Life-Changing 30 Minute Masala Sauce

Masala sauce on a spoon.

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!

Masala Sauce in a pan with vegetarian meatballs.

Life-Changing 30 Minute Masala Sauce

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


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



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 14ounce 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

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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!

The post Life-Changing 30 Minute Masala Sauce appeared first on Pinch of Yum.

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