Tikka Masala Sauce – Instant Pot | Stove

March 6, 2020 (Updated: April 27, 2020) By Aneesha |

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An authentic Tikka Masala Sauce recipe that is smooth, creamy and ready in under 30 minutes! This popular Indian sauce acts as the base for chicken, paneer, vegetables, seafood or chickpeas. Make restaurant-quality tikka masala right at home in the Instant Pot or on the Stove!

tikka masala sauce with cilantro garnish in gray bowl on navy blue plate

Authentic Tikka Masala Sauce Recipe

This recipe has been long due. Many readers who enjoy Chicken Tikka Masala, and Paneer Tikka Masala recipe from the blog, requested for a Tikka Masala Master Sauce recipe, so they can customize it with their choice of protein.

It’s a super flexible masala sauce recipe where you can build a meal around the sauce, not the other way around! A whole jar of masala sauce comes together in a flash – minimal cooking required!

I use this recipe whenever I am entertaining and have a mix of dietary preferences. I make this sauce in bulk, then divide and tweak it to the specific recipe. It’s a great make-ahead sauce and it freezes well too.

So here it is, an authentic Tikka Masala Sauce recipe that can be made in under 30 minutes in the Instant Pot or on the Stove!

tikka masala sauce in gray bowl on navy blue plate

What Is Tikka Masala Sauce?

Tikka masala sauce is actually more British than Indian – some even consider it to be the national dish of England! It is said to have been created by a British Pakistani chef, Ali Ahmed Aslam, in Glasgow, Scotland, who improvised a sauce made from yogurt, cream and spices.

Well-known British chefs such as Jamie Oliver have brought it into the mainstream.

In true definition:

Tikka = an Indian dish of small pieces of meat or vegetables marinated in seasoned yogurt and grilled.

Masala = any mix of spices ground into a paste or powder for use in Indian cooking.

Sauce = the ‘gravy’ that ties everything together.

What Does Tikka Masala Taste Like?

Tikka masala is a tomato and cream (either in the form of heavy cream, yogurt or cashews) based sauce with lots of traditional Indian spices, including ginger, turmeric and red chili powder (to give it that quintessential orange-hue), garam masala, coriander and cumin. It is slightly sweet and earthy in flavor.

Is Masala Sauce Spicy?

The spice factor really depends on the amount of ground red chili in the recipe. I like to use Kashmiri red chili powder, which is a mildly hot red chili native to India. I say mildly hot since it is more of a warm chili flavor rather than hot spicy.

If you can’t find Kashmiri chile powder, you can substitute it with 1 teaspoon paprika + 1/4 teaspoon cayenne.

For a milder tikka masala sauce, simply use an equal amount of paprika and omit the cayenne.

Ingredients

authentic tikka masala sauce in instant pot

Tikka masala sauce is made-up of easy-to-find ingredients at your local supermarket or Indian food Store. The Indian spice blend, Garam Masala, is widely available in the ethnic food aisles these days, and is also available online. Here’s what you need:

  • Unsalted Butter (or Ghee): Regular unsalted butter or ghee (clarified butter) can be used interchangeably here. Trader Joe’s sells Ghee that I personally love!
  • Onion + Garlic + Ginger: The onion, garlic and ginger provide a flavorful aromatic base. The sauce will end up being blended until smooth, so there is no need to worry about cutting and chopping to the right size.
  • Diced Tomatoes: One 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes and all their juices are a quick and easy tomato base. Alternatively, you can use 4-5 Ripe Roma tomatoes.
  • Raw Cashews: Here is the creamy component that makes this tikka masala recipe unique! Rather than dairy cream or yogurt, the lush and creamy texture is created with raw cashews. In other words, we are essentially creating our own cashew cream! Buy raw cashews in bulk and store the remainder in an airtight container in your freezer.
  • Water: The liquid creates the base for the sauce.
  • Spices:
    • Salt
    • Turmeric Powder
    • Garam Masala
    • Coriander Powder
    • Cumin Powder
    • Kashmiri Red Chili Powder (or Paprika, for mild curry)
    • Cardamom Powder
  • Dried Fenugreek (Kasoori Methi): Known as Kasoori or Kasuri Methi in the Indian subcontinent, both the dried leaves and seeds are used for cooking. In tikka masala, we want the dried leaves, which are also found in most dried curry blends and jarred sauces.
  • Butter: The sweet cream flavor of butter at the very end adds that special finishing touch and gives the curry a gorgeous shine.
  • Agave (or Honey/Sugar): A touch of sweetness at the very end balances the flavor. A little goes a long way here.

