Life-Changing 30 Minute Masala Sauce Recipe - Skillful Cook
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Life-Changing 30 Minute Masala Sauce

75 reviews / 4.8 average

Okay, guys - here it is!

Our newest life-changing sauce: 30 minute masala sauce.

Except that first picture isn't the actual sauce. It's just the paste, and the paste would be really intense to eat since it's loaded with onions and garlic and turmeric and cumin and cayenne and garlic and lemon juice and cilantro and basically every possible flavor item in your kitchen and more.

So no, we're not eating the masala paste. But we ARE going to use the paste to MAKE THE SAUCE, and that's what this lush, creamy, life changing 30 minute masala sauce is all about. A flavor paste as the base, simmered with pureed tomatoes and coconut milk to stretch it into a lush masala sauce.

And with some Vegetarian Meatballs or Chicken Tikka Masala? GAHHHH

Masala sauce simmering in a pan with a spoon.

Every time we venture into new recipe territory (Indian food, Thai food, Vietnamese food) I feel the need to reiterate that I am not trying to claim authority or authenticity here. To learn recipes that I don't know much about, I often watch YouTube videos, and Vijaya Selvaraju and Lalit Kumar Kitchen are some of my favorites for Chicken Tikka Masala.

The extent of my experience with masala is eating it via takeout alongside massive piles of naan and that Indian-restaurant-quality basmati rice that is magically so much better than the stuff I make at home. And speaking of the restaurant basmati rice sorcery: how do they do it? Is it cooked in butter? A special type of broth? Unicorn tears? What must I know?

Masala sauce in a bowl with a spoon.
Masala sauce simmering in a pan with a spoon.

My goal with making this sauce (other than eating tons and tons of masala forever) was to have something that would land at that perfect intersection between fun food to eat / easy ingredients to buy / ready to eat in 30-ish minutes. I also wanted to put the sauce as its own recipe because sometimes it's just easier to build meals around sauces, right? You maybe already have some chicken in the fridge, and she already has some broccoli, and that guy is going to try mushrooms and paneer (ummm I'm going to that guy's house).

It's just a super flexible masala sauce recipe.

This masala sauce recipe is life-changingly delicious without requiring you to take trips to multiple grocery stores, and it is going to be ready in a flash and a half, plus you'll be gifted with what I would consider to be one of the best possible self-gifts that could ever exist: a whole jar full of that masala paste so you can whip up masala sauce anytime that hangry craving shows up.

Meatballs in a pan with masala sauce drizzle.

(This picture above shows the sauce without the tomatoes because I forgot the tomatoes that one time but it was still reeeeally good so I kept the picture. The End.)

Masala sauce on meatballs in a skillet with a wooden spoon and a napkin.

Pictured above with vegetarian meatballs! Find the recipe here!

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Masala Sauce in a pan with vegetarian meatballs.

Life-Changing 30 Minute Masala Sauce

  • Author: Skillful Cook
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 3-or-so cups masala sauce + 1 1/2 cups remaining masala paste for future use! 1x


30 Minute Masala Sauce! made with onions, garlic, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, lemon juice, cilantro, tomatoes, and coconut milk. Perfect sauce for veggie or chicken tikka masala! Vegetarian / Vegan


Units Scale

For the Masala Paste:

  • 2 onions (I used one yellow, one purple)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, crushed
  • 3 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • a small pile of cilantro stems
  • juice of one lemon

For the Masala Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree + 1/2 cup water or broth
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (taste and adjust)


  1. Masala Paste: Pulse all the ingredients for the Masala Paste in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Masala Sauce: Heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet. Add 1/4 cup masala paste to the skillet (not all of it! reserve the rest for future use - yay you!) and with a little bit of oil and stir around in the pan until fragrant (3-5 minutes). If you're making this with chicken or another protein, this is a good time to add your protein to the pan. Add the tomato puree and water and simmer until t's a rusty-deep-red color - about 5-10 minutes. Add the coconut milk; simmer for 10 minutes or so until thick and creamy. Longer simmer = thicker and better flavor.


