What is Birth Masala?

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Birth Masala – Flavors of the East Blended in South Africa

What is Birth Masala?

Indian in a spice marketBirth masala is a special blend of spices passed down from ancestors in the Indian society in South Africa.

As its name suggests, it is used mainly for new mothers post-delivery of their child. This blend of spices is brown and has an authentic aroma. It is traditionally cooked by the elders for the new mother after birth to aid her in producing breastmilk.

The mix aids in healing from the stress of giving birth and detoxifies the body.

Generally, most people would cook it with chicken in a curry, known in the Tamil dialect as marandhu sellu, or in a soup. While some mothers might not like the taste, the distinctive flavors of the birth masala have certainly helped many in the healing process.

However, this mix is not exclusively for new mothers. You can also use it to make Russo (king soup), which helps reduce the common cold symptoms.

The Benefits of Spices in Birth masala

This special blend was combined initially with the thought process of its healing properties.

While the new generation has become somewhat spoilt with the luxury of store-bought condiments, the older generations had a hard life and often resorted to preparing the more accessible spice from scratch.

These very people understood what each spice benefit was. So, when they made certain mixtures, it was for a specific ailment.

Listed below are the ingredients used in this authentic mix.

Spices in spoons on wooden tableIngredients used in the birth masala are:

  • Carom seeds – are known for their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Coriander seeds – are rich in folic acid, iron, zinc, vitamin c, and copper.
  • Cumin seeds – have antioxidants that help with cell damage.
  • Ginger powder – is an anti-inflammatory and helps with digestion as well as in managing common flu symptoms.
  • Turmeric powder– also is anti-inflammatory and helps with swelling and overall health.

How to Make Birth Masala

Not many people know how to combine this special blend. It was taught by the predecessors who kept the secret within a small circle of relatives within the Indian community.

Nowadays, you can go to your local spice shop to purchase a packet of the birth masala spice or obtain it from home-based spice makers who try to replicate it.

While the former option is easier to obtain, most users believe nothing beats a freshly made birth masala mix. Birth masala was born with the combination of coriander seeds, carom seeds, cumin seeds, ginger powder, and turmeric powder.

Although some have carried the secret recipe to their graves, there are still elders within the community who have mastered the recipe.

So, we decided to share it with everyone around the world to enjoy the benefits of this fantastic mix.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

The 5 ingredients:

  • ¼ cup coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp. ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoons carom/ajowan seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ cup cumin seeds

Steps to follow:

  1. Place a pan on your stovetop over medium heat.
  2. Roast each spice individually to release its flavors for about 3 minutes.
  3. Once you have finished roasting and cooled the mixture, combine all ingredients in a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Grind until everything is in powder form.
  4. Transfer it to an airtight container and store it in a cool place. You can then use the mixture for every preparation.

The Recipes That Use Birth Masala

 chicken-curry-corianderAs the intended use for the birth masala was for new mothers, my first recipe will be the marandhu sellu (Chicken curry).

Many people make it differently, but the key ingredient is always added.


The Recipe for Marandhu Sellu with Birth Masala


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 tablespoons frying oil
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 green chillies
  • 3 curry leaves (or powder)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ tsp of turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons of red chili powder
  • 2 tbsp of Birth Masala (refer to the recipe above)
  • 2 tbsp ginger powder
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 bunch of coriander

Steps to follow:

  1. Wash and clean a whole chicken or chicken pieces of your choice.
  2. Place a pan on the stove over medium heat. Add a little oil, thinly sliced onions, two sliced green chilies (optional), two curry leaves (powdered if you don’t have them), a bay leaf and a cinnamon stick.
  3. Cook until the onions become transparent.
  4. Add the garlic, turmeric, red pepper, birth masala and ginger to the pot.
  5. Mix the ingredients and simmer for one minute.
  6. Add the chicken and salt to taste.
  7. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Add about 2 diced tomatoes with a little water and simmer for another 20 minutes.
  9. Then add about 2 potatoes (optional), cut into 6 pieces each, and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
  10. When the dish is finished, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with rice or homemade naan bread if possible!

In the Indian culture, the other health benefit of birth masala was to help recover from the common cold. This go-to drink that packs a mighty punch in kicking the flu is called Rasam (King soup).

One of the key ingredients in this dish is tamarind which has good medicinal properties. Here is my version:

Rasam Soup Recipe with Birth Masala


  • 3 tablespoons of tamarind
  • 2 tablespoons of frying oil
  • ½ onion
  • 4 dry red chillies
  • ½ tsp of mustard
  • a few cumin seeds
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • 3 curry leaves (or curry powder)
  • ½ tsp of Birth Masala (see recipe above)
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 handful of coriander leaves

Steps to follow:

  1. In a bowl, take about 3 tablespoons of tamarind with a cup of water and mix, strain the liquid and discard the pits and fibers. Set it aside.
  2. In a heated pan, add a little oil, half an onion finely chopped, chillies, mustard, and cumin seeds, and cook until the onions are soft.
  3. Add the chopped garlic cloves, turmeric, curry powder, and Birth Masala.
  4. Mix the ingredients in the pot and simmer for 1 minute.
  5. Add 1 diced tomato and simmer for another minute.
  6. In the pot, add the tamarind mixture and a handful of coriander leaves and let it boil.
  7. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes until the contents of the pot become a bit thick.
  8. To this mixture, add 2 cups of water and salt to taste.
  9. Mix thoroughly and remove from heat.
  10. You can serve the soup with curry and rice, or you can strain it into a cup and drink it like any other soup.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I add other spices to the Birth Masala?

The Birth Masala is a traditional spice blend and you are free to add other spices to this recipe. However, if you mix more than 4 spices, the tastes may interfere and you may not be able to taste the Birth Masala anymore.

What is the difference between Garam Masala and Birth Masala?

They are both blends of Indian origin but they differ in the preparation of the ingredients and their taste. Garam Masala is made of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, etc. Both are of Indian origin but differ in the preparation of the ingredients and their taste. Garam Masala is made of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, pepper...

How long can Birth Masala be stored?

The spice mixture can be stored in an airtight box in the dark for 6 months or more, but we advise you not to store too much. The taste of this mixture will be better and stronger if you make it as you go along. In any case, do not forget to note the date of the beginning of conservation to know where you are


fresh spices storeBirth masala has come a long way since its origin and can be found in many Indian homes; however, they are not the only ones to stock it.

Seeing that South Africa is a rainbow nation with several race groups, this authentic spice is known and used by different cultures.

Although not everyone has the recipe to make birth masala, a lot of people go out to seek this spice at the spice shop.

Who would not want to add it to their favorite curries with its wholesome flavors?

Whether you add it to your food or have it as a drink, you benefit from birth masala’s medicinal values.

Photo credits
Indian food photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

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