How To Make this Sauce From Scratch

Tikka Masala Sauce is super easy to make in under 30 minutes! Follow the steps below for the Instant Pot or Stovetop method.

Instant Pot Tikka Masala

chopped onions in instant pot, garlic and ginger in small glass bowl, tomatoes, cashes, spices and water being poured in instant pot, pureeing tikka masala sauce with fenugreek leaves
Step by Step photos of Tikka Masala Sauce Recipe
  • Turn on Saute and adjust to High. Wait for 30-40 seconds and add butter (or ghee) and chopped onions, cook for 3 minutes, till they soften. (Pic 1)
  • Add minced garlic, ginger and sauté for one minute. Stir in tomatoes, spices, cashews and cook for 2 minutes. Add water and scrape up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom. Turn off Saute. (Pics 2 – 4).
  • Close lid and pressure cook on HIGH for 5 minutes, followed by a natural pressure release (NPR). If in a rush, QR (quick release) after 5 minutes following your cooker instructions. Unlock and open the lid after the pin drops.
  • Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce to a smooth consistency (Pic 5). If using a traditional blender, wait for the sauce to cool down and then blend to a smooth consistency.
  • Add dried fenugreek leaves and butter and simmer on Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add agave (or sugar/honey) to balance the flavors (Pic 6).

Stovetop Recipe

  • Heat a heavy bottom pot on medium-high heat, add add butter (or ghee) and chopped onions, cook for 3 minutes, till they soften.
  • Add minced garlic, ginger and sauté for one minute. Stir in tomatoes, spices, cashews and cook for 2 minutes. 
  • Add water and stir well. When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes. TIP: Stir a few times to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom. If it looks dry, add a little water and continue cooking.
  • Use a hand blender to puree the sauce to a smooth consistency.
  • Add dried fenugreek leaves and butter, then simmer uncovered for 2-3 minutes. Add agave (or sugar/honey) to balance the flavors.

To Blend Or Not To Blend?

My family enjoys a smooth and creamy tikka masala sauce (which is how it is prepared in Indian restaurants). Since this is a homemade tikka masala sauce made with cashews, blending it with an immersion blender is necessary to reach that silky smooth consistency.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, simply cool the sauce and transfer it to your blender to blend until smooth.

A Customized Vegan Masala Sauce Recipe

This tikka masala sauce can easily be customized into a Vegan recipe. All you need to do is swap out a few ingredients. Simply:

  • Use oil rather than unsalted butter at the very beginning
  • Omit the butter at the end. Alternatively, stir in a few tablespoons of coconut cream.
  • Use agave as the sweetener since honey is not vegan-friendly

How To Use This Tikka Sauce

tikka masala sauce in gray bowl on navy blue plate

This is a versatile base sauce recipe that can build a meal based on whatever you’re craving. Below are some of my favorite ways to use tikka masala sauce. Simply add BITE-SIZE pieces of any ONE of the following to your sauce as follows:

  1. Chicken (thigh/breast): Add 1-1.5 lbs. chicken and pressure cook at LOW pressure for 5 minutes, followed by natural pressure release. Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 15-20 minutes at medium-high heat.
  2. Paneer: Add 10-12 oz. cubed paneer. Turn on Saute and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the paneer becomes soft (No pressure cooking required). Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 10 minutes at medium-high heat.
  3. Vegetables: Add 4 cups vegetables of choice. Adjust pressure cooking time to ‘0’ minutes at LOW pressure, followed by quick pressure release. Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 10-12 minutes at medium-high heat.
  4. Fish/Salmon: Add fish cut in 2-inch pieces. Turn on Saute and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until the fish cooks through and turns opaque (No pressure cooking required). Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 6-8 minutes, at medium-high heat.
  5. Cooked Chickpeas: Add 2 cans of rinsed and drained chickpeas and adjust pressure cooking time to 2 minutes at LOW pressure, followed by natural pressure release. Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 10-12 minutes at medium-high heat.
  6. Shrimp: Use 1 lb. extra large thawed shrimp (21-30 count) and turn on Saute. Simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked through, turn pink and opaque. Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 6-8 minutes at medium-high heat.

