Indian Nomato Onion Masala (Nighshade-Free, AIP)


You know that crucial ingredient in my tomato-onion masala? The tomatoes? Well, I got rid of them! If you love Indian food but can’t eat tomatoes, this nomato onion masala is going to change your life.

nomato onion masala

I’m sharing a tomato-less version of my onion masala! This nomato onion masala is for those of you who can’t eat tomatoes or nightshades.

Now you can make my super simple, pour and cook recipes from my onion masala series using this tomato-less onion masala!

What is Nomato Onion Masala?

So what is nomato onion masala (for those who skipped right to this section and didn’t read a word above…)? It’s basically my onion masala sauce but without tomatoes, hence NO-mato masala.

And y’all. It’s bomb (translation: really really good!).

This nomato masala somehow tastes nearly identical to my original recipe and to be completely honest… even I’m surprised. 🤷🏽‍♀️I didn’t expect this tomato-free masala to be this good.

Yep. No tomatoes in here. ⬇️

nomato onion masala

You’re probably thinking “okay Ashley. you’re telling me that a bunch of carrots, an apple and a couple beets somehow taste like tomatoes?”

I know… BUT YOU GUYS. JUST TRUST ME. Somehow these ingredients when combined with tamarind paste and the right spices… well, it just works.

Truthfully, the first time I made this I was fully expecting this recipe to bomb (the non-millennial meaning of bomb, like, fail).

But it’s amazing. It really does taste just as good as my tomato version.

“Ashley is a genius! Indian foods have long been my favorites, but since my diet is now free of dairy and tomatoes, my options were very limited. This masala is an amazing foundation for so many of the recipes on the site and it makes the food preparation faster than picking up carry out. Seriously!”

nomato onion masala

Over the years, I’ve gotten many requests for tomato-free Indian recipes.

When I first shared my onion masala series on the blog, many of my tomato-free readers told me how much they loved the idea and wished there was a tomato-free option for them.

Well, now there is.

Whether you’re allergic to tomatoes or can’t handle their acidity or can’t tolerate nightshades or are following an autoimmune diet or well – whatever your reason for avoiding tomatoes – you can now make my nomato masala and create delicious Indian recipes in a fraction of the time.

“Thank you so much for this recipe! I was devastated when I found out tomatoes are extremely high in histamine and were making my mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) worse. This stuff tastes almost indistinguishable from your regular masala and it’s made me discover I like beets way more than I thought I did!”


Nomato Onion Masala Ingredients:

To make this masala, you will need the following ingredients (for the full list/amounts, see the recipe card below):

  • Onions: for that necessary caramelized onion flavor
  • Beets: for color and sweetness
  • Carrots: for its mild sweet flavor and texture
  • Apple: for natural sweetness and to help cut some of the earthy flavor from the beets
  • Tamarind paste: for the tanginess that tomatoes usually give a dish. Tamarind concentrate can vary by brand so I suggest adding this into the finished masala sauce 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting the sauce in between. I use and love this tamarind sauce – my recipe calls for 3 teaspoons which is the perfect amount of tang.
  • Spices: the ones listed below are nightshade free, but if you can handle cayenne or paprika, feel free to add those two spices to taste.

I have a feeling that this recipe is forgiving. So if you want to reduce the beets, you can probably use more carrots instead. Or if you don’t want to use carrots, you can try pumpkin puree or some kind of squash. But if you want a foolproof recipe, try it the way I’ve written below.

nomato onion masala

Why make a tomato-less onion masala?

This recipe isn’t for those of you who can eat tomatoes. It’s for those of you who can’t.

There’s no reason to avoid tomatoes unless you have to avoid them. If you are perfectly happy eating tomatoes, please don’t for a second feel like I’m telling you to stop eating them. I personally love tomatoes. But as I’ve learned, there are many people out there who cannot tolerate tomatoes and some who cannot tolerate nightshades at all. This tomato-free onion masala is for this particular group of people.

Why am I sharing this kind of recipe? When I first started my blog six-ish years ago, I was navigating some health issues and while I’m mostly good now (still have to eat gluten-free), I can understand wanting to eat in a way that doesn’t cause pain.

