Make Ahead

Tomato Curry Sauce

May 13, 2015
4 Ratings
  • Makes 5 portions
Author Notes

You can use this during the course of the week, but it also freezes well in individual portions for Indian dinners to come. The trick is to keep the sauce relatively light on spices, providing much opportunity for tweaking to recipes later: Add a touch of whole spices here, and a touch of tamarind there, and you’ll never know the same sauce provided a starting point! —Mallika

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • 15 pieces garlic
  • 5 tablespoons ginger
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons chile powder
  1. Peel and slice the onions finely.
  2. In a large pot, bring the oil to heat on medium-high. When it starts sizzling around a wooden spoon, add the sugar. As it caramelizes, the onions along with the salt. (The sugar gives the curry a lovely deep red hue, without the need for food coloring and is traditionally used in Bengal, where I’m originally from in India. The salt will help the onions cook to golden beautifully by drawing out the water in the onions.) Cook the onions for 10 minutes.
  3. While the onions cook, peel and mince the garlic and ginger.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic to the onions and cook for another 10 minutes. By this point the whole mixture, i.e. your masala, should be turning golden.
  5. Chop the tomatoes into small cubes and add them in, along with the turmeric and chile powders. Stir this mixture well for another 15 minutes ,until the tomatoes disintegrate.
  6. Finally, lower the heat to a high simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, until you see oil oozing out of little pores on the surface of the masala.
  7. Test for salt, adding it to your taste.
  8. Cool and store in 1/2-cup portions. This should last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and up to 2 months in the freezer.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lazyretirementgirl
  • AntoniaJames
  • Mallika
  • Erin R
    Erin R

12 Reviews

Erin R. April 20, 2020
This was labor intensive and simple to cook, but I'm not know sure about the result. Even though I measured and followed directions exactly, the ginger was overpowering! It made the whole thing taste bitter. Full disclosure: this is my first attempt at Indian cooking so perhaps I need to learn cooking by preferred taste instead of following the recipe exactly. Does cooking the ginger that long make it taste bitter? Any way to avoid that outcome? What if I used ginger garlic paste and put that in toward the end of cooking? Another suggestion I read was to double the ingredients. But, as I had no extra ingredients, I added sugar a tiny bit at a time, hoping to offset the bitterness without making it too sweet. I will refrigerate it overnight to see if it mellows a little.
Mallika April 20, 2020
Hi Erin, if the ginger isn't cooked through before the other ingredients are added, it will be bitter. If it doesn't mellow later, just add a bit more tomato to balance the bitterness. That should do it! Enjoy x
Erin R. April 20, 2020
Thank you, Mallika! And to clarify, the heat is on medium-high during this process until the last 5 minutes?
Lazyretirementgirl July 17, 2016
What type of chili powder do you use? I am in northern New Mexico where any decent supermarket has a dozen kinds, so I am a bit stumped by this. Thanks!
Mallika July 18, 2016
Hi there, I am not sure what they are called in America, but this might help:

Good luck!
Lazyretirementgirl July 18, 2016
Thank you!
AntoniaJames April 12, 2016
I just posted this comment to a Hotline question looking for ideas for weeknight meals from the freezer:

A new best friend for weeknight cooking: this tomato curry sauce, which essentially preps your aromatics and basic spices in tomato sauce (I use canned!). You can't find a better kitchen helper than a scalable, freezable sauce that kickstarts weeknight meals.

I made a double batch last week, have already used it twice, and froze the rest in small containers. You only need 1/2 to 1 cup in your curry or dal, it is so intensely flavored. I'll be re-stocking my freezer with this on a regular basis.

Ideas for using it are in this article by the same author:

I made the Quick Punjabi Dal Fry, linked from her website, which is terrific. I also made Chickpeas with Spinach on a weekday evening using chickpeas from the freezer, and baby spinach from the farmers' market (the recipe says you can use frozen, which I'll no doubt do in future), served over brown rice, also from the freezer. Total active time: 5 or 6 minutes at most.

This one's a keeper! ;o)
Mallika July 18, 2016
How wonderful to hear! Thanks for letting me know
Mallika August 31, 2015
Hi Michael, by UK measure I had 75gm of whole raw ginger, peeled and grated, so this roughly equates to 2.65 ounces of it by weight in US, or 5 tbsp of grated ginger? Hope this helps! M x
Mallika August 31, 2015
Hi lovetocookandeat, the garlic is cooked well so it's not a lot at all. Good luck! Mallika x
lovetocookandeat August 27, 2015
15 "pieces" of garlic to two pounds of tomatoes sounds like an awful lot. Is this the right amount? Thank you
Michael M. August 27, 2015
There are two things in this recipe for Tomato Curry Sauce that are not clear.
1) 15 pieces? of garlic. Does that mean cloves, and if so should they be small, medium or large?

2) 5 Tbsp ginger. Is that raw ginger, grated, chopped or julienned, or is it powdered ginger?