How To Store

Homemade tikka masala sauce is best stored in a jar or airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. If you are not planning on using the sauce within that timeframe, simply freeze the entire recipe or in individual portions.

Freezer Masala Sauce

frozen portions of tikka masala sauce in plastic storage bag

There are two options – in one large airtight container or individual portions. For both, make sure to cool completely before storing.

  • One Container: Place in a tight-sealing container, label, date and freeze for up to 2 months.
  • Individual Portions: Portion into round silicone molds and place in your freezer until set, about 1 hour. Transfer to a freezer-safe plastic storage bag, seal tight, label, date and freeze for up to 2 months.

Thaw and Use

  • When ready to use, thaw the one container of sauce overnight in the refrigerator and use it as directed above.
  • For the individual portions, 1 cube = 1/4 cup sauce, so simply pop one (or two) out of the freezer any time the craving strikes and melt in a skillet with your cooked protein or vegetable of choice until warmed through.

Recipe Tips:

  • There is no need to worry about slicing and chopping the aromatics to the right size since the tikka masala will be pureed at the very end. If you do not own an immersion blender, cool the sauce completely and transfer to a blender to puree until smooth.
  • If you are making this sauce recipe when tomatoes are in season, use 4-5 ripe Roma tomatoes for their super fresh flavor.
  • Can’t find dried fenugreek leaves? Skip it. Many sources suggest maple syrup or mustard as a substitute for fenugreek leaves, but it isn’t a perfect match in this recipe. Don’t worry, you’ll still have a rock-solid sauce to enjoy.
  • This recipe has been tested in a 6 QT Instant Pot. If making this in an 8 QT size, increase water quantity to meet the requirement.
  • When using the Stovetop method, stir a few times during simmering to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom. If it looks dry, add a little water and continue cooking.

More Master Sauce Recipes to Make Dinner Easy

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tikka masala sauce with cilantro garnish in gray bowl on navy blue plate

Tikka Masala Sauce – Instant Pot | Stove

An authentic Tikka Masala Sauce recipe with a blend of spices that is smooth, creamy and ready in under 30 minutes in the Instant Pot or on the Stove.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
NPR: 5 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 5 people
Calories: 141kcal

Ingredients

SAUCE: (Makes 2.5 cups – Serves 4-5)

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
  • 1 cup onion 1 medium onion coarsely chopped/sliced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic 3 cloves, crushed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger 1-inch piece, minced or grated
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 14.5 oz can, or, 4-5 Ripe Roma tomatoes
  • cup raw cashews
  • ½ cup water

Spices

After Pressure Cooking

  • 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek (Kasoori Methi)
  • 1 teaspoon butter (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Agave (or honey/sugar), adjust as needed

Equipment

Instructions

Instant Pot Method

  • Turn on Saute and adjust to High. Wait for 30-40 seconds and add butter (or ghee) and chopped onions, cook for 3 minutes, till they soften.
  • Add minced garlic, ginger and sauté for one minute. Add tomatoes, spices, cashews and cook for 2 minutes. Add water and scrape up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom. Turn off Saute.
  • Close the lid and pressure cook on High for 5 minutes, followed by a natural pressure release. If in a rush, QR (quick release) after 5 minutes following your cooker instructions. Unlock and open the lid after the pin drops.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. If using a traditional blender, wait for the sauce to cool down and then blend to a smooth consistency.
  • Add dried fenugreek and butter and simmer (on Saute) for 2-3 minutes. Add agave or honey to balance the flavors, and you're done! If not using immediately, cool and store for later. For Freezing, see 'notes' below.

Stovetop Method

  • Heat a heavy bottom pot on medium-high heat, add add butter (or ghee) and chopped onions, cook for 3 minutes, till they soften.
  • Add minced garlic, ginger and sauté for one minute. Add tomatoes, spices, cashews and cook for 2 minutes. 
  • Add water and stir well. When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir a few times to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom. If it looks dry, add a little water and continue cooking.
  • Using a hand blender, puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. If using a traditional blender, wait for the sauce to cool down and then blend to a smooth consistency.
  • Add dried fenugreek and butter. Simmer uncovered for 2-3 minutes. Add agave or a little sugar to balance the flavors. If not using immediately, cool and store for later. For Freezing, see 'notes' below.

