What to Put in Your Masala Dabba

what to put in your masala dabba


{Some suggestions to get you started with filling your own masala dabba}

About three years ago I started experimenting with Indian cuisine in my kitchen for the first time. Even though I grew up on a Punjabi diet, after I got married Indian food was pretty much non-existent in my home. We’d go over to mom’s on the weekend for paranthe and grab takeout butter chicken & rice every so often, but I doubt I even had a store bought garam masala in my cupboard at the time. Now, I can’t imagine using a garam masala I didn’t blend at home!spices for masala dabba

{I thought long and hard about that final spot!}

Over the last few years I’ve amassed quite the collection of spices (both ground and whole), and for the most part they live in spice containers from Ikea, mini freezer bags or various mix and match containers in my pantry. Now that I cook Indian food quite regularly I was itching for a better system to keep my ‘everyday spices’ handy, so I thought it was time I upgrade to a masala dabba. (A masala dabba is basically an 7 section spice box that you’ll find in almost every home in India, and they are readily available at Indian grocery stores or online.)

A quick check-in with Google provided a lot of suggestions on what to put in your masala dabba, but each list varied just a little. I decided to go with spices, seeds, and leaves I use quite frequently:

  • haldi {turmeric}
  • rai {mustard seed}
  • garam masala
  • dhaniya powder {coriander powder}
  • lal mirch {I blend red chilli powder and flakes to create my own blend},
  • jeera {cumin seeds}
  • dried kadi patta {curry leaves}

The one spice that I use almost daily but didn’t include; hing {asafoetida}. The smell of hing is so overpowering that I keep it inside a click & lock container to protect the rest of my spices! 

pink chai masala dabba

I think the beauty of the masala dabba is that you can customize it to your own cooking preferences. You can include whatever works for you. I’ll probably pick up one more box for my ‘seasonal spices’. I’ve recently gotten very interested in the healing and nutritional properties of spices and am using certain summer spices in my cooking and will likely switch to winter spices in the fall. I sort of had a feeling that seven containers wouldn’t be a enough for me so I bought a dabba without a handle – so I can stack them in the future.

PS: If you are local to the Lower Mainland, there is a great selection of masala dabbas at most Fruiticana stores!





  1. July 8, 2014 / 9:53 am

    I learn something new from you each and every week. 🙂 Love this for having stuff you use frequently at hand.

  2. July 8, 2014 / 1:13 pm

    Raj, My mom and every one I know in India had to have this masala dabba in their kitchen. I store mine in small glass jars from IKEA.

    • July 8, 2014 / 9:47 pm

      I had all of mine in those IKEA jars until I start this pantry project!

  3. July 10, 2014 / 9:44 am

    I love how these look. I am such a messy cook though (I think proper cooks are messy lol). It wouldn’t be practical for me. My spice jars are just spilling left, right and centre.

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