Store the paste in a jar in the fridge for about a week or store in the freezer for, well, for probably forever. This sauce is great for making homemade chicken tikka masala, but it also goes with just about anything ever - kind of like a curry. We made this with butternut squash, chicken, and the meatless-meatballs that are pictured. Served over rice... mmmhmmmm. SO GOOD.

If you're looking for a smoother masala sauce, like this Chicken Tikka Masala, just omit the almonds from the paste. If you prefer a chunkier paste, keep the almonds in. 

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Category: Sauce
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: masala sauce, masala paste, indian masala sauce

Nutrition is for one batch of prepared sauce divided up in 4 servings (which ends up being about 3/4 cup of sauce - what? I like my sauces).

One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our collection of luscious coconut milk recipes. Check it out!

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m all about having a series of sauces in my fridge to easy amp up any meal. I’ve never ventured into the Indian food territory before, but you’re making a strong argument with this sauce!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Is there a way to make this without ending up with the high sodium I’d like to try this weekend.

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          I made the meatball recipe and masala sauce early this morning. It was so flavorful that I had some for breakfast. The sodium can be whatever you like. I cut it down in half.

          NOTE: If your meatball mixture is too runny, fry it into burgers in a non-stick pan, using a 1/4 cup measure (3 minutes on first side and 2 on the other).

        2. Skillful Cook Logo

          At 63, I am have chosen to reduce my sodium intake (among other things) to counteract high blood pressure. One benefit from eating highly spiced (flavored) foods is you don’t need to add any salt. I plan on making a version of this paste (I always have to tweak any recipe) and freeze in individual portions that can easily be used in many dishes to make a quick meal. My pantry contains all these ingredients on a regular basis. Thanks

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            For someone who uses masala paste everyday in her food, your take on this paste is great. Good luck.

        3. Skillful Cook Logo

          How much is garlic and ginger paste in millilitre
          Kind Regards

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      It’s just never occurred to me that one could make their own marsala sauce. I thought that was something you ordered off the menu when not pouring Ragu over plain noodles because cooking is my , um up-and-coming strength. And I love marsala so I’m going out of my comfort zone and making this!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        And I spelled it wrong too because I’m super tired from driving to Florida all night. I’m just going to hit up an Indian or Thai restaurant tonight and get my sister to help me with this when I come home.

      2. Skillful Cook Logo

        For the masala paste can you tell me which chili powder you use? They can be wildly different, especially Mexican type chili powder that includes all kinds of other spices.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Looks delicious, I will try this soon. I don’t care about authenticity, just good taste and healthy ingredients.

    But . . . “Small pile” of cilantro? Really?

    Yet another PoY recipe with vague amounts for an ingredient. My offer to be your recipe editor still stands . . .

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Sounds like we have different ways of approaching recipe-writing and cooking. 🙂 I usually just eyeball it with herbs as they get sort of awkward in measuring cups. My small pile is probably about 1/4 cup if you want to measure it out.

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      I actually made this recipe and I was not confused at all! Actually, I can’t think of any POY recipe that I have been confused by (and I have made a lot). When cooking, I only measure out about half of my ingredients anyway but fresh herbs are particularly variable.

      Now, if you had called for a small pile of baking soda in your perfect chocolate chip recipe, then we would be in trouble 🙂

    3. Skillful Cook Logo

      Wing it and make it your own! I was out of fresh cilantro but found a frozen clump that I had saved in the freezer. Not sure how much my clump measured out to be but the recipe still came out insanely delicious!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I was really looking forward to this recipe. As much as the masala looked and smelled great. The tomato paste quantity is ridiculously too much. It literally made the whole recipe taste just like tomato paste. I will definitely need to change the quantity for the tomato paste. Thank you for the masala paste recipe

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          It’s tomato puree, which is different from tomato paste. Using that amount of tomato paste would probably give too intense a tomato flavor.

