Homemade Curry Simmer Sauce

If you like creamy curry dishes, try out this velvety smooth curry simmer sauce made with coconut milk, tomatoes, and Indian spices.

Cococnut Curry Simmer Sauce

Unfortunately, I’ve never been impressed with store-bought jarred simmer sauces, especially the Indian ones.

They either lacked flavor or had too much of an unusual ingredient, something I wouldn’t put in my own curries.

So I set out to make my own version that I could freeze in batches and take out whenever I needed a quick dish.

I tried out many recipes until I found something similar to what you might get in a jar.

Of course I love authentic Indian food, but sometimes I crave those non-traditional or westernized versions as well. That’s what this recipe is.

To make the sauce, I followed my basic chicken curry recipe but used store-bought garam masala instead of homemade.

I also added dates for sweetness. This is not an Indian thing but I like using dates because they add sugar and a nice caramelized flavor. Brown sugar or coconut sugar also works.

And, yes, I tried making it without added sweetener but it felt like it was missing something and didn’t taste “right”. The small amount of sweetness brings out all the other flavors.

Normally we don’t add sugar to our Kerala curries, nor do we puree the gravy. That’s why my husband prefers them, because they are full of onions, chili peppers, & spices.

Well, this is not a Kerala dish, but rather an Indian-ish one. I think it tastes similar to chicken tikka masala or butter chicken, but since I use coconut milk (a nod to our Kerala roots) instead of heavy cream, it also tastes similar to a Thai curry. 

It’s slightly sweet, tangy, and mildly spicy, and I think it’s delicious.

how to make curry simmer sauce

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and then add the oil. When the oil is hot, add 1/2 a diced onion, 1 inch piece of ginger and 4 cloves of garlic coarsely chopped or minced. Sauté for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Next add 1 tablespoon each of ground coriander, garam masala, 1-2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon each of ground turmeric and cinnamon. Sauté the spices for 1 minute or until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them.

Then add in 1 cup chopped tomatoes and 2-4 chopped dates.

Joby's Test Kitchen adding diced tomatoes to onions and mustard seeds in skillet

Sauté the tomatoes about 5-8 minutes or until they cook down, adding some water if they start to burn. Then take off heat and let cool to room temperature.

Now add the cooled mixture to a blender along with 1 can coconut milk and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend until very smooth.

I add a little water to the blender to clean it out so none of the sauce gets wasted.

Chill and portion into freezer safe containers or bags. I divide my sauce into 3 batches, each batch containing 4 servings.

When it is time to reheat the curry sauce, pour it into a pan and bring to a simmer. Add cooked meat and/or veggies, and simmer for about 5 minutes until ingredients are heated through.

If adding raw meat or frozen vegetables, simmer 8-10 minutes or until the meat is fully cooked and vegetables are tender. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Tomatoes

I’ve made this with tomato paste, canned tomato sauce, canned diced tomatoes, and fresh tomatoes.

Tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes made it taste too much like a marinara sauce.

Tomato paste was fine but the color turned more brown.

My favorite is fresh tomatoes because they give the sauce a beautiful orange color and nice bright flavor.

Sweetener

If you don’t want to use dates, use 2 teaspoons brown or coconut sugar for a more complex flavor.

Otherwise, regular table sugar is absolutely fine. Also, add the sugar when blending the sauce.

Add-Ins:

Here are suggestions on what to add to your simmer sauce:

Animal Proteins:

Vegetarian/Vegan Proteins:

  • Tofu
  • Multi-Vegetables
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Potatoes, Peas, & Cauliflower

As you can see, pretty much anything can be added to this curry sauce and it’ll be delicious!

Just make sure to serve it with basmati rice and fluffy buttery naan.

What My Kids Say:
10 year-old: “It’s so salty, and spicy, and creamy and delicious. I could eat this every day.”
7 year-old: ”I like it, It’s not my favorite, but it’s good.”


Curry simmer sauce and chicken in pan.

Homemade Curry Simmer Sauce

Joby’s Test Kitchen
A velvety smooth curry sauce made with rich coconut milk and fragrant Indian spices.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 12 servings
Calories 52 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsps (30ml) oil
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1-2 tsps chili powder (Kashmir or Indian)
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup (147g) fresh chopped tomatoes or 3 tbsp (45g) tomato paste *see Note
  • 2-4 pitted dates, chopped or 2 tsps sugar *see note
  • 1 (13.6oz) can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp salt, or more per taste
  • ¼-½ cup water

Instructions
 

  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and then add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, ginger, & garlic and sauté for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Next add the spices and sauté for 1 minute or until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them.
  • Add fresh tomatoes or paste and dates. If using sugar, add it when blending. Sauté the tomatoes about 5-8 minutes or until they cook down, adding water if they start to burn.
  • Take off heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Add the cooled mixture to a blender along with coconut milk and salt. You can also add sugar at this time, if using it instead of dates. Blend until very smooth. Add some water to the blender to clean it out so no sauce gets wasted.
  • Chill and portion into freezer safe containers or bags. I divide my sauce into 3 batches, each batch containing 4 servings.
  • When it is time to reheat the curry sauce, pour it into a pan and bring to a simmer. Add cooked meat and/or veggies, and simmer for about 5 minutes until ingredients are heated through. If adding raw meat or frozen vegetables, simmer 8-10 minutes or until the meat is fully cooked and vegetables are tender. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Notes

Tomatoes: Tomato sauce or canned diced tomatoes make the sauce taste like  marinara sauce. Tomato paste tastes fine but the color turns more brown. Fresh tomatoes give the sauce a beautiful orange color and nice bright flavor.
Dates: Instead of dates, try brown or coconut sugar. Otherwise, regular table sugar is absolutely fine.
Spice: I only use 1 teaspoon of chili powder because of my kids. If I was making it for adults, I would increase to 2 teaspoons. 
Keyword coconut milk, curry sauce, Indian, tomatoes

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