Indian Onion Masala (Instant Pot)


I am on a mission to help you simplify Indian cooking! Grab your onions and tomatoes and get ready to make some Indian onion masala!

Indian Onion Masala

What is Indian Onion Masala?

Indian onion masala is a flavorful sauce made up of onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, and spices. It’s the base of many Indian dishes, and by preparing it in advance, you can significantly reduce the cook time for many Indian recipes.

(If you can’t eat tomatoes, I have a nomato onion masala you can use instead!)

I have been watching my parents make onion masala, also known as onion tomato gravy, for as long as I can remember. In the past, making this masala was a painstaking process, but it doesn’t have to be anymore – especially if you have an Instant Pot. Having this onion tomato masala handy is an incredible time-saver and makes it possible to eat authentic, healthy, and delicious Indian meals every day.

Onions, tomatoes, and ginger/garlic are what I like to consider the “trifecta” of Indian cooking (…er quadfecta?). But who has time to brown onions and cook down tomatoes every single day? No one.  That’s why many Indian people spend one day a week or a month preparing Indian onion masala. It can take several hours to fry onions and cook down tomatoes, but I have a faster way: use the Instant Pot. You prepare a big batch, freeze it, then take it out whenever you need to make a quick meal.

I know everyone is all about “meal prep” these days. Well, this is how a lot of Indians meal prep. Once you’ve got this masala ready, you can literally prepare “dump and go” Indian recipes, and they’ll end up having a lot of flavor.

Indian Onion Masala

As magical as an Instant Pot is, it’ll still take time to make this masala – just not as much. Plus, you won’t have to babysit a pot on the stove for as long. It’s really up to you as to how brown you’d like to have your onions. I sometimes skip fully browning the onions, and the masala still turns out just fine. The browner the onions, the sweeter the masala, so if you can, be patient.

This is how brown your onions should look if you sauté them for 15-20 minutes first:

This masala lasts for months. When I first gave birth to Tony, my mom packed my freezer to the brim with this masala, and literally, one year later, I found some of it hiding in the back of the freezer… not gonna lie, I used it, and it was still perfect. I’d probably suggest using it up within six months though (it normally doesn’t last us that long).

So forget peeling, chopping, and cooking these basic ingredients every single day. That is exhausting, and what makes Indian cooking seem unapproachable. Instead, make this onion masala and see how easy it really is to cook fresh Indian food every day.

Fresh Tomatoes or Canned Tomatoes?

You can use either fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes to make this onion masala, and I’ll explain how to do that in the directions below.

When it comes to fresh tomatoes, I suggest using Roma tomatoes because they have less water content and so the masala will be thicker. If you use different tomatoes, then you will likely need to boil off some of the water at the end.

If tomatoes are not in season where you live, then go for canned (or jarred) diced tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are picked at the peak of ripeness, and ripe tomatoes are what will make your masala tasty. Sometimes canned tomato masala turns out to taste a bit better for this reason.

(Just an FYI: the photos in this blog post are of tomato masala made using fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes will give the masala a darker color).

Indian Onion Masala

How to use Indian Onion Masala in Recipes:

Want to know how to use this onion masala in recipes? Then check out my Indian Onion Masala Blog Series, where you’ll learn all about onion masala: how to store it, how to use it in recipes, and recipes that call for exact amounts of this masala!

By clicking this graphic below, you’ll get to what I’m calling the Indian Onion Masala Headquarters:

Here’s how this series works:

  1. Make the recipe below for Indian onion masala.
  2. Read this post about how to store onion masala.
  3. Check out this page for recipes. No need to guess how much masala to use – I’ll tell you the exact amount of masala needed.
  4. Take all of your onion masala knowledge and apply it to any Indian recipe calling for onions and tomatoes! Hooray!
Indian Onion Masala

Having this masala ready to go is the best way to meal prep for Indian Cuisine. In fact, I’d say it’s basically essential if you want to enjoy Indian food every day. So go on and make this masala!

How to Store Onion Masala:

Here is a detailed post that you can read to learn how I freeze onion masala: How to Store and Use Indian Onion Masala

The short version: I store it in these silicone molds – each mold holds ¼ cup of onion masala.

