Recipe courtesy of Nidhi Jalan for Food Network Kitchen

Masala Chai

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 20 min
  • Active: 15 min
  • Yield: 3 cups 
Chai means tea and masala means spices, and masala chai is a heavenly concoction of tea cooked with milk and spices. It is the ultimate comfort drink for most Indians, who drink it all day long, summer and winter. Available in chai shops on every street corner, on every highway and at every railway station, it tastes best in an unglazed terracotta cup called a ‘shikora’ or ‘kulhar’ that can be crushed underfoot after drinking--huzzah! The earthy smell and taste of the red clay complements the chai and takes the experience to a whole new level. Masala chai can be made using a variety of spices, including fresh ginger, cardamom, black pepper, bay leaves, cinnamon and saffron (and loads of sugar of course).It’s wonderful on its own, but is also often enjoyed with sweet Parle-G biscuits or fried savory snacks such as samosas, pakoras and crunchy namkeen or murukku. A couple of rules for good chai: one, make it with black CTC tea (the cheap tea that looks like tiny black pellets) and never use expensive leaf tea, as it will turn bitter while cooking; and two, always use fresh ginger.



  1. Heat 2 1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cardamom and ginger and bring to a rolling boil. Add the tea and cook until the mixture darkens, about 1 minute, then add the milk and sugar.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil again, lower to a heavy simmer and cook, adding another teaspoon of tea after about 4 minutes if the mixture is not turning a nice caramel color, until the chai is a rich caramel color and a skin forms on top, about 8 minutes. Raise the heat to high and let the chai foam up until it reaches almost to the top, then immediately turn off the heat; be careful that it does not boil over and create a mess.
  3. Strain into cups or a vacuum flask, so you can leisurely enjoy multiple cups of tea! Add more sugar to taste, if using.

Cook’s Note

There are many brands of black tea that you can buy, but any Assam CTC is a good bet. Some of the more common black teas are Tetley, Taj Mahal and Lipton. Just don’t buy flavored tea or leaf tea, as those are not good for masala chai.