If you or a loved one can’t eat a certain food group or a commonly used ingredient, I feel for you. And if you’re Indian and can’t eat tomatoes, well gosh, I really feel terrible for you. I hope that this recipe makes your life a little easier.

nomato onion masala

The following recipes have been tested using this nomato masala in place of my regular onion masala:

I will update this list as I test more recipes, though I am fairly certain this masala can be used in any recipe.

The great thing about this masala is that since it’s already cooked, you can always add more of it to a finished dish if you feel that it needs even more flavor.

You can find a full list of my onion masala recipes here. Note that not all of these recipes will be suitable for those following a strict nightshade-free diet – feel free to adapt or make up your own recipes using this masala as well.

How and why to freeze this masala?

I freeze this masala in this silicone tray (the same way that I freeze my regular onion masala). Each little container is ¼ cup which makes it easy to measure and use in my onion masala recipes.

Spend a little time making this masala one day then freeze it and use it in pour/cook and easy stir-fry recipes on busy nights. Having this handy will make cooking healthy Indian food a breeze.

nomato onion masala
nomato onion masala

Time for a quick story. When I first made this tomato-less masala, I used it to make my Corn Kadai. My (very) picky husband ate it and didn’t even notice! The second he finished his last bite, I immediately blurted out that there were no tomatoes in the corn kadai. I told him all about my nomato masala and he was surprised and said, “that has to go on the blog.” I know you guys don’t really know my husband (or if you’ve read my blog long enough, maybe you do, ha) but he keeps it (a little too) real. You can trust that this masala is going to be good.

Let me know what you think of this nomato masala, my tomato-free friends!

Indian Nomato Onion Masala (Instant Pot)

nomato onion masala

Indian Nomato Onion Masala (Instant Pot)

5 from 9 reviews
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Servings 5 -6 cups


  • ½ cup oil neutral oil like avocado oil is great
  • 2 pounds yellow onions diced
  • 1 head garlic chopped
  • 2- inch ginger chopped
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 apple cored and chopped
  • 1 pound medium beets, scrub/rinse well but leave unpeeled
  • ½ cup water

Add later:


Instant Pot Directions:

  • Press the sauté button on the instant pot and add the oil to the pot. Wait for the oil to get hot, then add the onions and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned (keep the stirring to a minimum in the beginning to brown the onions faster. As the onions brown, stir more frequently).
  • Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.
  • Stir the bottom of the pot to scrape off any brown bits, if you have trouble with this, turn off the instant pot and let the onions sit for a few minutes, then try to scrape again.
  • Add the carrots, apple and water to the pot and stir.
  • Place a trivet in the pot (this is the one I use) and then place unpeeled beets on top of the trivet (if the beets seem very large, you can cut them in half).
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 15 minutes at high pressure.
  • Naturally release pressure (if the valve hasn’t dropped on its own after 25 minutes, open to release any remaining pressure)
  • Remove the trivet and the beets from the pot. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the peels (they should easily slide off). Put the beets back into the pot.
  • Blend the masala using a blender or ideally, an immersion blender. 
  • Stir in the spices and mix well, then add the tamarind paste 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting the sauce until it reaches your desired level of tanginess (different brands can vary in sourness – I use and love this tamarind paste and feel that 3 teaspoons is perfect).
  • Once the masala is cool, I store it using this silicone mold which holds ¼ cup of onion masala per mold.
  • Use this tomato-free onion masala in my recipes calling for onion masala. See the blog post for recipes that I’ve tested using this nomato masala.

How to make this on the stovetop

  • If you’d like to make this on the stovetop, follow the directions above but rather than pressure cooking just cook the vegetables until tender and then blend. You’ll want to peel and chop the beets if you make it this way.


  • I recommend the recipe as written but feel free to adjust the spices according to your diet.
  • If you can tolerate nightshades, feel free to add 1 tablespoon paprika and ¼ teaspoon cayenne along with the other spices.
Did you make this recipe?Tag @myheartbeets on Instagram and hashtag it #myheartbeets!