Indian Onion Masala
Basic Indian Onion Masala

Indian Onion Masala (Instant Pot)

Indian Onion Masala

Indian Onion Masala (Instant Pot)

4.89 from 44 reviews
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Cuisine Indian


  • ½ cup oil neutral oil like avocado oil is great
  • 2 pounds yellow onions approx. 6, diced
  • 1 head of garlic approx. 12 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2- inch ginger chopped
  • 2 pounds roma tomatoes approx. 9 tomatoes, chopped OR 2 (14.5 ounce) cans of diced tomatoes

Spices (adjust to taste):

  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne


  • Press the sauté button on the Instant Pot, adjust the heat to the highest setting, then add the oil to the pot. Wait for the oil to get hot, then add the onions.
  • Cook the onions 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.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the tomatoes cook down a bit. Stir the bottom of the pot to scrape off any brown bits.
  • Add the spices, give everything a good stir, then secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 5 minutes at high pressure.
  • Naturally release pressure.
  • Blend the masala using a blender or an immersion blender (it can be smooth or slightly chunky – up to you!). The sauce will continue to thicken a bit as it cools.
  • Once the masala is cool, I store it using this silicone mold which holds ¼ cup of onion masala per mold. You can read this blog post to learn more about how to store and use this masala then go check out all of my onion masala recipes!



  • There is no need to add additional water to this recipe as the onions and tomatoes release enough water; however, if you are getting a burn error, you can ¼ cup of water to the pot – be sure to mix well.
  • Getting a burn error? Make sure you are using enough oil so that the onions don’t stick to the bottom of the pot! If there is anything stuck to the bottom, you can add ¼ cup water to help deglaze the pot. Make sure to remove any burnt bits before securing the lid! If there’s something stuck to the bottom, then you may get the burn error, but the chances are that if it comes to pressure, it’ll be fine once you open the pot. Some appliances/models may be more sensitive.
  • If it’s not tomato season, use canned diced tomatoes (the whole contents of the can) for the best flavor.
  • If using fresh tomatoes, I suggest using Roma tomatoes because they have less water content than other tomatoes. This results in a thicker masala. If using different fresh tomatoes, you will likely need to boil off the water at the end.
  • Make sure to adjust the temperature to sauté at the highest setting when sautéing the onions. It is up to you as to how brown you would like the onions. I have skipped fully browning them before, and the masala still turns out well. The more caramelized the onions, the sweeter the masala will be.
  • You can also make this masala without the ginger, garlic, and spices if you prefer. Just be sure to keep that in mind when preparing meals.
  • Learn how to store this masala by reading this blog post. You will want to make sure the onion masala is cold before putting it in the freezer. I store it in the fridge first, and then once it’s cold, I put it in the freezer. This helps to reduce freezer burn.
  • Check out my onion masala series to learn how to use this magical sauce!
Did you make this recipe?Tag @myheartbeets on Instagram and hashtag it #myheartbeets!

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Indian Onion Masala

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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

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. Rainbow says

    I tried this twice. First time I made it with just one Tbsp freshly ground coriander. I enjoyed it very much, better than with 3 Tbsp. I wondered if the measurement was in error and should have said tsp. Am I alone in finding 3 Tbsp overpowering?

  2. Rashmi says

    5 stars
    HI Ashley, I did tried your onion masala. It was brilliant. Family loved it. Only change I did was added couple of handful of cashew and almonds for the masala so I can used them for paneer butter masala,kofta as well. Now I always have stock of this onion masala in my freezer🤗. Keep rocking you are doing great job.

  3. sharon says

    Hi Ashley,

    Loving my insta pot!!! Using it everyday. Do you know if I half the recipe in a 6 qt pot if that will work? My freezer space due to covid is a little tight.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Sharon, I’m so glad you love your IP! I’m sure you can halve this recipe – I don’t see why it’d be an issue. I totally understand having to deal with limited freezer space these days – I’m having the same issue. Just so you know, the masala will last about a week in the fridge.

  4. Khushi says

    5 stars
    I agree! This is such a timesaver. Thank you for sharing. I just have one problem though; it’s SOOOOO hard to get Rid of that strong onions garlic smell from the home after making this masala. I leave the window open and turn in the exhaust fan but that doesn’t do it. Any ideas of how to get rid of this smell after cooking?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Glad you like it! I’m not sure other than doing what you already do with the windows open and the exhaust on. If it really bothers you and you’re able to sauté it outside on a deck you could try that?

