Here’s how to make masala chai! This fast and easy method makes a delicious cup of creamy, cozy-spiced Indian tea. Vegan variation included.
There’s nothing quite like a cup of masala chai. This Indian spiced milk tea is popular all around the world. There’s something about the mashup of creamy milk, subtly herbal tea, warm cinnamon and cardamom, and nuanced sweetness that hits 100% on the cozy drink meter. This is the best fall drink for when you pull out your sweaters, or a warming drink for the depths of winter. Of course, it works in any season: and once you try this recipe, you’ll start making it that often, too.
What is masala chai?
You might know it as “chai tea,” but that’s incorrect. The word chai translates to “tea” in Hindi, so saying chai tea is like saying “tea tea.” The more correct term for the Indian milk tea is masala chai. The word masala refers to a blend of spices used in cooking. Just like curry, the American concept of chai represents a Westernized reduction of a complex blend of Indian spices, and can oversimplify and appropriate a rich Indian cultural tradition.
The masala chai spices
What are the masala chai spices? Masala chai spices can include many different ingredients based on the cook and region, just like a curry powder blend. This mix uses the most common chai spices: but there are many more used regionally in Indian blends. Here’s what is in our masala chia spices mix:
- Black pepper
- Fennel seed
There are more unique spices that are used regionally, like bay leaves, mint, coriander, lemongrass, mace, saffron, star anise, and more. Here’s the way our Indian friend Ruchi makes masala chai.
Ground vs whole spices
Many masala chai recipes use whole spices, like whole cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods. Other recipes use ground, or a mix of whole and ground. Some recipes call for grinding whole spices in a mortar and pestle before letting them simmer with the tea.
This blend of masala chai spices is ground, which can be easier to find and cheaper. It also makes the process very quick and easy. You’ll find the flavor is beautifully nuanced with just the right amount of spice. Using ground spices also allows you to use the spice blend in baked goods like cookies and muffins. Note that many traditional Indian masala chai recipes simmer the whole spices.
The tea to use for masala chai
You can use any type of black tea for masala chai. A strong tea such as Darjeeling or Assam is traditional, but you can also use English breakfast tea. You can use either tea bags or loose leaf tea. 1 tea bag equals 1 teaspoon loose leaf tea. You can place your tea in a tea strainer if you’d like. But you also will be straining the tea after simmering it, so you can leave the leaves loose if desired.
What’s the best milk for masala chai?
The great thing about masala chai is that you can use many different types of milks, from dairy to non-dairy. Here’s our recommendation for the best types of milk to use for masala chai:
- 2% milk. This is our top option: it’s just creamy enough.
- Whole milk. Even richer and creamier.
- Oat milk. Oat milk is the best choice for vegan masala chai! It’s creamy and has a great neutral flavor. When you use oat milk, you can substitute it for the water.
- Soy milk. Soy milk is another good plant-based choice because of its creamy body.
What milk to avoid for masala chai? Don’t use skim milk, the texture is too watery. Also steer away from almond milk for the same reason.
Other ways to drink masala chai: as a latte!
Love masala chai? The next best thing is a chai latte. This Western fusion spin got popular at coffee shops in the 1990’s by mashing up masala chai with steamed milk from a traditional latte. To make a chai latte, you heat the the milk separately and then froth it before adding it to the tea. Here’s how to do it:
- Chai Latte or Vanilla Chai Latte Here’s how to make a chai latte at home…the easy way! This drink is creamy and cozy spiced with the perfect fluffy foam topping.
- Vegan Chai Latte Make it plant based by using oat milk! This is the best type of milk for a latte because it froths up like dairy milk.
- Dirty Chai Latte Even better, make it a Dirty Chai! Add a shot of espresso to your chai latte (our favorite).
- Iced Chai Latte This sweetly refreshing tea latte is made with black tea, cozy spices and milk.
This masala chai recipe is…
Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, plant-based and dairy-free, use the dairy free milks listed above.Print
Here’s how to make masala chai! This fast and easy method makes a delicious cup of creamy, cozy-spiced Indian tea.
- Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Once it just starts to boil, remove it from the heat and rest 1 minute.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer into 1 large mug or 2 small mugs.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Indian inspired
Keywords: Masala chai, how to make masala chai
More tea recipes
We might be the biggest coffee fans you know…but we’re also obsessed with tea! Here are a few more homemade tea recipes to try:
- Iced Tea Recipe or Cold Brew Tea Here’s how to make iced tea: two ways! They’re both quick and easy with a beautifully smooth flavor.
- Sweet Tea Classic! This recipe comes out with best refreshing flavor that’s sweetened just enough.
- Ginger Tea Here’s how to make ginger tea with fresh ginger root! This soothing and invigorating drink has big flavor and potential health benefits, too.
- Herbal Tea Recipes Make tea in 5 minutes with fresh herbs and boiling water! Here are all the best herbal tea recipes to try with fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, and more.
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.