Tikka Masala Sauce (Indian simmer sauce)

Note: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This tikka masala sauce recipe yields you a simmer sauce that you can use to make Indian food in minutes. Make this sauce in advance and turn your weeknight dinner woes into a win. 

Tikka masala sauce is served in a glass jar
Tikka Masala Sauce

Eating freshly made food from scratch is nice, but that is not always possible. After working, commuting, and shuttling kids from one activity to the other, we run out of steam by the time we reach home. 

We cannot rely on eating store-bought freezer meals or ordering take-outs because it is neither good for our health nor our budget. That is where these simmer sauces such as this easy tikka masala simmer sauce or this curry sauce recipe can come in handy. 

What is a simmer sauce?

For those who want to balance the need of wanting to eat fresh food every day without spending hours in the kitchen, a simmer sauce is a good middle-ground solution. Simmer sauce is a pre-cooked sauce in which you can cook fresh or frozen vegetables, meat, seafood, paneer, and tofu to create delicious meals in minutes.

This is how it works – 

  1. Make a big batch of simmer sauce over the weekend or whenever you have time.
  2. Divide it into individual portions – 1 cup of sauce per Ziploc bag or a glass container. 
  3. Store it in the refrigerator (for 7 days) or in the freezer (for 2 months). 
  4. To use, saute your favorite veggies or protein, add the sauce and cook the gravy over medium heat.
  5. Garnish with any herb of your choice. 

I have two simmer sauce recipes on this blog – an easy basic curry recipe (bhuna masala recipe) and this tikka masala sauce recipe. Both these recipes are extremely versatile. I promise you it won’t feel like you are eating the same curry dish every day. 

If you are wondering what’s the difference between these two recipes, let me explain –

  • Quantity of onions – This tikka masala sauce uses very little onions compared to the curry sauce.
  • Use of spices – The curry sauce does not use any whole spices at all whereas the tikka masala sauce uses whole spices such as cloves, bay leaf, etc.
  •  Sauce consistency – This tikka masala sauce is much thinner in consistency compared to the curry sauce and has a smooth consistency.

Think of tikka masala as a more spiced-up version of the basic curry recipe. In fact, you can make a big batch of the curry recipe and tweak it to turn it into a tikka masala sauce or a makhani sauce. More details on how to do that can be found in this easy curry sauce recipe post.

Alright, let’s get started and learn how to make, use and store tikka masala sauce. 

How to make tikka masala simmer sauce

Ingredients used in tikka masala sauce

  • Produce – onions, tomatoes, garlic cloves, ginger, green chilies 
  • Nuts – cashews (optional)
  • Whole spices – cloves, bay leaf 
  • Seasonings – salt and Kashmiri chili powder
  • Oil of your choice (Olive, Peanut, Avocado, Mustard oil )
  • Optional spicespeppercorns, cloves, byadgi chilies, cinnamon stick, black cardamom, green cardamom [Note: Use these spices if you have it for a more robust flavor]

Note – A tikka masala gravy has a few more ingredients than what’s listed above.  Those ingredients are – 

  • Honey 
  • Heavy cream
  • Garam masala (homemade or storebought)
  • Herbs such as dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) or cilantro

They need to be added after a dish is cooked through. For example – Garam masala is usually added to a dish when the veggies or protein are done cooking. That’s why I left them out so that you could add them later. 

A collage of images showing step by step pictures to make Tikka masala using an Instant Pot
Instant Pot Tikka Masala Sauce – Step by Step

Instructions to make tikka masala using Instant Pot

  1. Select the Instant Pot ‘Saute’ mode and set it on ‘Normal’
  2. Once the oil is hot, add all the spices – let them sizzle for about 10-15 seconds.
  3. Add chopped onions, cashews, green chilies, chopped ginger, and garlic. Saute them for about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes along with salt, and Kashmiri chili powder. Mix well. 
  5. The tomatoes will start to release water immediately.
  6. Add 1/2 cup of water and mix well.
  7. Deglaze the pot – scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure there is nothing stuck.
  8. Hit cancel and cover the lid. Pressure cook on high for 10 minutes.
  9. Once the cooking cycle is complete, release the pressure immediately by moving the steam valve to the venting position.
  10. Open the lid and give the sauce a quick stir.
  11. Use an immersion blender and puree it to a smooth paste. If using a blender, allow the masala sauce to cool down for at least 10 minutes before pureeing it. 
  12. Let it cool completely before transferring the tikka masala into a glass jar or ziplock bags. Store in the refrigerator for a week or store it in the freezer for a couple of months. 