  5. Christine says

    I forgot to mention that I put one and a half cups of water with the trivet but everyone probably realises that. Pot in pot is great for avoiding burn problems. 🙂

  6. Christine says

    5 stars
    Hi Ashley. I’m loving your recipes, and your tips are really helpful. I noticed that quite a few people had Burn issues so I transferred the masala to a 3 quart liner and set that on a trivet in an IP Duo 60. Because it was on a trivet and above the element I increased the time to 8 minutes at high pressure with long NPR. It’s perfect! Looks and smells wonderful. Thanks so much. I was not aware of this masala till your blog.

  7. tamran says


    Would this recipe still work if I blended the onions, garlic and ginger and cooked that down instead of starting with chopped onions?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Tamran, blending the onions will release more water content and so it’ll take you much longer to brown the onions. That said – if you’re not worried about increasing the saute time, then you can do this. Let me know how it goes!

  8. Varsha Phadke says

    Hi Ashley, I have been using your onion masala recipe for almost a year now. Both my boys, who are in college and love Indian food, are now cooking Indian curries themselves, thanks to the “masala balls” I supply them every time they visit! Thank you for this super time-saving trick.

  9. Matt says

    5 stars
    This recipe makes Indian cooking so easy. I searched forever for a recipe that replicated my favorite yellow dal soups at Indian restaurants, and the dal fry recipe here, using the onion masala, is it. Delicious!

  10. Vsh. K says

    5 stars
    Thank you so much! This is such a life-saver for busy mums! I can get a full healthy meal on the table with such little prep on weekday evenings thanks to these magic masala balls. I have made this onion masala many times and recommended your blog to all my busy mum friends. I have been an instant-pot fan since 5 years and this has made me an even bigger fan! I enjoy all your recipes. All have been fantastic!

  11. Peter says

    Do you have a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala using the onion masala? I’ve played with it, but not found a recipe that I love yet. Thank you!!

  12. Priya Mistry says

    5 stars
    Turned out great! Thanks for another wonderful recipe that in turn will make the other recipes even faster! I was so surprised at the coriander:cumin ratio! My parents usually use a 3:1 ratio while my in-laws use a 2:1 ratio. In this recipe, yours is much more heavy on the coriander! Is this a regional difference depending on where in India your from?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Priya, I’m so happy to hear that! You can definitely adjust the amount of spices to your taste – I like mine coriander heavy because it makes the masala a bit thicker and also because I love the flavor. I prefer to add cumin directly to dishes as it can be a bit strong and sometimes my recipes call for roasted cumin powder rather than regular.

  13. Lisa says

    5 stars
    I tried this for the first time, I read comments before so I ensured good oil and scrapped the bottom, but I got the burn notice. I quickly moved to stove and recovered, it just took longer. I made yummy Aloo Gobi with the leftover I didn’t freeze in the silicon cups, and tonight made the Pav Bhaji perfectly without any issue. I will try again next time in the Instant Pot, but if it burns again I will still make ahead on the stove for freezing, it’s so convenient and worth the time. Next time I will add some water and cook off after pressure cook, if required. Thank you so much, I love your recipes!

  14. Pavi says

    Hello. Due to this pandemic situation, the freezer is kind of over full. So if I am making this masala and trying to refrigerate, how long will it be good ? Or will it be spoiled?

  15. Mariam says

    Hi Ashley. I don’t know if anyone has asked this already. There are so many comments and I haven’t read them all, so if you have already answered I do apologize. My question is, how come you are using so little spices other than coriander powder when you are making so much masala? Is half teaspoon of cumin or turmeric really going to make much difference in the taste when there is approximately 6 cups of masala made? Thanks for providing an easy recipe to make Indian cooking simple.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks, Mariam! You can definitely increase the other spices if you’d like! I like coriander powder for the flavor and also because I think it helps thicken the masala a bit but it’s just personal preference. I usually list more spices in individual recipes calling for this masala as well.

  16. Srikanth says

    @Ashley, I haven’t made anything in your onion masala series but I just made this last night to sweeten up an aloo gobi matar that was lacking the sweetness that you need to lift up the “sulphuric” quality of brassicas like cauliflower. It worked brilliantly, especially taking your tips on extended browning. Thanks!

