Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Master Masala Sauce

The Secrets of Indian Cooking: Master Masala Sauce

Learn to make masala with Indian cooking expert, Monica Haldar. 

The chef, presenter and food writer founded the acclaimed Indian pop-up restaurant and cookery school The Spice Club, as well as the online cookery school Shikshak.

She is the host of Fine Dining Lovers' Secrets of Indian Cooking series, and an authority on authentic Indian food (with a little help from her mother).

16 November, 2020
Average: 3.8 (67 votes)

Type of dish


Dietary Consideration

serves for


total time

0 HR 30 MIN


2 tbsp
7 tbsp
Cinnamon sticks
3 cm, or cassia bark
Black cardamom
Green cardamom
Cumin seeds
1 tbs
500 g, diced in a processor
1 tsp
4 cms, cut into rough chunks
Chili pepper
Tomato puree
Turmeric powder
½ tsp
1 tsp
Cumin powder
½ tsp
Coriander powder
1 ½ tsp
Garam masala
1 tsp
½ tsp or according to taste
8-10 stems, chopped

This Master Masala sauce recipe is a spice-packed base that everyone should know how to prepare – properly. It's a delicious starter sauce that can be used for many different types of Indian dishes.

Bringing together a host of flavourful and aromatic ingredients, it's the foundation of many an authentic Indian dish, and the first Indian sauce people should learn to improve their Indian cooking.

This recipe makes enough sauce for around 4 people. 

From Monica: "I'd be the first person to tell you that Indian cuisine is incredibly diverse and all the dishes are unique and nuanced so learning how to master that may seem daunting and overwhelming at first. That being said, there are a whole host of tips and tricks to simplify the process and the "Master Masala" is just one of them. It's a perfectly balanced spiced base that forms the foundation from which to build a whole host of different dishes - hence why I like to call it the "Master Masala".

What is Masala? 

"The word "masala" actually translates as the word for "spice" but is also used to describe a sauce or the base of a dish. The techniques used in making this masala sauce can be transferred to other dishes too, so learning how to make this properly will help you to generally improve your Indian cooking." 

Step 01

Ghee cardamom pods masala recipe

Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee and oil in a pan. Crush 2 black and 4 green cardamom pods with a pestle and mortar while you are waiting for it to heat up. 

Step 02

Crushed cardamoms diced onions

Once oil and ghee are hot, add the crushed cardamom pods along with the remaining whole spices: a cinnamon stick or cassia bark, 3 bay leaves, 4 cloves, 1 tsp of cumin seed. Mix and toast the spices well and then add 500 grams of of diced onions,  with 1 tsp of salt and cook on medium heat.

Step 03

garlic chili ginger and onions masala recipe

Now, place 3 garlic cloves, a 4 cm piece of ginger and 2 to 3 chillies in a food processor and grind into a coarse paste. Add this paste to the pan with your whole spices and onions. 

Step 04

Cooking masala recipe

Continue to cook on medium/high heat for approx. 10 minutes or until the onions start to turn a golden-brown colour. If you ever feel like the base is catching, add a little water or you can add some more oil. Mix every 2-3 minutes and keep cooking until the colour has noticeably changed. 

Step 05

tomato masala recipe

Once the ingredients in the pan have turned a golden-brown colour, add 150 ml of tomato passata. Mix well and then reduce the heat to low. 

Step 06

coriander spice powders Masala recipe

Now add all of the spice powders: ½ tsp turmeric, 1 tsp paprika or Kashmiri chili powder, ½ tsp cumin powder, 1 ½ tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp garam masala and ½ tsp salt - according to taste.  Mix the spices and salt well and add 8-10 stems of chopped, fresh coriander. Stir well and cook for 1 minute or until you see the oil beginning to seep out at the edges (this is an indication that the masala is cooked).

Taste your masala and feel free to tweak salt and chili levels according to preference. Remove the pan from the heat.


Step 07

masala jar

If you are not using the masala immediately, allow to cool before storing in an airtight jar. Cover with neutral cooking oil if you would like to further prolong the shelf life and then refrigerate (it will keep up to a month this way). You can also portion this masala and place in the freezer (it will keep up to 6 months).

Search Recipes

Dal Indian Lentils

Dal Indian Lentils

Next Recipe