This easy Indian curry sauce recipe has it all! Simple ingredients for a quick, vegan, oil-free, basic curry sauce with the extra touch of chopped spinach that goes with everything.
The curry sauce is delicious with crispy vegan tofu, quick-fried bell peppers, onions, or cooked black lentils for an easy meal that never disappoints.
Table of Contents
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- An easy curry sauce is perfect for busy days, meal prep, or freezing for individual portions or a dinner party.
- Satisfy your craving for Indian food with a base sauce that can be used to make various curry dishes, from chana masala to dal makhani.
- This is a healthy and delicious recipe with no added oil and staple vegan ingredients you can grab at the grocery store.
Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Onions. Use yellow onions, red onions, or shallots.
Garlic and ginger. Substitute with 1 tablespoon of garlic and ginger paste, or look for dried or frozen ginger flakes. Otherwise, use 1 teaspoon respectively of garlic powder and ginger powder.
Cumin powder. If you use whole spices, grind them before using them. Otherwise, stick to ground cumin.
Turmeric. The earthy flavor of turmeric is used in so many Indian curry recipes that you likely have it on hand. There'll be some in the curry powder, but this sauce benefits from an additional teaspoon.
Coriander. Not the same as cilantro, coriander is a dry spice with a citrusy flavor we use in different curry recipes like mung bean curry.
Cayenne pepper. Substitute with red pepper flakes, crushed red chili, or Indian-style red chili powder. ‘Regular’ chili powder (Mexican style) might contain other herbs and spices, so you’re better off using a chopped green chili pepper.
Curry powder. Use a flavorful curry powder or a masala style if that’s what you have. Hot curry powder might be all the spice you need.
Tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are great for convenience. Use crushed tomatoes for a smoother sauce. If using fresh tomatoes (2-3 cups), add 2 teaspoons of tomato paste for a thick sauce.
Spinach. Chopped spinach is our secret ingredient for color, texture, and nutrition. You can also use frozen spinach. Thaw and press all the moisture out before using.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
Curry powder is a popular ingredient; try different varieties. You can make slight variations by switching up the amounts of types of spices. Madras curry powder is all-purpose, while garam masala is sweeter and more fragrant with notes of nutmeg and allspice.
Turn this basic curry sauce into a creamy curry with a can of coconut milk or plant milk with coconut extract for a lower-fat option, or use one of our other recommended coconut milk substitutes. Add diced mango for mango curry.
Step 1: Heat a medium saucepan or skillet to medium heat, add the onions, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then stir in garlic, ginger, and dry spices.
Step 2: Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, and maple syrup. Adjust the heat to a slow simmer.
Step 3: Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Step 4: Stir in chopped spinach and simmer for another 1-2 minutes until it wilts.
Break up canned whole tomatoes by dicing them, squishing them with your hand, or running them through a blender. Another quick fix is to break them down in the can using an immersion or stick blender.
If the sauce is too thin, simmer it longer before adding the spinach. You can also add a teaspoon of tomato paste.
Serve this delicious sauce with assorted roasted veggies and basmati rice for a quick meal, or use it as a gravy for baked or mashed potatoes. It’s also popular over fries with a dollop of vegan sour cream on top.
If you want to add protein, crispy tofu is our favorite. Adding a can of chickpeas, lentils, or black beans are also excellent additions.
You can take this sauce into a new realm with your favorite pizza base and top it with veggies or pineapple chunks.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Instant Pot can save time and effort if you make a large batch of basic Indian curry sauce. Once you add the tomatoes and broth, turn off the Instant Pot. Use a wooden spoon to clear the bottom. Then cook on high pressure for 5 minutes, then let it naturally release for 10 minutes. Once you remove the lid, stir in the spinach. You can also add all the ingredients except the spinach. This skips the first cooking steps and still results in a delicious sauce.
Indian curry sauce or gravy is a base staple in Indian cuisine. It's the foundation for various Indian dishes like tikka masala and vegetable korma or as a dipping sauce for naan or roti. The flavor and spiciness of the sauce can vary depending on the recipe and regional preferences.
The curry sauce in this recipe is flavored with Indian spices and can be used for making curry or as gravy. It can be used as a base flavor if you further reduce this sauce into a paste (Bhuna masala). Most curry pastes, like red curry paste, are used for making Thai curries and sauces. They have different flavor profiles.
Store leftover curry sauce in an airtight container for 5 days in the refrigerator. Reheat it on the stove or in the microwave. It can be frozen for 3 months or longer.
More Vegan Indian Recipes
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Easy Indian Curry Sauce Recipe
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- 1 medium onion - chopped
- 3 cloves garlic - minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger - grated or finely minced
- 1 ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper - or crushed red chili
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 14 ounces chopped tomatoes - 1 can
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 16 ounces spinach - chopped, 2 cups
- salt to taste
- Heat a medium saucepan to medium-high heat, then add the chopped onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the onions soften.
- Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper, and curry powder. Stir all the ingredients to mix.
- Pour in the vegetable broth, tomatoes, and maple syrup. Stir the sauce and the bottom of the saucepan to pick up any ingredients stuck to the bottom.
- Let the ingredients start to simmer, then adjust to medium heat. Cover the saucepan and simmer the sauce for 10-15 minutes until the sauce begins to reduce and thicken.
- Stir in the chopped spinach and cook it for a couple of minutes until it wilts.
- Taste and add salt if desired.
- Serve the curry sauce warm over crispy tofu or rice, or use it as a curry base for vegetables, chickpeas, or lentils.
- Store leftover sauce in an airtight container for 5 days or freeze for 3 months.
- If the sauce is too thin for your planned use, increase the cooking time by a few minutes. You can also add a tablespoon of tomato paste (tomato puree).
- Quickly transform this recipe into a coconut curry sauce by reducing the vegetable broth to ½ a cup and adding 1 cup of coconut milk.
- For a zestier curry sauce, add lemon juice.
- Exchange 1 teaspoon of garam masala powder for a slightly different flavor for cumin, coriander, and turmeric.
- Thaw and press the moisture from frozen spinach before adding it to the sauce.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.