  17. Jarom says

    5 stars
    Just finished my second batch. I’ll admit the only dish we have made (so far) is the chicken curry (which is how we fund this recipe). Delicious and, compared to the Indian restaurant down the street, so inexpensive! Really appreciate you sharing.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Jarom, that’s so great to hear! And thanks for the kind words, you’ll have to let me know what you think of other recipes you try! The shakshuka is surprisingly good and really easy to make as are most of the other onion masala recipes!

  18. Sowmya says

    5 stars
    I love this hack and it helps a lot in making food quicker which use this as a base. I recently got Instant pot ace and was wondering if I can make this using soup option in it? Did you try it yourself or would you recommend doing so?

  19. Andie Early says

    I would like to use garlic ginger paste instead of fresh garlic and ginger. I know it’s not as good, but because of extenuating circumstance I cannot chop and grind garlic and ginger. I was guessing I should use about 1/2 cup of garlic ginger paste. That seems like a lot to me, does it sound right to you? What would you suggest? How much should I use?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Andie, it won’t hurt to have more or less ginger/garlic – you can try adding the amount you think you’ll like. I’m guessing this isn’t fresh paste, correct? And so it’s likely not as strong in flavor? If that’s the case then yes I’d probably use half a cup.

  20. Mac says

    5 stars
    Just made this for the first time. It has such a deep, rich flavor, my husband asked if it had beef in it. So delicious!

  21. Shailaja says

    Hi Ashley,
    I’m just making this and wanted to check if you didn’t add salt to this paste for a reason.

  22. PrimaVed says

    Hi Ashley – Not sure if this has already been asked since I see so many questions in response to this recipe.

    Would it work to alter the onion : tomato ratio in making this masala? When making chicken dishes, we always use a lot more onion and very little tomato.

    If yes, would that change anything in the way the masala is used in different recipes?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi! One issue is that it may not make very much masala if you use mostly onions. You will also need to adjust/play around with how much to use in my other onion masala recipes as well. Please let me know what you decide and how it goes!

  23. Oregon says

    5 stars
    I’m making my second batch of onion masala today. This hack makes weeknight cooking fast, easy and with minimal cleanup. Everything I’ve made so far has been outstanding including some vegetarian versions of meat recipes. Definitely recommend using an immersion blender. Five stars! Thanks for many excellent meals

  24. PARINA PATEL says

    5 stars
    Ashley, You have changed my life. I’m a new mom and this makes it so easy to throw something together and eat healthy.
    I was lazy at first and avoided doing this because I didn’t think it was worth it. I’m so glad I decided to give it a try. If anyone out there is hesitating, don’t. Use this for all the recipes. They are all so good. The potato eggplant, green moong bean, toor dal recipes are all awesome. I need to go to the indian store and get some whole urad dal and panner to make your other recipes. Please add more recipes with this masala (maybe different type of lentil/vegetable ones). I love it so much. You are so awesome. Also, thanks for your blog on feeding kids indian food. I’m definitely going to need to get my little one into indian food soon!

  25. Devi Ben says

    I roast onions and tomatoes in Oven . very easy and works everytime. I only make worth for a week. You can make more, I guess. Thanks for the lovely recipes!

  26. Cassie says

    How much ginger is required? I know you said 2 in ginger in the ingredients but just wondering how much that equates to after being chopped?

    Could I substitute ginger paste instead? If so, any guesstimate on the amount?

    Can’t wait to try this!


  27. Nicki says

    Hi, these recipes sound amazing but I don’t have a one pot or a crock pot or a pressure cooker. Could you give me an idea of timings if I use an ordinary saucepan please?
    Thanks 😋

  28. jay says

    5 stars
    hi ashley,

    thanks for this amazing hack.

    a couple of questions-
    can we blend the onions first then fry them ?
    can we use tamato paste instead of fresh or canned tomatoes?

    i wish to avoid the step of blending the cooked masala before cooling.

    thank you.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks Jay! I don’t recommend blending the onions first because I’ve found that it takes much longer to brown pureed onions. You can use a food processor to chop them – that would be faster. I also would not use tomato paste – it’s too thick, may result in burning and will also result in very little masala. Do you have an immersion blender? It’s much easier than putting the masala in a blender. Hope that helps!

  29. Upstairs Woman says

    5 stars
    Where has onion masala been all my life??!! The recipes in the series are just great – so easy and yummy. Bookmarked it, and eager to see the series continue!