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About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. Starlene @ GAPS Diet Journey says

    I have used beets in place of tomatoes and they really do work well!! I will have to try this.

  2. Chance says

    5 stars
    Ashley is a genius! Indian foods have long been my favorites, but since my diet is now free of dairy and tomatoes, my options were very limited. This masala is an amazing foundation for so many of the recipes on the site and it makes the food preparation faster than picking up carry out. Seriously! Since I like to add coconut milk in creamy recipes, I use all butternut squash for this recipe so that the dishes don’t have a pink hue (my experience using nomato sauces + cream). I doubled the recipe and my 6qt cooker struggled to keep up, I think because some of the onion bits stuck to the bottom. I ended up scooping out half, cooking, trading out the other half, cooking and then mixing in a big bowl to puree so that I would have a huge batch for the freezer. (User error, not recipe error. Just letting others know that you *can* double the recipe, but you may have to be creative.) Thank you!!!

  3. Jayeeta Mukherjee says

    5 stars
    Wow! Wow! Wow! This. Is. A. Gamechanger!!! I have been trying to use less and less night-shades in my diet and would never have thought of incorporating beets and apples in place of tomatoes! This is genius! Thank you Ashley. I will make this in the very near future for sure!

  4. Angelica says

    5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe! I was devastated when I found out tomatoes are extremely high in histamine and were making my mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) worse. This stuff tastes almost indistinguishable from your regular masala and it’s made me discover I like beets way more than I thought I did!

  5. Crystal says

    5 stars
    Veteran maker of several batches of the tomato version onion masala here. We can have nightshade veg, but I decided to try the recipe because I was out of onion masala and I had a bunch of CSA beets hanging around needing a delicious purpose. First, neither I nor my family could tell the difference in the toor dal I made last night with the nomato masala. I think one could confidently use it in any of the recipes for the tomato onion masala. Second, if you haven’t tasted the “original” version, it might be hard to tell how much tamarind you need “to taste.” You are looking to replace the sweet-tartness of the stewed tomatoes, so use enough you can tell it’s there. Locally, I can get a syrup-like tamarind concentrate (which I used this time at right around 3 tsp) or a more thin liquid version. I would guess the thin tamarind might take 2-3 Tablespoons for this recipe. Finally, between caramelizing the onions and the tomato based sauce, I had done a lot of trial and error to avoid a burn notice on my instant pot with the old recipe. (I have an 8 qt, and they are prone to tantrums, not Ashley’s recipe’s fault at all!) This version was error-free first try! Thank you for the great, time-saving and veg-filled recipe!

    • Ashley - My Heart Beets says

      Hi Crystal, that’s awesome! Love that you made this and that your family couldn’t tell a difference between the two 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience with making this – I know it will be helpful for other readers.

  6. Dana Chiu says

    5 stars
    This is an excellent recipe! I could only make half a recipe because that’s all the ingredients I had. Used 1 beet that weighed 5.9 oz. after peeling (just short of 8 oz.). I wish I would have grated or shredded the beet (instead of dicing) because I ended up having to simmer it on the stovetop for over an hour. I used shredded carrots so they would have cooked in the same amount of time. For half the recipe, I used 1 T. tamarind paste…genius!! The spices added at the end were perfection! My SIL and daughter were thrilled. I included some of this in an Indian Butter Chicken recipe.

  7. Esther says

    5 stars
    Thank you for this fantastic recipe, Ashley. I used it as inspiration to create a Nomato NoOnion Masala because tomatoes, onions and garlic trigger severe acid reflux for my husband. I used garlic oil to saute 6 cups of leek greens and then proceeded with your recipe. I then made your Instant Pot Chicken Curry and it was delicious. It was very close to the curry that my Dad used to make, which was a family favourite. it brought back such lovely memories!
    Thank you for going to the effort of creating an onion masala that people who can’t eat tomatoes can make.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Esther, that is so great to hear, thank you for sharing! And great to know about the leeks – brilliant! I am sure this info will help others looking for an onion-free masala as well 🙂

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