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My grocery store sells a variety of masalas, or spice mixes, marketed for various dishes. For example, there is chicken masala, korma masala, chana masala, goat masala, etc.

Are these packaged mixes intended to be used on their own, as in the entire spice base of the dish comes from the mix? Or are these intended to be used in addition to other base spices such as cumin, coriander, black pepper, and turmeric?

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  • You can always add stuff to a spice blend (a little more heat if you have a generic one). There are some that are in the spice isles that are like this sold simply as ‘curry powder’ or ‘garam masala’, but there are other ones that have instructions on them that are are intended for a specific dish (often sold in small boxes so they can have more space for instructions). I’ve seen a lot of recipes that ‘garam masala’ or ‘curry powder’ as an ingredient in a more complex dish, but you have to be careful as there’s a bit of variety to the mixes
    – Joe
    Jul 13, 2023 at 14:58

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Most of them are intended to be used on their own. You'll find that the packaged masalas contain a large number of spices already.

Depending on the recipe, you might use small amounts of other spices because those spices need to be added at different times. For example, even when I'm using a Sambhar Masala mix, I still fry mustard seeds in oil at the beginning of cooking. Still, 90% of the spices in the dal are coming from the mix.

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    …and watch out for salt levels. Some of the ones you can buy in the UK already contain salt, others don't. That means some you can make a bit more punchy if you like, the others would just get too salty:\ The better ones want you to start with your own garlic/ginger too, rather than try fake it all in the mix. I think the overall guidance here is 'read the label' ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 13, 2023 at 6:56
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"If you can't make your own, store bought is fine"

There tend to be specific spice mixes for specific dishes, but they vary wildly between communities, cultures or family. These tend to be mass produced versions for folks who can't, or don't know how to make your own. They're meant to be used on their own for a specific preparation, but adjusting them to taste is fine.

So they're meant to be a base as part of a recipe, but you can always add your own base spices to taste, or do things like dry/oil roast them, even if the instructions don't say so.

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Its more what you call guidelines, than actual rules once you're familiar with its use :D

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