Sri Lankan Spices

Before I tell you about the Sri Lankan spices (or rather spice mixtures), let me remind you about this month’s Eating with the Seasons event that’s hosted here at Maninas. This month, we are celebrating the seasonal ingredients for January, so hurry up and send me your entries on or before 15 January! As always, I look forward to your seasonal tips and recipes!


Anyhow, back to Sri Lankan spices! In my introductory post on this beautiful and aromatic cuisine , I mentioned spice mixtures that are characteristic for Jasmine’s Sri Lankan cooking: Sri Lankan garam masala, Sri Lankan curry powder, etc. What I didn’t tell you then that Jasmine packed me home with a little treasure: stacks of her spices and recipes for how to make them! In addition to the curry powder and the garam masala, I’ve also got a recipe for her tempering spices and rasam powder. Enjoy!


Sri Lankan Garam Masala

Sri Lankan garam masala is very different from what I know as Indian garam masalas (For a wealth of regional Indian recipes, check out Vegeyum’s beautiful and informative post). The most important difference is that the spices not roasted; cinnamon, cardamom and cloves are simply ground together raw, and the flavours of cloves and cardamom are dominant. The masala is used in certain meat and vegetable curries, and the recipe is simple:


1 tbsp green cardamom pods

1 tbsp cloves

2 cinnamon sticks, about 7 cm in length each


Simply grind all the ingredients together.

NOTE: Proportion of the ingredients can vary. The flavours of cardamom and cloves are dominant, but to what extent? Play around and find your own winning combination!

At first, I found the flavour of raw cloves a little challenging, but I soon got over it, and got used to it. In fact, I started loving it, and craving it!


Sri Lankan Curry Powder

Sri Lankan curry powder is roasted, and not ‘raw’: the spices are roasted and then ground, which gives them a seductive nutty flavour. The curry powder is often added to the dishes at the final stages of cooking, to finish off the flavours. There are numerous versions of the recipe, and it’s usually homemade. This is Jasmine’s:


200 g fennel seeds

100 g cumin seeds

1 tbsp green cardamom pods

1 tbsp cloves

2 cinnamon sticks, about 7.5 cm in length each

a handful of curry leaves

pandan leaves, 7 cm piece (optional)


All the ingredients are roasted briefly together, and then ground.


Jasmine’s Tempering Spices

Jasmine uses this spice mixture for tempering her delectable dhals and vegetable preparations.


Brown mustard seeds

cumin seeds

fennel seeds


Equal amounts of these spices are simply coarsely ground all together (unroasted).


Jasmine’s Rasam Powder


1 cup coriander seeds

1 dessert spoon of cumin seeds

1 dessert spoon of fennel seeds

1 dessert spoon of black pepper

a few dried red chillies


The spices are simply ground all together (unroasted).

ALSO: Jasmine keeps at hand a mixture of freshly ground, raw cumin and black pepper, which I think is a great idea as I love both of these flavours.


I don’t have a recipe for Sri Lankan chilli powder (which is a mixture of spices),  as she shared with me some of her own, sent to her especially and all the way from Sri Lanka. I really am lucky! 🙂 (A quick note: I’ve noticed she uses chilli powder when cooking meat, and certain vegetable curries, and green chillies in other vegetable preparations and dhal.)

There you go! Now we’re all set to cook Sri Lankan! (Though I appreciate that many of these ingredients may be difficult to find for many people.) More delicious recipes coming next! In fact, I’m going to post a Sri Lankan recipe for a leek and cabbage side dish  with coconut for the January Eating with the Seasons, so stay tuned!



My other posts and recipes on Sri Lankan cooking:

The aroma of curry leaves: Sri Lankan cooking (Introduction)

Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and leek with coconut

Sri Lankan coconut dhal

Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets


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