How to Use Tikka Masala Sauce (Instant Pot & Stove)

  • Thaw the sauce and add to pressure cooker. If the sauce looks too thick, add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water. Add bite size pieces of any ONE of the following options:
    1. Chicken (thigh/breast): Add 1-1.5 lbs. chicken and pressure cook at LOW pressure for 5 minutes, followed by natural pressure release. Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 15-20 minutes at medium-high heat.
    2. Paneer: Add 10-12 oz. cubed paneer. Turn on Saute and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the paneer becomes soft (No pressure cooking required). Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 10 minutes at medium-high heat.
    3. Vegetables: Add 4 cups vegetables of choice. Adjust pressure cooking time to '0' minutes at LOW pressure, followed by quick pressure release. Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 10-12 minutes at medium-high heat.
    4. Fish/Salmon: Add fish cut in 2-inch pieces. Turn on Saute and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until the fish cooks through and turns opaque (No pressure cooking required). Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 6-8 minutes, at medium-high heat.
    5. Cooked Chickpeas: Add 2 cans of rinsed and drained chickpeas and adjust pressure cooking time to 2 minutes at LOW pressure, followed by natural pressure release. Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 10-12 minutes at medium-high heat.
    6. Shrimp: Use 1 lb. extra large thawed shrimp (21-30 count) and turn on Saute. Simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked through, turn pink and opaque. Alternatively, simmer in a sauce pan for 6-8 minutes at medium-high heat.

How to Freeze Tikka Masala Sauce

  • Cool the sauce completely. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for 4-5 days, or freeze up to 2 months.
  • To re-use, thaw the sauce, ideally overnight in the refrigerator, and use per instructions.

Video

Notes & Recipe Tips

Recipe Tips:
 
  • There is no need to worry about slicing and chopping the aromatics to the right size since the tikka masala will be pureed at the very end. If you do not own an immersion blender, cool the sauce completely and transfer to a blender to puree until smooth.
  • If you are making this sauce recipe when tomatoes are in season, use 4-5 ripe Roma tomatoes for their super fresh flavor.
  • Can’t find dried fenugreek leaves? Skip it. Many sources suggest maple syrup or mustard as a substitute for fenugreek leaves, but it isn’t a perfect match in this recipe. Don’t worry, you’ll still have a rock-solid sauce to enjoy.
  • This recipe has been tested in a 6 QT Instant Pot. If making this in an 8 QT size, increase water quantity to meet the requirement.
  • If using the Stovetop method, stir a few times during simmering to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom. If it looks dry, add a little water and continue cooking.
 
Notes on Recipe Time:
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates for the sauce and do not include any protein choices.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.

Nutrition

Calories: 141kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 597mg | Potassium: 303mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 482IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: instant pot tikka masala sauce, Masala Sauce, Tikka Masala Sauce, Tikka sauce
Did you try this recipe?Mention @SpiceCravings or tag #spicecravings!

HEY! NICE TO MEET YOU!

Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Amanda
    June 11, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    The flavor is amazing. I did thin it out the sauce a bit and I’m not sure if my hand blender sucks, but I wasn’t able to break up the cashews so I had to use my conventional blender. Also, if I were to serve this sauce to 5 people, I would double or triple the recipe. 9/10. Thank you for an authentic Tikka masala sauce!

    • Reply
      Aneesha
      June 14, 2020 at 10:49 am

      Hi Amanda, thank you, so glad you enjoyed it! With a good blender, this sauce becomes silky smooth, so I would suggest switching to a high-power blender next time.

  • Reply
    Kiran
    April 7, 2020 at 9:09 am

    5 stars
    I made this last night and it’s so delicious! I didn’t have all of the spices so I used Tikka Masala spice blend. I added Thai chili for extra spice and I used the vita mix to blend the sauce. I doubled the batch to make another dish later this week. Definitely saving this recipe.

    • Reply
      Aneesha
      April 7, 2020 at 9:55 am

      Hi Kiran, thank you! I’m really glad you enjoyed it!

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