This Indian curry sauce, or onion-tomato ‘Bhuna Masala‘ is a rich, aromatic and versatile Punjabi-style master curry recipe that forms the base for a variety of delicious north-Indian dishes, curries and lentils. Make this onion-tomato masala in bulk in your pressure cooker or stove and freeze it for later use. This curry sauce is a lifesaver for weeknight curry cravings.
Easy Meal Prep Recipe
As with most Indian food recipes, this one also starts off with fresh produce. All it is, is onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes, simmered with warm Indian spices like garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder and of course, salt, turmeric and cayenne, which is the inseparable trio in Indian cuisine!
Versatile Indian Curry Recipe
This Indian curry recipe is a great make-ahead and freeze item. I always make a big batch of this sauce, cool it, and pour it in single-use mason jars, pop it in the freezer and pull it out on crazy weeknights.
You can make a variety of Indian recipes with this master curry recipe. Some popular examples are Chana Masala, Kidney Beans curry (Rajma), Paneer Mutter (Cottage cheese and peas), Everyday Chicken Curry, and believe it or not, even Butter Chicken!
Wait… What? Yup! All you have to do is add chicken and heavy cream or Greek yogurt to this curry, add a pinch of sugar or honey, and cook everything till the chicken is tender. Garnish with cilantro, and you have a super-easy butter chicken.
How to Reuse this Bhuna Masala Sauce
This instant pot recipe makes around 7oz.-8oz. of curry sauce, which is good for one curry that serves 4 people. I multiply this curry recipe based on serving size, store it and freeze it in 8 oz. mason jars, or in quart-size freezer ziplock bags.
As and when I need it, I thaw a jar (or two), in the refrigerator overnight, or, remove the lid and defrost it in the microwave, using any low power setting. Here’s how I use it:
Paneer Mutter (Cottage cheese and peas)
- Add curry sauce, 1/4 cup water, 10 oz. paneer cut into cubes, and 1/2 cup frozen peas to the Instant Pot and stir well.
- Close lid. Sealing Position. Cook for zero minutes on Manual/Pressure Cook. Manually release the pressure by turning the knob to Venting position.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro.
- Add curry sauce, rinsed and drained can of chickpeas (or pre-soaked), 1.5-2 cups water and 1 teaspoon garam masala to the Instant pot.
- Close lid. Sealing Position. Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook for 4 minutes. Wait 5 minutes and release the pressure (NPR 5). If using pre-soaked, increase pressure cooking time to 35 mins Bean Mode. NPR.
- Squeeze in some fresh lime juice and garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
- Add curry sauce, rinsed and drained can of kidney beans (or pre-soaked), 1.5-2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala to the Instant pot.
- Close lid. Sealing Position. Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook for 4 minutes. Wait 5 minutes and release the pressure (NPR 5). If using pre-soaked, increase pressure cooking time to 25 mins Bean Mode. NPR.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the curry sauce till it’s smooth. Skip this step if you like a chunky sauce. Add curry sauce, boneless skinless chicken pieces (about 1.5 inches), 1/2 cups water and 1 teaspoon garam masala to the Instant pot.
- Close lid. Sealing Position. Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook for 4 minutes. Wait 10 minutes and release the pressure (NPR 10). Add 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
- Soak 1 cup dal for 30 minutes in warm water. Rinse and drain. Add curry sauce and 1 cup water, to the Instant Pot and stir well.
- Close lid. Sealing Position. Cook for 5 minutes on Manual/Pressure Cook. NPR 5mins and release pressure.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime before serving (Optional).
- Time Variation for other Lentils: Red Lentils: 5 mins; Green Lentils: 8mins
Great for Party Planning
Whenever I am hosting a dinner party with an Indian food menu, I always make this curry recipe a few days in advance. That makes cooking time so manageable and less exhausting for me, so I can enjoy my own party too:-)
How to Make Curry Sauce in Instant Pot
Prior to owning an IP, I used to make it in my stove-top pressure cooker, Hawkins. I used to wait for 2 whistles, reduce the heat to medium, and cook it another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the cooker depressurize. That’s it!
Stovetop Recipe for Indian Curry Sauce
You can also make this easy curry sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop.
Take any deep sauce pot, that’ll prevent the tomato sauce from splashing all over your stove-top, or your hand. :-). Follow the recipe, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes on medium heat, stirring in between (probably every 5 minutes or so).
If you double up the recipe, the cooking time will increase by a few minutes.
How to Store Onion-Tomato Masala
You know the Indian Curry Recipe is done, when you can see a super-thin layer of oil coating the sauce/gravy. In other words, when the gravy starts oozing oil, it is done.
Freezer Storage Tip: When I’m making a ‘bigger’ batch of this curry sauce, to optimize freezer storage, I pour the curry in 1-inch Ice Cube Silicone Trays. Once its frozen, I pop the cubes out and store them in a gallon-size Ziploc Freezer Bag. This way, I take out only what I need. For example, if I’m cooking a very small quantity, say only for myself, I take out only 2 cubes of gravy.
Curry Sauce | Indian Onion Tomato Masala (Instant Pot & Stove)
- 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1 inch ginger peeled, fine chopped
- 6 cloves garlic peeled and fine chopped
- 1 medium onion fine chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes pureed, OR, 1 cup Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala or 2, depending on how strong it is
- 2 teaspoons Coriander Powder
- 1 teaspoon Roasted Ground Cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper adjust to taste
- 1 teaspoon Paprika or Smoked Paprika (optional)
- 1/2 cup water
- Prep: Finely chop ginger, garlic, onions. I typically use a mini-food processor for this. I start pulsing ginger garlic, about 10 times, then add cubed onions and pulse another 6-10 times till everything is finely chopped. By adding the ginger-garlic first, I get a finer chop on those than the onions. Remove the mix. Add tomato cubes and puree them to a smooth consistency. If using canned diced tomatoes, you can add as-is, or puree, depending on your texture preference. I prefer this sauce to be smooth, so prefer pureeing.
- Heat oil in Instant Pot on Saute mode. Wait 30 seconds and add cumin seeds. When cumin seeds begin to splutter, add chopped onions, ginger and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes till golden brown.
- Add pureed or crushed tomatoes and use it to deglaze the pot. Scrape the brown bits at the bottom using a wooden spoon. Those brown bits contribute to the flavor, plus, if they remain stuck to the bottom of the pan, they’ll eventually burn. Add spices and water and stir well. Turn off the Saute mode. Close lid. Vent to Sealing mode. Cook for 5 minutes on Manual/Pressure Cook. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes (NPR 10). Open lid and you’re done!
- Take any deep sauce pot, that’ll prevent the tomato sauce from splashing all over your stove-top, or your hand. Follow the recipe above, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes on medium heat, stirring in between (probably every 5 minutes or so). If you double up the recipe, the cooking time will increase by a few minutes.