        2. Skillful Cook Logo

          I made this mistake too.(paste and not pure) But put more paste in and another can on coconut milk. Lots of sauce but took away the overpowering tomato

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            Huge POY fan right here, you are my go to for weekly cooking!
            I never leave comments, but just made this and would genuinely love to hear your recommendations on storage for the freezer! Since this makes so much (which is awesome!) I want to freeze the rest, but if I freeze it all together in one jar, I am not sure how I’d take just the small portion size to make the sauce next time without defrosting it all? But it also seems like a LOT to be putting it into so many individual portion sized jars. I’d love to know what you / others do!

          2. Skillful Cook Logo

            Hi Andrea! I like to portion the sauce out into small snack-size plastic bags, and then freeze.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    I LOVE Masala! Thank you so much for bringing masala to the masses with ingredients that are normal and easy to find. I’ve always been afraid to try making it myself, but no longer. I’m making this paste ASAP!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Sounds YUMMY! Can you freeze the extra paste in 1/4 cup portions? (IE, can you freeze the paste?)

    P.S. I’ve loved every recipe of yours I’ve tried! However, I’m still waiting on the zucchini noodles. B-e-c-a-u-s-e I don’t have room for the big machine, and the reviews of the hand held ones are extremely mixed. Have you, or any readers, used the new Oxo hand held?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I haven’t tried the OXO handheld but I definitely didn’t like the other brand of handheld that I got. 🙁 Hopefully someone else has tried it??

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      I was wondering this too. Sauce was SOOOO yummy but I only need so much in a week. How long do you keep the paste in the fridge before tossing?

    3. Skillful Cook Logo

      Just want to add big thanks for this recipe. It’s become a go to on nights when I want something comforting and non-fussy. I made the full batch of the paste, portioned it out in 1/4 cups and froze them on a cookie sheet in the freezer then transferred to a log ziplock bag. Works perfectly!

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    This looks like a winner, and even if it’s not 100% “authentic,” all I care about is yummy and relatively easy. As for the magic basmati rice at the curry joints, I’m pretty sure it’s copious amounts of ghee (clarified butter), not unicorn tears, that make it so CRACK-like. 🙂

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    This sounds delish, but might I add a suggestion? I cook a lot of Indian stuff, and cooking the paste in the oil for a few minutes, just until it smells yummier, before adding the liquid, will really improve it. I do plan to make this ASAP. LOVE YOUR FOOD!!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Oh yes, definitely! I did that – I must not have explained it well enough in the directions! 🙂 Thanks for the comment Marsha!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Looks amazing – quick question (because I am hoping to make this tonight): Is the cumin ground or cumin seeds?

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    I a so wit you on the prepare ahead. This sounds like a great paste. package it in small containers and pull it out when you need it.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love Indian food and a delicious, cheater, keep in the fridge for a quick weeknight meal, as opposed to simmering all afternoon kind of dinner is just my style. Can’t wait to try this later this week!

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Life changing….masala??? Best sauce ever! I love that tikka masala is a great way to spice things up–especially salads, stir fries, soups and even for party food so you can dip it!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Lindsay, I love your magic green sauce, and am excited to try this new sauce! Sounds like I better use the jar in my pantry from TJs before I make this. But I don’t want to be too far off with my onions. What size onions are you using? Thanks!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    Looks amazing !!! Masalas are all about the right balance of flavours, and this looks perfect for anyone who is new to it. I will surely try out your version…!

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            My store doesn’t sell “tomato puree” – would it work to throw a can of diced tomatoes in the blender?

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    I would like to try this today with chicken. It sounds very delicious 🙂 Do you stir fry the chicken before or do you put it in the pan raw?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      No need to stir-fry the chicken first, it cooks nicely in the sauce and stays nice and tender

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    We love indian cuisine and try to cook it at least every 15 days. This paste is great for having it in the fridge and prepare de sauce at any moment you need it. We will prepare it and tell you how it was. Thanks for the receipe.