How to make Authentic Masala Chai, using whole spices, black tea and your choice of milk. A cozy comforting mug of goodness. Vegan-adaptable. Serve this with Spicy Chai Molasses Cookies! 

How to make delicious authentic Masala Chai, like they do in India, using using whole spices. Vegan and Sugar Free adaptable. #chai #chaitea #masalachai #howtomakechai #masala

Many thoughts appear in the mind, but it is the heart that holds one and not another.

Dorothy Hunt

Call me a late bloomer, but it wasn’t until I went to India and experienced Chai firsthand that I fell in love with it. Now, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t either make myself a cup, or pine for it.

Yes, I’ve had it numerous times here in the states, but somehow, either it was overly sweetened, too bland, or perhaps I had just never truly “connected” with it. It was almost like, I met Chai for the first time, at age 50 when I went to India. I can’t believe I lived so many years without it!

Masala Chai filled a void, I never knew I had, until those very first sips. ☕️

Here is a video of my favorite Chai Wallah at work- in a small village in Rajasthan, India. (Shot on my iPhone)

AUTHENTIC masala chai in India!

What is Masala Chai?

In India masala means spice, and chai means tea. Spiced Tea. And that is exactly what Masala Chai is -black tea infused with fragrant spices, typically served with milk.

Here in the states we often call this “chai tea”, or a chai tea latte. But in India,  saying “chai tea”, is like saying “tea tea”. So that’s why in India, one says Masala Chai – or spiced tea.

Good to know, right? 😉

How to make authentic Masala Chai, like they do in India, using using whole spices. Vegan and Sugar Free adaptable. #chai #chaitea #masalachai #howtomakechai #masala

Ingredients in Chai

There are typically four components in Masala Chai and the secret is finding the perfect balance between them.

  1. Black Tea
  2. Whole Spices
  3. Milk (or nut milk)
  4. Sweetener

What tea do you use for Chai?

  • The base of the Masala Chai is typically black tea. Most strong, rich, dark black teas will work well in Masala Chai- something robust enough to hold up to all the flavorful spices. The tea need not be expensive.
  • (I prefer to use a high-quality organic, loose black tea that I get in the bulk section of my grocery store.  I use about a heaping tablespoon per serving.)
  • Assam, Darjeeling is often used in India because they are grown there. Typical brands used are Lipton Yellow Label, and Taj Mahal, and PG Tips.  Some households will custom blend their own teas to create their own signature flavor. This can be a very personal thing.
  • You can also use  1-2 black tea bags.
  • Feel free to use decaf black tea.
How to make authentic Masala Chai, like they do in India, using using whole spices. Vegan and Sugar Free adaptable. #chai #chaitea #masalachai #howtomakechai #masala

What makes Masala Chai authentic is the use of spices. One thing is for certain, every single person in India probably has their own unique combination of spices they prefer in their masala chai and there is no one “right” way. It is very subjective.

What spices are used in Masala Chai?

Chai Wallahs- the street vendors who make masala chai, all have their own unique blend of chai spices as well- and as you can probably guess, I was obsessed with watching them make their creations.

These are the chai spices I saw used the most in India:  

I especially love the green cardamom pods I picked up in India. So here is a starting point for you but feel free to improvise and fine-tune to your own taste.

whole spices in masala chai

How to make Masala Chai

STEP One: Lightly crush spices. 

crush the whole spices

STEP 2: simmer the spices in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes.

STEP 3. Add the tea. 

add the black tea

Step 3: Add the Tea.

Then immediately turn off the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes. Boiling the tea will make it bitter, so just bring it to a boil, then turn the heat off.

steep the tea

Step 4:  Add the milk.

What type of milk to use in Masala Chai?

  • In India, whole milk is typically used in Masala Chai.
  • For a plant-based chai, try almond milk or oat milk – both work great.
  • If you like a rich masala chai- add one full cup of milk. If you like a thinner chai, you can cut the milk with water – for example, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water.
  • So in a nutshell, if you like a richer, thicker tea, use more milk (or even use all milk instead of the water) simmering the spices and tea, right in the milk. Or if you like a lighter masala chai, cut the milk with water. Up to you- a personal preference.
 Masala Chai with Whole Spices and coat milk with maple syrup

Step 5. Heat and sweeten

Bring the milk and tea just to a boil again, then add sweetener.

How to sweeten Masala Chai:

  • The fourth component of Masala Chai is the sweetener. In India, jaggery or cane sugar is typically used.
  • I prefer sweetening Masala Chia with maple syrup or honey instead of sugar. But any sugar, or sugar alternative will work here.
  • Sweeten to your own taste. For a large 8-ounce serving, I use about 2-3 teaspoons of maple syrup – to balance the spices and black tea. Perhaps this seems a bit much, but to me it tastes perfect.
  • Find your own balance 😉 If it tastes overly bitter, it needs more sweetener.
Masala Chai in traditional chai glasses

Step 6. Strain and serve.

How to serve Masala Chai

Yes, it is very typical to serve chai in a glass (vs. a mug) in India, leaving some room at the top to hold the glass. But a cozy mug is perfect too.

Masala Chai in traditional chai glasses

And there you have it, Masala Chai as they make it in India.