Instructions to make tikka masala over a stovetop

  1. Add oil to a saucepan kept over medium heat on a stovetop. 
  2. Once the oil is hot, add all the spices – let them sizzle for about 10-15 seconds.
  3. Add chopped onions, cashews, green chilies, chopped ginger, and garlic. Saute them for about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes along with salt, and Kashmiri chili powder. Mix well. 
  5. The tomatoes will start to release water immediately. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat.
  6. Open the lid and give the sauce a quick stir.
  7. Use an immersion blender and puree it to a smooth paste. If using a blender, allow the masala sauce to cool down for at least 10 minutes before pureeing it. 
  8. Let it cool completely before transferring the tikka masala into a glass jar or ziplock bags. Store in the refrigerator for a week or store it in the freezer for a couple of months. 

Tikka masala recipe notes/variations

Skip the spices that you don’t have –  This recipe calls for a lot of spices. While the spices make this dish more aromatic, feel free to skip them. The sauce will still taste great as long as you use garam masala when finishing off your dish.

How long does it take to make tikka masala sauce?

It takes about 40 minutes from start to finish including 15 minutes to chop the ingredients and 10 minutes of pressure building time for Instant Pot.

How is tikka masala sauce different from the makhani sauce?

Here’s how a makhani sauce is different from a tikka masala gravy.

  1. Makhani sauce usually doesn’t have onions though some chefs use it. 
  2. Makhani sauce also involves using a copious amount of butter in its gravy while Tikka masala does not.
  3. Also, the makhani sauce is milder than Tikka masala sauce because of the generous use of honey/sugar. 

Good news – you can use this tikka masala recipe to make makhani sauce since there is not a lot of difference in how the base curry is made. 

To use this tikka masala sauce as a makhani sauce, saute the ingredients (chicken or paneer/tofu) in butter and then add this sauce along with the other ingredients the recipe calls for. 

Makhani recipes that you can make with this tikka masala sauce – 

How to use this tikka masala sauce in a recipe

Note – Two cups of this tikka masala sauce yields up to 4-6 servings. When I use 2 cups of this sauce, it is sufficient to make both lunch and dinner for our family of 2 adults and 2 kids. 

To use this curry sauce in recipes, replace the part where it calls for adding onions/ginger/garlic and tomatoes with this masala sauce. For most recipes, these will be the steps you will follow – 

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil /butter/ghee over medium heat.
  2. Once hot, add whole spices (if using) such as peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves and let them sizzle for about 10-20 seconds. 
  3. Add the chicken or paneer/tofu and saute it for a minute or two. 
  4. Add the tikka masala sauce and mix well. 
  5. Continue to cook till the veggies/meat are cooked through. 
  6. Add garam masala and honey (if using). 
  7. Garnish it with dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) or cilantro.

Here are a few recipes that you can make with this sauce 

  • Paneer Makhani – Learn how to make your favorite take-out curry –  Restaurant-style Paneer Butter Masala or Paneer Makhani at home in less than 40 minutes!
  • Chicken Tikka masalaMarinated chicken pieces cooked in a creamy buttery sauce.
  • Butter chicken – This authentic and 30-minute Indian Butter chicken recipe is so easy and delicious that I guarantee that once you make it at home, it will soon be part of your weekly dinner menu.
  • Salmon Tikka Masala –  This delicious fish curry combines marinated bite-sized pieces of salmon in a creamy, spiced tikka masala sauce. Serve it with naan or Basmati rice and some onion raita to make it an extra-special weeknight dinner.

Storage instructions

An overhead shot of glass bottles filled with Tikka masala sauce
Instant Pot Makhani Sauce

This tikka masala sauce lasts in the refrigerator for about a week and lasts for a couple of months in the refrigerator.

  • Refrigerator – Store it using leftover marinara sauce bottles (holds up to 3 cups). Alternatively, use any glass containers you have. 
  • Freezer – Freeze the rest using these freezer-safe pyrex containers which are perfect for the job. To use, thaw the glass containers in the refrigerator overnight. 

I prefer using glass containers over Ziploc bags. I like this storage set in particular because it has 8 containers in 2-cup and 1-cup sizes. 

Note: When using glass containers to freeze the masala sauce follow the guidelines below.

  1. Don’t fill it to the brim, leave about an inch – that will give some room for the masala to expand.
  2. Always thaw the glass container in the refrigerator overnight before use. 

Read this: How to prevent glass from breaking in the freezer.

Using silicone trays to freeze

Probably the most convenient option to store this tikka masala in the freezer would be using silicone trays. They are available in 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1 cup capacity. Put them in the freezer and pop the masala cubes out easily when needed. 

