I’m Indian, so chai has always been a significant part of my life. Guests are on the way over? Gotta make chai. Celebrating big news? Definitely chai time.
The homemade chai tea my family makes is very different from what you find at Starbucks, because we use fragrant whole spices, plus a heavy splash of love. Get out your kettle because I’m going to spill the tea on my family’s chai tea recipe, along with some fun (and spicy!) variations I’ve discovered over the years.
Classic Homemade Chai Tea Recipe
The basic chai recipe is often referred to as masala chai, since masala means spiced. It incorporates several aromatic spices that give the tea that warm, full-bodied flavor. Homemade chai doesn’t take a ton of time or effort, but it’s important to use whole spices instead of powders or extracts. Trust me, you’ll taste the difference.
- 6 cups of water
- 3 black tea bags (Tapal Danedar is our fave)
- 3 cardamom pods
- 5 black peppercorns
- 4 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Cream or milk to taste
- Sugar to taste
- Slightly squish the cardamom pods to release the aroma.
- Bring the water, tea bags, and all spices to a boil in a saucepan or teapot, making sure it’s no more than ¾ of the way full so you have room for the cream. You can place the spices in a tea ball or let them float freely in the pot.
- As soon as everything comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low.
- Add as much cream as you’d like and allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the whole spices from the tea.
- Add sugar to taste, then enjoy!
Do you love it when your chai has a little bite to it? You can achieve that extra spice by adding some ginger. Use the basic chai tea recipe but add a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger along with the other spices and let your tastebuds be tickled.
Chai translates to tea, so there’s no need to say “chai tea.” Simply chai is fine!
Delicious Iced Chai
Chai isn’t just delicious hot. It’s equally tasty as an iced beverage. I definitely recommend letting your chai cool down completely and then putting it in the fridge to chill before enjoying it. But if you can’t wait (totally get it), you can pour it over ice and have it right away. It’ll be a little more watered down but still yummy as ever.
Golden Chai Recipe
Golden milk is definitely having a moment, but have you ever had a golden chai? Run, don’t walk, to grab some turmeric because this beverage is extra healing. Whisk about 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric into your chai about halfway through your simmer but be extra careful, because turmeric will stain everything it touches. Yes, I mean everything.
Floral Rose Chai
Gulabi, which is Hindi for “rose,” is a really common flavor in Indian cuisine, and one that immediately transports me back to childhood. You can make your own floral rose chai at home by following the basic chai recipe with a few additions. Finish the tea off with a spoonful of rose water when you add your sugar, then sprinkle a few rose petals as a garnish. How gorgeous is that?!
Chai originated in India over 5,000 years ago and was viewed as medicinal rather than just a yummy beverage.
Abuelita’s Creamy Chai
My Mexican husband and I love finding parallels in Indian and Mexican cuisines (rotis and tortillas, pico de gallo and kachumber, etc.). We also love combining the qualities to create decedent and unique flavors. Meet Abuelita’s chai.
Abuelita Mexican hot chocolate is made using little drink “tablets” that you dissolve in warm milk. Just whisk one tablet into your chai while you let the tea simmer, and you’ll end up with a foamy, chocolaty beverage that’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
Masala Pumpkin Chai
As a November baby who was born and raised in North America, I have a soft spot for pumpkin. So yeah, I love pumpkin beverages, and I’m not ashamed to say it. To transform your chai into a pumpkiny treat, you’ll need about ½ a can of pumpkin puree. Be sure to give the puree an extra blend to smooth out any chunks, then whisk it into your chai after it’s done simmering.
A vanilla chai is anything but ordinary, especially if you make it from scratch. The addition of vanilla bean or extract (at the same time you add your cream) makes this tea extra warm and fuzzy. Some people even throw a whole star anise spice in to give it a licorice-vanilla vibe. Try it and see what you think.
Chai Tea Recipes for Every Taste
Homemade chai is something that’s super adaptable. You can easily eliminate or add ingredients based on your preferences. Don’t like cardamom? No worries, don’t use it. Feel free to experiment by adding other spices, like star anise, nutmeg, fennel, or whatever else you enjoy. Truthfully, it’s kind of impossible to make chai taste bad.
Looking for more chai? Mix up a dirty chai at home.