashmiri chilli. Kashmiri chilli serves a few purposes. It is responsible for the bright red colour prevalent in tandoori masala paste. It adds a little bit of heat too!
Turmeric is a firm favourite and features heavily in most tandoori pastes and marinades. If you've ever had yellow fingers after eating something like onion bhajis, you can be pretty confident that turmeric is to blame.
Turmeric and cumin are what people normally associate with that 'curry taste'. It is a mild yellow spice with a subtle undertone of smokiness.
We aren't after making tandoori powder. We want to know how to make tandoori paste. So, we are going to need a liquid element. Oil is perfect. I prefer to use vegetable oil, but you could also use olive oil.
After making your tandoori masala paste, the flavours will steep into the oil over time, making it even tastier!
This is a bit of a secret ingredient that many people miss.
Adding vinegar, a mild acid really brings out the flavors in your tandoori masala paste. It also works well to really make the bright red colour pop.
What Can You Make with Tandoori Masala Paste?
You can add the tandoori masala paste to practically any curry to bring it up to the next level. The cooking part is already done because your spices have been pre roasted and combined with the oil! I often use a spoonful or two at the end of the cooking process, but you can also use a spoonful when frying meat at the start to produce a quick 'hot marinade'.
Aside from using tandoori masala paste in curry, it is also really easy to add a few spoonful's to a little yoghurt, making a wonderful overnight marinade. Here are some of the dishes you could make using it: -
- Tandoori Lamb Chops
- Tandoori Style chicken tikka
- Tandoori Chicken Legs
- Tandoori Lamb Kebabs
- Roti Kebab
- Sikh Kebab
- And many more…
If you've got a home tandoor, the end results are even better.
Why Make Your Own Tandoori Masala Paste?
There are several reasons why tandoori masala paste is better than any store-bought jar. Here are some great reasons to consider making tandoori masala paste: -
Homemade Tandoori Paste is cheaper
When you look at the above description when considering how to make tandoori masala paste, you will realise that there is absolutely nothing fancy or hard to find. If you love making Indian food, you will already have most of these Indian herbs and spices at home.
Tandoor Paste Tastes Better
Jars that are designed to cater to the masses are nowhere near as good as your own creations. Your idea of good tandoori paste and what someone else thinks is entirely different.
And let me tell you this.
They are different.
I 100% guarantee that once you have made your own, there will be no going back to store-bought rubbish!
It is Customisable
Want to tone down the heat? Make a larger or smaller batch? Make it a little spicier? These things are possible if you learn how to make tandoori paste. You are in the spice driving seat, and you'll be able to make it your way.
How to Make Tandoori Paste
Ok, let's roll up our sleeves and get cookin'.
It is really easy to make tandoori paste. Ideally, you want to avoid using any premade powders (apart from the turmeric and Kashmiri chilli powder).
Yep, that's right.
Whole seeds are the way to go! We start by heating a dry frying pan. We then add coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and a cinnamon stick. We will gently toast these seeds until they turn all fragrant.
Does toasting make a difference? You bet! When the seeds are heated, all of those flavoured oils start to emerge, your kitchen is going to smell divine.
Once the seeds are toasted, you have two options. Either tip them into a pestle and mortar and grind them down to a fine powder or, as I prefer to do, whack them in a blender and blitz until they are completely pulverised.
We then add our turmeric and chilli powder before giving the mix a final stir.
Is that it?
Nope, not quite. We add a little oil and some vinegar a little at a time until it is a perfect consistency.
Add it to a jar, screw the lid on, and we are done!
See? I told you it was easy!
Want the short version? Here is a step by step guide to show you how to make tandoori paste.
Tips and Tricks for Making Tandoori Paste
- You must mix the oil and vinegar before adding to your tandoori masala mix. If you add the oil first and the mixture is too loose, you won't be able to add the vinegar!
- As I said above, this recipe is yours to do as you please. If it is a little too spicy, feel free to take a little chilli powder out. Just be aware that this is what gives your tandoori paste that vibrant red colour, so it may be a little paler.
- This recipe is scalable. If you want to make double the amount, just double all of the above quantities.
- If you haven't got a blender, a pestle and mortar do work well. It will just take a little more work to get your spices ground down to a fine powder.
- The longer you leave this tandoori paste to rest, the nicer it is. You can cook with it straight away, but leave it to rest overnight for the best results.
- Add about a tablespoon of this paste to half a cup of yoghurt along with some ginger and garlic paste to make an amazing tandoori masala marinade.
- Don't burn your spices. Toasted is good. Burning them will make them really bitter and unpleasant.
Tandoori Paste FAQ
When cooking Indian food (and making tandoori paste), often people have questions. Here's what most commonly gets asked.
Is Tikka the Same as Tandoori?
Tandoori and tikka are not the same things. "Tikka", literally translated, means "small chunks", "tandoori" on the other hand, is a style of cooking using a traditional clay oven. The confusion arises because, often, tikka chunks are cooked in a tandoor oven. Also, some dishes use both terms in their description, such as "tandoori chicken tikka".
Tandoori has also come to be associated with a certain flavour. If you want to know what that flavour is, the recipe above will put you well in the picture.
Are Garam Masala and Tandoori Masala the Same?
Garam masala and tandoori masala are not the same. The word "masala" literally translates as "mixed spices". The word "garam" in Hindi means "hot",… So "garam masala" translates to "hot mix of spices". The word "tandoor" has its roots in Hindi and is derived from "tandūr", meaning, simply, 'oven'.
Aside from the naming etymology, here are some other differences:-
- Garam masala is not hot, as it doesn't contain chilli, whereas tandoori masala does.
- Garam masala contains cloves, giving a much more prominent anise taste. Tandoori masala does not.
- Garam masala has more cinnamon than tandoori masala
- Tandoori masala doesn't feature cardamom pods, whereas garam masala does
- The percentage of fennel is higher in garam masala
- Garam masala is a brown color, tandoori masala is red
- Garam Masala and Tandoori Masala taste entirely different!
Why is Tandoori Chicken so Red?
It is all about the Kashmiri chilli powder! This red spice, when used in tandoori, is actually relatively mild, but it imparts a wonderful red flavour. Aside from its use in tandoori paste and tandoori masala, it is also occasionally used in other types of curry to add colour.
Many Indian restaurants know that their customers expect tandoori food to be bright red, so sometimes, they supplement this with a little red food dye!
How Long Does Tandoori Paste Keep for?
Provided you store it correctly, tandoori paste will keep almost indefinitely. It will easily last two months. The oil and acid from the vinegar mean that it doesn't really 'go off', provided you follow some common-sense guidance: -
- Keep your tandoori paste in the fridge
- Store your tandoori paste in an airtight container, such as a jar
- When adding your tandoori paste to a jar, ensure the jar is clean (a rinse in the dishwasher will do it)
- When taking a spoonful of your tandoori paste, use a clean spoon to avoid introducing foodborne bacteria into your jar
When I was first shown how to make tandoori paste, I was blown away. It is so easy, and you can really taste the difference. Having the ability to make it quickly, improve your curry dishes, and tailor it to your own requirements makes it a great skill to have. What are you going to make with yours? Here's a nice suggestion for some tasty chops!