What to Put in Your Masala Dabba

what to put in your masala dabba, fill your masala dabba, pink chai living

What to put in your masala dabba? This is actually a question I get asked all the time, (most often when I cook live on insta stories). Honestly, there is no hard an fast rule or guide for what ‘must’ go in your masala dabba, but I can definitely share what works for me. In fact, I originally wrote this post almost 5 years ago, and when came back to update it I was sure my selections would have changed, but nope, this is still the same set-up for my everyday spice box. (Another day we can talk about the one that I keep my specialty masalas in!) 

My Indian cooking style is primarily Punjabi, and that reflects in my masala choices too. I’m a huge believer that quality spices are vital to making a delicious dish. Whenever possible I buy whole spices and grind them myself, and I almost always make my own garam masala. This extra step makes such a big difference in the overall quality of my cooking, and I also find it weirdly relaxing. 

spices for masala dabba

If you are new to cooking Indian food, or filling your first masala dabba try to think of it as a tool that will evolve, and your guide to flavours. In my family we also have a favourite expression (courtesy my mom), the masala dabba is also a medicine box. So many of the spices that we use in our cooking are used in Ayurveda as medicine. Another reason to prioritize quality over quantity when stocking up. 

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. These 6 + 1 seasonal rotating favourite are always found in my masala box though!

What to put in your masala dabba:

  • haldi {turmeric} – haldi goes in almost all of my Indian dishes for colour and health benefits.
  • rai {mustard seed} – I use rai in the tempering/tadka for any greens, and a lot of sabzis
  • garam masala – the magical finishing spice of Indian food. 
  • dhaniya powder {coriander powder} – I cannot make a daal without this baby
  • lal mirch {I blend red chilli powder and flakes to create my own blend} – lal mirch because hello!
  • jeera {cumin seeds} – all rice and potato dishes need some jeera action IMO.
  • your choice

For me, the ‘your choice’  blend is the most fun & the most important! It forces me to try new recipes and flavours. When I originally wrote this post in 2014 I was obsessed with kadi patta and used to dry my own and use it in everything! Since then I’ve alternated between tej patta, dried coconut, and whole nutmeg. I also went through a cardamom in everything phase. For me there is no rules and restrictions in cooking, let the flavours speak to you and mix and match as you please. 

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.

Guys, check out this paragraph, from the original post (circa 2014) – this girl had no idea what she was getting into in the kitchen!

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.

I hope this post answered your questions about what to put in your masala dabba. If you are looking for some more advice or have further questions, leave a comment, or reach on Instagram!

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to check out what I keep in my summer spice box, how to dry and store kadi patta, and my Punjabi style bhindi recipe.



  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.

  4. March 26, 2020 / 5:33 am

    The authentic design of masala container adds charm to your kitchen. This masala dabba will stay in your kitchen for years to come and it is compact in size however helps you to store the same in your kitchen shelf or cupboard comfortably. This authentic design masala box will give elegance to your kitchen, you can use it in dining table also.

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