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Feb 29, 2016

Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins

 Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins

I'm pretty excited about these brown sugar, garam masala, and pistachio muffins. They had a warm, earthy, and deliciously complex flavor.

Garam masala you ask? It's a blend of spices used in regional Indian cooking. I've read that the phrase in English means "warm spice." Epicurious describes it as the Indian equivalent to the French herbes de Provence, or the Chinese five spice blend.

 Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins

This month, in honor of leap year, the Muffin Monday group was challenged to use an ingredient they'd never used before. And never meant never. In a muffin. As a leap of faith.

I'm in!

Fortunately, as an ingredient "enthusiast" (i.e. hoarder), I knew I'd find something in my spice cupboard that I'd bought on a whim but had never used. You see, I'm always falling for some sort of lovely spice or herb blend that I didn't know existed. Don't even get me near The Spice House in Chicago, a Penzey's store, or Williams Sonoma. I could spend hours!

While shopping my spice cupboard, I found Garam Masala (along with Ras el Hanout, a Moroccan blend of spices and Za'atar, a Middle Eastern blend of herbs, as well as a bunch of barbecue blends that I might have admit I'll never use).

The Garam Masala blend I found in my cupboard contains black pepper, coriander, cumin, mace, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaf.

Doesn't that sound interesting?

I combined the flavors with brown sugar and double strength vanilla, and then, because I was really feeling creative, topped the muffins with pistachio tossed in a tangelo glaze.

How fancy is that?

P.S. I will be making these muffins again. They are so good.

 Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins

After the recipe, check out what the rest of the Muffin Monday bakers made with a "new to you" ingredient this month. May this leap year be the year we all say yes to things that scare us and succeed!

 Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins

Makes 12 muffins


2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used double strength)

For the glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon (or so) freshly squeezed orange, tangelo, tangerine, or minneola juice
Handful of roasted, salted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped


  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees F. Live a twelve cup muffin pan with paper muffin liners. Set aside another set of 12 muffin liners in which to place the finished muffins. 
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and garam masala. 
  3. In a large bowl, add the melted butter. Whisk in the egg, the milk, and the vanilla. 
  4. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until combined. Add another third and whisk until combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until just combined. 
  5. Distribute the batter among the cavities in the muffin pan. 
  6. Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes, until golden and a toothpick emerges clean. 
  7. Cool and glaze (see below) the muffins in the pan on a wire rack. 
  8. To make the glaze while the muffins are baking, mix the powdered sugar and juice until you have a fairly runny glaze. Add the chopped pistachio nuts. 
  9. While the muffins are cooling, with a spoon, spread some of the glaze with a few coated pistachio nuts on top. 
  10. When the muffins have cooled completely, place them, original liner and all, in another paper muffin liner to contain the stickiness of the glaze. 
The rest of the "new to you ingredient" muffins:

#MuffinMonday is a group of muffin loving bakers who get together once a month to bake muffins. You can see all our of lovely muffins by following our Pinterest board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about Muffin Monday, can be found on our home page.

Would you like to comment?

  1. I love your use of garam masala in a sweet muffin, Karen! That never would have occurred to me but I can just taste it with the brown sugar! Spicy, warm and sweet.

    1. Thanks Stacy. That's exactly how they turned out!

  2. Dear Horder... oops, sorry Dear Karen... I know I would LOVE these muffins! I made some cookies once with cardamon and curry and fell in love with them like I never imagined I would..

    actually, I had to go back and check... can you believe it was exactly one year ago? March 1st... ok, leap year messed it up a little..

    if you don't mind me adding the link (feel free to remove and slap my hand) - here it is...

    1. Just checked your link and those cookies look wonderful!!!

  3. Sorry... HOARDER... it is early and my coffee hasn't kicked in yet (sigh)

    1. and just to make it very clear... I mean it as a compliment because it takes one to know one... THe Sisterhood of the Crowded Pantry

    2. I love that! And I took it as a total compliment =)

  4. I think they sound delicious Karen, and don't let those others name calling bother you. We hoarders must stick together!!!

  5. Hi Karen,
    I only hope I don't have to wait four more years for the next spice hoarder muffin recipe! Maybe this should be Spice Hoarder Saturday recipes series??��
    I can't wait to try this one. I thought the garam masala and pistachios were inspired but then you took it over the top with tangelo glaze!
    I ALWAYS look forward to your posts.

    Happy hoarding and good cheer,

  6. Garam masala in a sweet application? Love!! I really love all the elements that you combined.

  7. Karen,
    I think one of the benefits of moving is the opportunity to look at my spices with fresh eyes. I wrote spice drawer, because that's where they are in this house, but in the previous house it was a narrow cabinet with pull out shelves, the place before that was an upper cabinet that I was always loosing the bottles at the back, and so on . . .
    I currently have a bag of berebere that I bought "oh, I'll make Ethiopian food!" that remains standing by for when I actually turn the bag of teff grains into flour.
    I think these muffins sound complex and delicious, and I'd love to try this recipe with *my* garam masala.

    1. My cupboard is a narrow pullout and I can see everything, but then there's the spillover cupboard.....

  8. I'm just staring at these yums. So interesting. I love muffins. These are going into my must make list!


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