A delicious morning beverage or afternoon pick-me-up. I also love this in the evenings with decaf black tea.

Masala Chai in a mug with a cinnamon stick

Can Chai Be made ahead?

Feel free to brew a big bath of chai ahead, (leaving out the milk) and store it in the fridge. Then simply pull it out from the fridge and heat it up with the milk.

Authentic Masala Chai in Traditional Chai Glasses

Chai Variations:

During my second visit to India, where we primarily stayed in the North, it was very customary to see chai brewed the same way but with the addition of fresh mint leaves. It was heavenly.

Happy new year friends! May this cozy authentic Masala Chai bring comfort and warmth to help get us all through these cold months.

Love and cheers,

Sylvia

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How to make authentic Masala Chai, like they do in India, using using whole spices. Vegan and Sugar Free adaptable. #chai #chaitea #masalachai #howtomakechai #masala

Masala Chai Recipe

  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine | Feasting at Home
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 1 large mug 1x
  • Category: drinks, tea, hot beverage
  • Method: stove-top
  • Cuisine: Indian
  • Diet: Hindu

Description

How to make authentic Masala Chai, like they do in India, using whole spices. Vegan and Sugar-Free adaptable.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  1. 57 green cardamom pods
  2. 34 whole cloves
  3. 12 star anise (optional )
  4. 57 peppercorns (optional)
  5. 1 cup of water
  6. 23 slices ginger (or more! skins ok)
  7. 1/2 cinnamon stick– split lengthwise ( use your fingers to separate)
  8. 12 tablespoons loose leaf black tea, (or 12 tea bags) Or sub decaf black tea
  9. 1 cup milk of your choice- organic whole milk, almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, cashew milk, hemp milk ( I like unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond or oat milk) See notes for “ratio”.
  10. 23 teaspoons (or more or less) maple syrup, honey, sugar or alternative. (Sugar is traditional, but I prefer maple. )

Instructions

  1. Lightly crush cardamom pods, whole cloves, star anise and peppercorns, and place in a small pot with 1 cup of water. Add ginger and cinnamon.  Muddle the ginger a bit right in the pot.
  2. Bring to a simmer, simmer gently for 5-10 minutes covered, and turn off the heat.
  3. Add the tea (Do not boil the tea, it can get bitter) and let it steep for at least 5-minutes.
  4. Add your choice of milk. Bring to a simmer once more, turn off the heat.
  5. Stir in your choice of sweetener, taste, adding more sweetener to taste. If it tastes bitter, you need more sweetener.  Strain into a chai glass or mug.
  6. Feel the love. xoxo

Notes

TEA: Any dark, rich, robust black tea will work best here. Assam, Darjeeling, etc.  You can also make the tea part as strong as you like. Start with one tablespoon loose leaf tea and add more according to your taste. Use loose-leaf or tea bags.

SPICES: Whole spices are preferred here but in a pinch feel free to add or sub ground spices to taste. You can add the ground spices at the end if you like.

MILK RATIO: Instead of the full cup of milk, I typically use a ratio of  ½ water and ½ milk. Many prefer the richness of a full cup milk, so feel free to adjust to your taste.

BATCH MAKING: You can make a big batch of the masala chai (without the milk) and refrigerate for up to 4 days, and heat up with the milk and sweetener when ready to serve.

You can add more whole spices and more black tea for an even stronger more concentrated version.

UPDATE: While in Northern India this past month, I had this Chai with the addition of a big handful of fresh mint leaves (simmering in the chai). ABSOLUTELY Delicious! Give it a try!

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 8 ounces – using almond milk and 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Calories: 103
  • Sugar: 12.2 g
  • Sodium: 200.9 mg
  • Fat: 3.1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 17.7 g
  • Fiber: 1.3 g
  • Protein: 1.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Keywords: how to make chai, masala chai, masala chai tea, spices in masala chai, chai recipe, authentic chai recipe, spices in chai tea, vegan chai tea, chai latte recipe,

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Hi, I'm Sylvia!

Chef and author of the whole-foods recipe blog, Feasting at Home, Sylvia Fountaine is a former restaurant owner and caterer turned full-time food blogger. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest and shares seasonal, healthy recipes along with tips and tricks from her home kitchen.

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Comments

  1. I just made this tea for the first time following your instructions and it was a home run! I made almond milk by blending water and organic almond butter and just enough drops stevia. Finally, I sweetened the finished and simmering chai tea with xylitol and a pinch of monk fruit powder. Tastes like the perfect Halloween drink to bring in October! Can’t wait to try this with homemade pumpkin pie! Thank you!

  2. I was always wary of trying “Chai tea”; however when I tried your Masala Chai, OMG, I fell in love and felt the love from the first sip. I make this recipe almost weekly: a big batch on Sunday and I drink it as a ‘desert’ in the evening. So delicious and soothing. Thank you for another amazing recipe!

  3. The “batch” tip is a great idea! Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to try this but I think I’ll boil the spice directly in milk though instead of water then adding milk. When I was traveling in Agra,India, my host made me some stovetop chai and that was how he did it. I can’t remember all the spices but I vividly remember he boiled it directly in milk. 🙂

  4. Hi, thank you for this recipe. I made with fresh milk and brown sugar. This is the best combination of spices and the tastiest chai I’ve made so far.