Overhead shot of Tikka Masala Sauce served in glass jar
Instant Pot Tikka Masala Sauce


Got a new Instant Pot? Check out the links below to make the most of your pressure cooker -  
Overhead shot of Tikka Masala Sauce served in glass jar

Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce Recipe

4.75 from 8 votes
This tikka masala sauce recipe yields you a simmer sauce that you can use to make Indian food in minutes. Make this sauce in advance and turn your weeknight dinner woes into a win. 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Pressure building time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 cups
Diet : Vegetarian
Course : Instant Pot meals
Method: Instant Pot
Cuisine : Indian

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup oil, Olive or Avocado

Produce & Nuts

  • 1 lb onions, chopped, 1 large or 2 medium-sized (~ 2 cups chopped)
  • 2 inch piece of ginger
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup unsalted cashews
  • 2.5 lbs medium-sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped, approx 8 cups (~12 Roma tomatoes)
  • 1-2 Indian or Thai green chilies (Bird's eye)

Spices & Seasonings

Optional Spices

Instructions
 

Instant Pot Instructions

  • Heat oil in an Instant Pot using the Saute function set at 'Normal' mode.
  • Once the oil is hot, add all the spices – let them sizzle for about 10-15 seconds.
  • Add chopped onions, cashews, green chilies, chopped ginger, and garlic. Saute them for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes along with salt, and Kashmiri chili powder. Mix well.
  • The tomatoes will start to release water immediately.
  • Add 1/2 cup of water and mix well. Deglaze the pot – scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure there is nothing stuck.
  • Hit cancel and cover the lid. Pressure cook for 10 minutes.
  • Once the cooking cycle is complete, release the pressure immediately by moving the steam valve to the venting position.
  • Open the lid and give the sauce a quick stir.
  • Use an immersion blender and puree it to a smooth paste. If using a blender, allow the masala sauce to cool down for at least 10 minutes before pureeing it.
  • Let it cool completely before transferring the tikka masala into a glass jar or ziplock bags. Store in the refrigerator for a week or store it in the freezer for a couple of months.

Stovetop instructions

  • Add oil to a saucepan kept over medium heat on a stovetop.
  • Once the oil is hot, add all the spices – let them sizzle for about 10-15 seconds.
  • Add chopped onions, cashews, green chilies, chopped ginger, and garlic. Saute them for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes along with salt, and Kashmiri chili powder. Mix well.
  • The tomatoes will start to release water immediately. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat.
  • Open the lid and give the sauce a quick stir.
  • Use an immersion blender and puree it to a smooth paste. If using a blender, allow the masala sauce to cool down for at least 10 minutes before pureeing it.
  • Let it cool completely before transferring the tikka masala into a glass jar or ziplock bags. Store in the refrigerator for a week or store it in the freezer for a couple of months.

Notes

Skip the spices that you don’t have –  This recipe calls for a lot of spices. While the spices make this dish more aromatic, feel free to skip them. The sauce will still taste great as long as you use garam masala when finishing off your dish.
How to use this tikka masala sauce in a recipe
Note – Two cups of this tikka masala sauce yields up to 4-6 servings. When I use 2 cups of this sauce, it is sufficient to make both lunch and dinner for our family of 2 adults and 2 kids. 
To use this curry sauce in recipes, replace the part where it calls for adding onions/ginger/garlic and tomatoes with this masala sauce. For most recipes, these will be the steps you will follow – 
  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil /butter/ghee over medium heat.
  2. Once hot, add whole spices (if using) such as peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves and let them sizzle for about 10-20 seconds. 
  3. Add the chicken or paneer/tofu and saute it for a minute or two. 
  4. Add the tikka masala sauce and mix well. 
  5. Continue to cook till the veggies/meat are cooked through. 
  6. Add garam masala and honey (if using). 
  7. Garnish it with dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) or cilantro.
Here are a few recipes that you can make with this sauce 

Pantry EssentialsGetting the right tools for your kitchen makes cooking more enjoyable and less frustrating. Here’s a list of kitchen essentials I own and recommend.

Disclosure: This recipe contains affiliate links to products we love and recommend. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Calories: 223.16kcalCarbohydrates: 22.39gProtein: 5.17gFat: 14.55gSaturated Fat: 8.83gSodium: 440.18mgPotassium: 694.36mgFiber: 5.28gSugar: 9.21gVitamin A: 1772.01IUVitamin C: 34.37mgCalcium: 59.18mgIron: 1.9mg

Disclaimer: Approximate Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.

Did you make this recipe?Take a photo and tag @simmertoslimmer on Instagram for a shoutout!
Keyword : easy, Quick, timesaving

Get dinner on the table faster!

Learn my meal planning + prepping secrets to make fresh Indian food without spending hours in the kitchen.

An overhead shot of Gujarathi kadhi along with rice, rotis and a side of lemon

FREE EMAIL COURSE

Simmer to Slimmer Logo

3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Another awesome recipe! I think I will make this by the gallon! 😊 Amazing taste! Thanks a bunch!!!
    I fished out the bay leaves, black cardamom & the cinnamon stick before pureeing the masala. Is that ok or should it all be left in while pureeing?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating