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Masala vs. Curry: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 15, 2023
Masala refers to a blend of spices ground into a powder or paste, used in Indian cooking, while curry is a dish flavored with spices, typically including meat or vegetables, often served with rice.

Key Differences

Masala is a term used in South Asian cuisine to describe a mixture of spices. These spices can be ground into a powder or paste and are used to flavor dishes. Curry, on the other hand, is a dish prepared with a variety of ingredients including meat, vegetables, and a spice mixture, which often includes a masala blend.
The composition of masala varies widely and can include spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, and garam masala. Curry, in its many forms, is a culinary preparation that uses masala along with other ingredients like coconut milk, tomatoes, or yogurt to create a sauce or gravy.
While masala is primarily about the spice blend itself, curry refers to the complete dish which combines these spices with main ingredients like chicken, lamb, fish, or vegetables. Curries can vary in heat and flavor depending on the types and amounts of spices used.
Masalas are often specific to certain dishes or regional cuisines, whereas curry is a more general term that encompasses a wide range of dishes across different regions, each with its unique style and flavor profile.
Masala is an essential component used in making curry, serving as the spice base, while curry is the broader term for the finished dish, which is typically more complex and includes a variety of other ingredients besides the spices.

Comparison Chart


A blend of spices, either ground or in paste form, used in cooking.
A dish cooked with a mix of spices and main ingredients like meat or vegetables.

Primary Use

Used as a seasoning or flavoring agent in dishes.
Refers to the whole dish, including spices and primary ingredients.


Can vary from simple mixes to complex blends, often specific to dishes or regions.
Encompasses a wide range of styles, ingredients, and preparations across different regions.


Composed only of spices.
Includes spices (often masala), main ingredients, and sometimes a sauce or gravy.

Cultural Association

Integral to South Asian cuisine, particularly in Indian cooking.
A diverse culinary concept found in various forms across South Asia and adapted globally.

Masala and Curry Definitions


Informally, masala refers to an exciting mix of events or activities.
Their vacation was a masala of adventure and relaxation.


Curry can refer to a variety of spice-laden dishes, varying in heat and flavor.
At the restaurant, they serve both Thai green curry and Indian red curry.


A mixture of ground spices used in Indian cooking.
He added a pinch of garam masala to the dish for flavor.


In Western cuisine, curry often implies a dish with a sauce based on curry powder.
He made a simple vegetable curry using store-bought curry powder.


A spice blend, each variety suited to different dishes.
For this recipe, you'll need a special chai masala.


Curry can also describe the act of preparing food with curry spices.
She loves to curry various meats and vegetables.


Masala can also refer to a genre of Indian cinema known for a mix of elements.
Bollywood is famous for its colorful masala films.


A dish originating from the Indian subcontinent, made with a spiced sauce.
She cooked a delicious chicken curry for dinner.


In a broader sense, anything mixed or blended.
The cultural festival was a masala of diverse traditions.


Broadly, curry is used to describe any spiced dish of South Asian origin.
Each region in India has its unique style of curry.


Any of various mixtures of spices that are used in South Asian cuisine.


To groom (a horse) with a currycomb.


Any of many blends of spices used in Indian cuisine, most often containing cardamom, coriander, mace together with pepper, nutmeg, fennel seeds, jeera etc.


To prepare (tanned hides) for use, as by soaking or coloring.


Any dish prepared with such spices.
We ordered two lamb bhunas and a masala.


What's the key ingredient in masala?

Masala is made up of various spices, often including cumin, coriander, and turmeric.

How many types of masala are there?

There are countless types of masalas, each suited to different dishes and regional cuisines.

Are all masalas hot in flavor?

No, masalas can range from mild to very hot, depending on the blend of spices.

Is curry always spicy?

Curry can vary widely in spiciness, from mild to very hot.

Can masala be bought pre-made?

Yes, pre-made masala blends are widely available in stores.

What's the difference between curry in India and the West?

Western curries often use a standardized curry powder, while Indian curries use a variety of spice blends.

Can masala be used in non-Indian cuisine?

Yes, masala can be creatively used in various global cuisines.

Can curry be made without masala?

While possible, masala is typically integral to curry for its signature flavor.

Is garam masala a type of curry?

No, garam masala is a type of spice blend used in making curries.

Can masala be allergenic?

Some people may be allergic to specific spices in masala blends.

Can you make your own masala?

Yes, you can make your own masala by blending different spices.

Is curry popular worldwide?

Yes, curry has gained immense popularity and adaptation worldwide.

What makes a masala authentic?

Authenticity in masala often comes from traditional recipes and quality of spices.

Is curry considered healthy?

Many curries, especially those with vegetables and lean meats, are considered healthy.

Is curry only a main dish?

Primarily, but curry can also be a side dish or part of a larger meal.

What's the most common type of curry?

Chicken curry is among the most common types, but this varies regionally.

Are curries always served with rice?

Often, but they can also be served with bread like naan or roti.

Are there vegetarian curries?

Yes, there are many vegetarian and even vegan curry options.

Can masala be spicy or sweet?

Masala can range from spicy to mildly sweet, depending on its ingredients.

How long can you store masala?

Stored properly, masala can last up to six months or more.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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