Instant Pot Indian-spiced Simmer Sauce

An incredibly fragrant and feisty Indian-spiced simmer sauce - tomato-based, ginger-slammed, garam masala-boosted.

Instant Pot Indian-spiced Simmer Sauce

I'm slipping this incredibly fragrant and feisty Indian-spiced simmer sauce in here this morning in preparation for a recipe I'm going to post tomorrow (a Chickpea Cauliflower Korma). This tomato-based, ginger-slammed, garam masala-boosted simmer sauce is a riff on Coco Morante's version in The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook, and I suspect it will become a staple sauce for many of you. The recipe makes about six cups of sauce - perfect for using some, refrigerating some, freezing some. And no worries if you don't have an Instant Pot, I suspect a stovetop, or even a slow cooker version of it would be equally wonderful.
Instant Pot Indian-spiced Simmer Sauce
I use this simmer sauce as the base of the korma, but I've also used it this week on a cauliflower pizza crust, along with a sprinkling of chickpeas, and a bit of paneer for Indian-spiced pizzas (quick lunch), and I'm going to use it on a garlicky, whole wheat crust tonight for dinner. It's nice as a sandwich spread, a dipping sauce for broiled broccoli, or for chana masala. Generally speaking, it's just flat out delicious, and you'll have no trouble thinking of clever ways to use it up. If you make some some today, I promise you won't regret having it on hand to make quick work of tomorrow's recipe. Consider it a homework assignment! ;)

I made a few tweaks to Coco's recipe. I used fire-roasted tomatoes because I thought it'd give the sauce some nice depth, and it's what I had on hand. Fantastic. Also, I slashed the pressure release time way down, opting for ten minutes of natural pressure release, because the extra 15 minutes seemed like too long for me to wait for something that smelled as good as this did! Enjoy!

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Instant Pot Indian-spiced Simmer Sauce

4.36 from 14 votes

Use it as the base of this Instant Pot Chickpea Cauliflower Korma. For a creamy version of the sauce, add a generous splash of cashew or coconut milk just before serving. I've been using fire-roasted tomatoes, no regrets. If you can handle spicy, dial the cayenne up to 1 teaspoon.

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large onions, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1- inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 28- ounce can whole tomatoes and their liquid (fire-roasted optional)
  • 1 cup water
  1. Press the SAUTE setting on the Instant Pot and heat the oil. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and salt, and saute until the onions have softened, and are just beginning to take on some color, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, paprika, and garam masala. Wait a minute, and add the tomatoes and their liquid, breaking up and crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot. Stir in the water.
  3. Secure the lid, set the pressure release valve to SEALING. Press the CANCEL button, and then MANUAL for 15 minutes at high pressure. Let the pressure NATURAL RELEASE for ten minutes, then carefully QUICK RELEASE. The sauce can be used immediately, refrigerated for a few days, or frozen.

Adapted from Coco Morante's The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook. You can also find her at her popular Facebook Instant Pot Recipe group!

To make this on a conventional stovetop: combine the ingredients in the same order as above, and instead of pressure cooking, allow the sauce to simmer on low heat for as long as you can stand, at least 20-30 minutes. You can use the sauce right away, refrigerate it for up to a few days, or freeze it.

For reference, this is the Instant Pot I used for this recipe: Instant Pot DUO Plus 6 Qt 9-in-1

6 cups
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
30 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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4.36 from 14 votes (14 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Hi Heidi! I am a huge 101Cookbooks fan. Thanks for all of your delicious recipes and inspiration! About how many cups of the simmer sauce does this recipe make?

HS: Hi Katie – roughly 6 cups. And thanks for the nice note!


The Instant Pot sauté setting is super hot. My spices burnt resulting in a bitter sauce. Maybe turn heat off then add spices….

kimberley healey

After the water test, this was the first thing I made in my new Instant Pot! Delicious and so flavorful. Ecstatic that something so delicious came out of my kitchen. Thank you for posting. Your excitement was contagious.

HS: Thanks Jen! 🙂


This sauce was absolutely fantastic. I added some mustard seeds along with the other spices at the start and methi leaves at the end. Turned it into an aloo gobhi variation. Great recipe!

HS: Sounds delicious Aneta!


I love and appreciate your recipes and will try this sauce. I don’t have an instant pot but do have a slow cooker. What would be your recommendation on making it in that?? Thanks, Sita

HS: Hi Sita, you could let it cook on low for a few hours, or just make it on the stovetop, and simmer for a bit. 🙂


I agree with Sam — only you could have converted me into an Instant Pot user! Please keep the recipes coming. I purchased the “mini” 3-quart Instant Pot this week and so far have made boiled eggs and cooked black beans, but am going to try your Mushroom Stroganoff this week, hopefully. I am also interested in making khichdi (Indian rice and lentil stew, which has as many variations as there are Indian families),so if you experiment with that, I would love to see your take on it!


I’m laughing – if you convert me to an instant pot user AND a fan of cauliflower crust anything that will be my holiday miracle. Only you could sway me! Thanks for sharing all your beautiful recipes with us and happy holidays/new year to you and yours.


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