I’m sharing my good friend Beena’s Masala Chai Recipe. What I love about this recipe is that it can be adapted for the seasons, or to what you have in your spice cabinet. Traditional Masala Chai is made with full-fat milk, sugar and spices. Here is a version that is free of refined sugar, and made with a dairy-free alternative.
Masala chai translates to ‘spice’ ‘tea’. This recipe, or un-recipe, is more of a guide on how to make your own spiced tea at home. My good friend Beena makes delicious masala chai, and when I asked her for the recipe, what she shared was more of a guide. I love ‘un-recipes’ as they allow for the freedom to use what you have at home, and the option to add ingredients that follow the seasons.
Health Benefits of Masala Chai
Homemade Masala Chai Contains Less Sugar
Traditional masala chai often contains a lot of sugar. Beena doesn’t add any sugar to hers and enjoys the spiced black tea as it is. I love adding a little bit of honey to mine for a natural sweetener; maple syrup would work as well for those looking for a vegan version.
Spices and Phytochemicals
We often overlook spices as a source of beneficial nutritional compounds. Spices are a source of phytochemicals, which are healthful plant chemicals. Phytochemicals can act as antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals and removing their power to create damage. I’ve shared more on antioxidants here – What Are Antioxidants Good For.
Cinnamon and Blood Sugar Levels
Several clinical trials have found cinnamon to have positive results for blood sugar-lowering in type 2 diabetics. Overall it appears that taking cassia cinnamon (note studies were not referring to Saigon cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon) at doses of 120 milligrams to 6 grams daily for 4 to 18 weeks can significantly reduce fasting blood sugar levels (1,2,3,4). For reference, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon is about 5 1/2 grams.
Cinnamon and Cholesterol
Some studies were also able to demonstrate a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol levels. Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) and triglycerides were all lower with consumption of cinnamon, with non-significant changes in HDL cholesterol (‘good’ cholesterol) (1).
Tips On Making Masala Chai
Preparing The Spices
My friend Beena uses a mortar pestle to break open the cardamom pods, crush the cinnamon stick, and bruise any other ingredients such as cloves or fresh ginger. If you are like me and don’t have a mortar pestle at home, you can use the flat side of your kitchen knife to break the cinnamon into smaller pieces and smash the cardamom pods.
Choosing a Milk or Milk Alternative
Traditional chai is made with full-fat milk, producing a creamy and fuller-bodied masala chai. If you are looking for a dairy-free alternative, choose a milk alternative that has a higher fat content such as organic soy milk, pea milk or a homemade hemp milk (see Hemp Milk Nutrition & Hemp Milk Recipe. For more information on milk alternatives see Which Is The Best Milk Alternative For You.
Variations For Masala Chai
Optional Spice Additions
This recipe for masala chai uses my favourite ingredients:
Other additions may include:
- Black Peppercorns
- Star Anise
Making It Vegan
You can make a vegan masala chai by choosing a non-dairy milk alternative, and sweetening the chai with maple syrup instead of honey.
Making It Caffeine Free
Simply omit the black tea for a caffeine-free masala chai. Don’t skip the sitting time though, the longer the spices sit in warmed milk the more flavourful the drink will be. Decaffeinated black tea is also available and can be used to offer a more authentic masala chai flavour.
Using Powdered Spices
If you don’t have whole spices at home, you can use the powdered version. Try using 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves. Gently heat in warmed milk and water, and turn off the heat to let the spices infuse the liquid before adding the tea.
Step By Step Instructions
Want Some More Warming Drink Recipes?
- Simple Turmeric Latte Recipe with Ginger,
- Dandelion Root Latte with Turmeric and Ginger,
- Chaga Turmeric Golden Milk Latte.
- Pumpkin Spiced Latte
Masala Chai Recipe [Dairy-Free]
- To prepare the spices, add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger to a mortal pestle and break down the spices. If you don't make a mortal pestle, use the flat side of a kitchen knife to break the cinnamon stick into small pieces and smash cardamom pods open on a cutting.
- Add the spices to a saucepan with the 2 cups of water and bring to a boil and let boil for about 3 minutes. Once boiling lower the heat and add the milk alternative. Once the water, milk, and spice mix returns to a boil, remove from heat.
- Add the loose tea and cover, letting it sit for 3 minutes or longer if you prefer your chai strong. Don't let the black tea steep too long or the chai will become bitter.
- Strain the mixture into 2 serving cups. Sweeten to taste with honey.
Optional Spice Additions
- Black Peppercorns
- Star Anise
1) Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan M, et al. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003;26:3215-8
2) Crawford P. Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 2009;22:507-12.
3) Akilen, R., Tsiami, A., Devendra, D., and Robinson, N. Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type 2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Diabetic Medicine. 2010;27(10):1159-1167
4) Akilen R, Tsiami A, Devendra D, Robinson N. Cinnamon in glycaemic control: Systematic review and meta analysis. Clinical Nutrition 2012;31(5):609-15.
Rachel Dickens is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University and is currently a PhD student at UBC. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on Indigenous Food Sovereignty while sharing diabetes-friendly recipes and tips for diabetes prevention.