Grab yourself an All-Access Pass to Global Flavours! Bursting with flavour, this easy Gluten-free Chaat Masala Vegan Cream Cheese recipe offers a mouthwatering invitation for gluten-free foodies to explore the complex heat and street food trends we’re watching this year. A staple of Indian street food, chaat masala’s blend of chili heat, earthy, toasted spices, salt, and sour is sure to make your tastebuds dance with gluten-free joy! (And our version of this seasoning is 100% gluten-free!)
What is Chaat Masala?
Although there’s almost as many variations as there are cooks who make this spice blend their own, recipes for chaat masala usually include a mixture of amchoor (dry mango powder), cumin, coriander, kala namak (black salt), asafoetida, and chili powder. This seasoning adds a tangy, salty, hard-to-describe flavour to many popular street food dishes enjoyed in India—and its popularity is growing worldwide!
Traditional takes on chaat masala are not gluten-free because of one sneaky spice that typically brings traces of wheat to the recipe. Our version skips that guilty ingredient so everyone can partake in this flavour adventure together! (Keep reading to learn what we changed!)
Getting the Most Out of New Ingredients
As a spice, chaat masala is incredibly versatile! This isn’t the kind of recipe you buy a bunch of ingredients for, make once, and then get stuck with a pantry full of ingredients you’ll never use again. You can use chaat masala to add depth to any dish—before, during, or even after cooking! A batch of chaat masala is the perfect new ingredient to add to your repertoire of spices and seasonings.
But even if you don’t use this collection of salts and spices to make batch after batch of chaat masala, these not-yet-familiar ingredients aren’t one-dish-wonders. Keep reading to get to know each one’s unique flavour profile—and learn how to use them on their own!
A citrusy-flavoured powder made from dried green mangoes, amchoor is a tad tart—but not puckeringly sour—and has an underlying sweetness that begs for a savoury partner. An essential ingredient in chaat masala, amchoor also finds its home in curries, chutneys, and marinades. You can even use it to add the perfect amount of tartness to some roasted veggies. But don’t stop at savoury combinations! Use it to enhance the sweetness of a dish too! Bring your next fruit salad to life with a dash of this dried mango powder.
Kala namak (Indian Black Salt)
Kala namak, otherwise known as Indian black salt, has a sulphureous scent and taste that adds an egg-like flavour to your favourite plant-based dishes!
We’ve used this interesting ingredient before in our Pickle Vegan Egg Salad Bagelwich recipe, and there are so many other ways to include this strange-but-wonderful flavour-enhancer too! Toss it into the mix any time you’re making an eggless dish with tofu, chickpeas, or plant-based egg replacement, and enjoy! (Tip: Use a light touch until you’re confident using kala namak to avoid overpowering a dish’s other flavours).
Ajwain (uj-wine) also known as carom, is a seed-like fruit often used in Indian cuisine to add an earthy, herby flavour and aroma. Ajwain is a very powerful spice; it’s strong, and slightly spicy—so a little ajwain goes a long way! Its sharpness is perfect for balancing out rich vegetarian dishes.
Conventional chaat masala recipes call for asafoetida, a hard to pronounce spice (a-suh-feh-tee-duh) that adds a strong onion and garlicky flavour to any dish. Although by nature the spice is gluten-free, it is almost always manufactured by diluting it significantly in wheat flour—so most of the asafoetida you will find in your local grocer is not gluten-free.
Finding asafoetida that’s certified gluten-free can be a nearly impossible mission—even for savvy shoppers—so we chose to leave it out! While our chaat masala isn’t 100% true to tradition, making a safe and accessible gluten-free chaat masala that’s one ingredient shy means everyone can appreciate the rich food culture that created it.
(Certified gluten-free asafoetida does exist—it’s processed with rice flour instead of wheat. Hunt some down and add about half a teaspoon to the recipe to make a fully authentic chaat masala.)
How to Use Chaat Masala
Add your gluten-free chaat masala spice blend to salads, legumes, fruit, potatoes, veggies and more! Or in this case, combine it with your favourite vegan cream cheese and spread it over a toasted slice of gluten-free bread for a tasty snack!
Why Pair Sweet Cinnamon & Raisin Bread with Savoury Gluten-free Chaat Masala Vegan Cream Cheese?
Although gluten-free Cinnamon & Raisin bread may seem like an odd pairing, it makes perfect sense for this Indian street food inspired spread! Cinnamon and sweet raisins star in many South Asian dishes, such as biryani rice, curries, and chutneys, so they fit right in with the flavour profile of our gluten-free chaat masala cream cheese. Our gluten-free Cinnamon & Raisin bread’s delicate sweetness pairs with a hint of heat to create the perfect, creamy, toasty bite!
- In a dry pan over medium heat, toast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and ajwain one spice at a time and set each spice aside as it is done. Toast until just warm and fragrant, about 1 – 2 minutes per spice.
- In a high-powered blender, large spice grinder, or mortar and pestle, combine all toasted spices along with dried mint, kala namak, coarse salt, green mango powder, black peppercorns, chili powder, ground ginger, and tamarind powder. (If using lime juice and brown sugar instead of tamarind powder, leave it out until step 3—do not grind with the dry ingredients). Then grind spices to a fine powder.
- Once combined fully, add 4 tablespoons of gluten-free chaat masala mixture to a medium bowl with your favourite vegan cream cheese and store the remaining chaat masala in a jar or container with an airtight lid.
- Fold the spice into the cream cheese with a spatula until fully combined. (If you are using the lime and brown sugar mixture instead of tamarind powder, add ½ of it to your mixture at this stage, then adjust to taste).
- Spread on toasted slices of Little Northern Bakehouse Cinnamon raisin bread, and top with diced cucumbers (optional).
- Shopping Tips:
- If your neighbourhood has one, you can find a lot of these ingredients at South Asian grocery stores, so try there before you shop online.
- If you’re shopping for these ingredients at a South Asian grocery store, note that the variety of chili powder you find there is likely much hotter than the chili powder you find in the spice section at conventional grocery stores. We wrote this recipe using conventional grocery store chili powder. If using Indian chili powder, start with less than the recipe calls for and adjust to your personal heat preference.
- Can’t find tamarind powder? Don’t fret! You can use a lime juice and brown sugar mix in its place. Combine 3 teaspoons lime juice with 2 teaspoons brown sugar and set aside until you’re ready to combine with vegan cream cheese.
- For a milder cream cheese add less chaat masala powder—this recipe makes more gluten-free chaat masala spice than you need, so make your vegan cream cheese with as much or as little as you like! (Remember you can always add more, but it’s hard to take it out once it’s blended in. Start with a little and work your way up by taste until you know what you like!)
- Save your cream cheese container and store leftover gluten-free chaat masala cream cheese for up to a week in the fridge.
- For a more savoury base (or you don’t have Cinnamon & Raisin bread on hand), pair this gluten-free chaat masala cream cheese with toasted Little Northern Bakehouse Millet & Chia bread, Plain Bagels, or your favourite Little Northern Bakehouse gluten-free product.
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