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Indian curry sauce made with onions and tomatoes in a black bowl with spices and tomatoes in the back
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4.82 from 11 votes

Indian Curry Sauce Recipe (Onion Tomato Bhuna Masala)

Basic Indian Curry Sauce, also known as Bhuna Masala, made with onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and spices. This is the base for many Indian dishes such as lentils and curries. This onion tomato masala is very versatile and freezes well. Perfect to have for those busy days when you want to make a curry in a hurry!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Spice Blend
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: bhuna masala, indian curry sauce, indian onion tomato masala
Diet: Gluten-free, Vegan
Method: Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker, Stovetop
Servings: 12
Calories: 120kcal
Author: Meeta Arora


  • 1/2 cup Oil
  • 5 Onions yellow medium diced
  • 10 cloves Garlic minced
  • 2 inch Ginger grated
  • 4 Green Chili Pepper I used Thai chili, optional
  • 6 Tomatoes medium chopped, I used Roma tomatoes



Instant Pot Method:

  • Start the instant pot in Saute(more) setting and let it heat until it displays HOT.
  • Add oil, then diced onions and stir them.
  • Saute the onions for about 15 minutes. You dont need to stir for the first 8-10 minutes, as the onions release water and do not stick to the pot. After 10 minutes, stir at regular intervals.
  • Add ginger, garlic and green chili pepper and mix well. Saute for 5 mins, while stirring frequently.
  • Add the spices. Then add tomatoes and stir well.
  • Saute for about 3 minutes. We don't want to cook down the tomatoes completely, as we need the tomato liquid for pressure cooking. Scrape the bottom to make sure nothing is stuck. If needed, add 1-2 tablespoons of water and deglaze the pot.
  • Press Cancel and close lid with vent in sealing position. Set the instant pot to manual or pressure cook mode for 5 minutes at high pressure.
  • When the instant pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally. Open the pot and give it a good stir.
  • You can leave the masala as is or blend using an immersion blender or in a standalone blender. Keep it chunky or smooth depending on your taste.
  • This recipe makes about 6 cups of curry sauce.

Stovetop Method:

  • Use a heavy bottom deep saucepan. Add the oil and onions, and saute for about 15 minutes. Stir at regular intervals from the start on stovetop.
  • Add the tomatoes and spices, and stir well. Cover and let it cook for 5 minutes, so the tomatoes soften. Then cook the masala uncovered so all the liquid dries and the masala thickens.Keep stirring at regular intervals. 
  • The Bhuna Masala is ready when it starts to leave oil on the sides of the pan. You can keep it as it or blend in a blender, depending on your preference.


Nutrition value: It is for 1/2 cup of curry sauce. 
Preferred Method: I would say making onion tomato masala on stovetop or instant pot takes the same amount of time, but there is less active time or stirring needed with the instant pot method. 
Storing: This Indian curry sauce stores well in the refrigerator for up to a week. To store for longer, freeze in small portions. You can use large ice cube trays or silicone molds  to store the Bhuna Masala. The silicone molds store about 1/4 cup in each compartment. You can remove the cubes once they are freezed and store in ziploc bags. The masala stays good for 3-4 months in the freezer. 
Using the masala: If using freezed masala in a dish that will be pressure cooked, you dont necessarily have to thaw the masala. Freezed masala can be added along with other ingredients to pressure cook a curry. 


Calories: 120kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 238mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 611IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 22mg | Iron: 1mg