3.8/5 rating (58 votes)

Brown Masala Sauce


  • Heat Medium
  • Serves 8
  • Dietary Info LACTOSE-FREE
  • Prep 10 mins
  • Cook 40 mins
Brown Masala Sauce

Hari says

This is my basic homemade brown onion masala. It's thick, rich and has a really robust flavour that can be used to create beautiful fragrant meat dishes. The onions are very slowly cooked down to produce a deep rich golden brown mass into which the tomatoes and spices are added. Once cooked down the masala is a dark brown gloopy mass of aromatics and flavour. This technique of slow cooking is used in North India (originally by the Sindhi community) as a way infusing lots of flavour into thick sauces and as a way of preserving too.

This quantity will produce enough masala for at least eight portions and it's a great way to keep some curry sauce in your freezer for when you get that curry urge. 

  • Ingredients
  • Method


  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • 4 onions, finely diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 800g plum tomatoes
  • 8cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • salt to taste
  • 1½ tsp turmeric
  • Handful of coriander stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 fresh green chillies, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp of garam masala
  • Handful of coriander leaves, chopped


  1. Heat oil in a pan and add the onion. Fry on a high heat for a few minutes then reduce the heat and cook gently.
  2. Add the finely chopped garlic and continue to cook gently for at least 30 minutes until the onions turn a really dark golden brown. 
  3. Once brown and caramelised add the tomatoes, ginger, salt, turmeric, coriander stalks and chopped chillies and chilli powder.
  4. Let the onions, tomatoes and spices melt together creating a thick aromatic masala paste. This will take about 5-10 minutes so be patient!
  5. This masala can then be used for your dish or you can cool it down and freeze it in tubs. Just defrost as and when needed.

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Comments (8)

  • Wendy


    12 March 2020 at 04:50 |
    Looks great. Can you use tinned tomatoes or do they have to be fresh. Thanks.


    • Hari Ghotra

      Hari Ghotra

      26 March 2020 at 19:30 |
      Yes you sure can!


  • John Haines

    John Haines

    05 November 2016 at 15:25 |
    Just made this masala sauce very easy and an amazing flavour can't wait to use it as it seems very versatile! Recipe includes garam masala but doesn't say when to add it so I just put it in at the end and let it cook through for a few minutes seem to work really well !!


    • Hari Ghotra

      Hari Ghotra

      09 November 2016 at 17:37 |
      Hi John - I better have a look at that thanks for letting me know but you guessed right - just add it at the end. Thanks and glad you liked it.


  • Sally Molloy

    Sally Molloy

    12 January 2016 at 11:18 |
    Hello, this looks delicious. What could it be served with? I'm a vegetarian, could it be served with paneer or tofu?


    • Hari Ghotra

      Hari Ghotra

      12 January 2016 at 16:39 |
      Hi Sally This is a base sauce you can add anything you like to it - paneer and peas, cauliflower and potatoes, aubergine. Just add the veg and leave to cook in the sauce. You may need to add a little water too. Have a look on the site as I have lots of vegetarian dishes that might appeal to you. Enjoy and let me know what you try. Thanks Hari


  • Jay


    01 December 2015 at 22:26 |
    Nice recipe, but let me say this: there is NO WAY you can cook 4 onions on 2 tbsp of oil. Not a chance. You'll need a lot more oil. :-)


    • Hari Ghotra

      Hari Ghotra

      02 December 2015 at 08:23 |
      Hi Jay I just like to keep my oil to a minimum and add splashes of water as I cook which helps to soften and brown the onions. You certainly can add more oil. Thanks for your comment Hari


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