  30. Sejal says

    I tried making the onion masala and palak paneer and got the burn notice for both dishes before reaching pressure. Seems like a lot of commenters have had the same experience. Ashley, have you experienced this when making the recipe? I followed the directions fairly meticulously. Before pressurizing, I made sure no onions/tomato were burned on the bottom. I used canned tomatoes.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Sejal, I’ve made this so many times (using fresh and canned) and have never gotten a burn error – I’ve even TRIED to get a burn error just to see what’s going on out but haven’t been able to. I’ve heard from some readers that newer models are more sensitive so I may just have to buy a new one to see what’s going on. I’ve also heard though that even if the burn sign comes on, as long as it comes to pressure it should turn out fine. If you try will you let me know?

      • Sejal says

        I have a 9-month old IP Ultra 6quart. I didn’t reach full pressure but the sauce tasted great in the palak paneer. There was a significant amount of burn on the bottom of the IP that I did not incorporate into the blended sauce. I might try a pot-in-pot approach when making it next time – I get great results with that when making IP steel cut oatmeal. What are you looking for to determine doneness in the unblended pressure cooked sauce?

  31. Manjini says

    5 stars
    Ok this is the smartest thing I have ever read abt cooking. I hate cutting onions which is the main reason i stay away from cooking indian food. But this is a game changer. I used my food processor to chop 2lbs of onions and I used a 28oz can of chopped tomatoes. I did forget abt the garlic so I do hav to add garlic to my food while cooking but other than my mistake this onion masala is the best. I havent even frozen it as I am confident I will be using it up by next week. I do regret getting rid of my baby’s silicone mould as it was exactly the same one you used to store the masala. Thanks for this recipe.

  32. Rex says

    Hi there,
    I apologize for this (stupid) question, as I’m pretty new to Indian cooking. Is it absolutely necessary to include the tomatoes in this or can they added when cooking the dishes that call for onion masala? I ask because having caramelized onions + garlic would be more versatile in my case. That way I can use it when cooking other types of cuisine that don’t call for all spices and tomatoes.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Rex, you can leave out the tomatoes but you’ll want to add a little water so the pot comes to pressure (since you won’t have the water that naturally releases from tomatoes). Also, you won’t be able to use the sauce in the recipes in my series but you can definitely come up with your own recipes! Or you can try to use some of this masala and cook down tomatoes when a recipe calls for them. Let me know how it goes 🙂

  33. Adam Davenport says

    5 stars
    Delicious! Absolutely amazing! Even if you accidentally use sweet onions and red tomatoes, or you don’t brown the onions quite enough, this recipe is to die for.! It turned out more like the way you suggested the first time I made it because I was concerned about messing it up, and I had all the right ingredients to make the aloo baingan eggplant. This last though I ended up with something more like pizza sauce however it is still impressed my entire family when they couldn’t stop eating my tortellini… it’s good no matter what you dip in it too!

  34. wooknight says

    5 stars
    A million thanks to you for posting this recipe !!! You made the culinary aspect of my life substantially easier

  35. Anshu Sharma says

    Hi Ashley,

    Thanks for this recipe. This recipe is magic. I used this earlier and it came out perfect. However today when i tried to saute my red onions, they turned greenish/blue. I checked online and some say its due to acidic properties of onion which results in Alkaline environment. Did any of you come across this? and is it ok to store the masala in the freezer to use it for later use?

    Thanks in advance,

  36. Raghavi says

    5 stars
    Ashley, you’re my go to instant pot recipe source now. Every recipe of yours I have tried so far is simple, yet so delicious! I have the onion masala sitting in my freezer now and the shrimp curry and langar dal I made with it were utterly tasty. Thank you!!!

  37. Jen says

    5 stars
    I am absolutely in love with your site, and every recipe I’ve made so far! (have made the butter chicken a few times, your korma with lamb, and the Chicken Biryani. Each of them has been so easy and delicious! Thank you so much for sharing! Tonight I’m making the Toor Dal and finally had to break down and make a batch of the onion masala. While a bit more time consuming, it’s great to know I’ll have a bunch frozen for future meals. I’ve never actually had onion masala when not already in a dish so cannot say for sure if it is ‘legit’ but it sure smells legit!

    Your directions are always very direct and easy to follow, I’m excited to whip up the Toor Dal for dinner in a few hours!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Jen, thank you so much for the kind words! I’m so happy to hear that you’ve liked every recipe of mine that you’ve made so far!! Can’t wait to hear what you think of the onion masala recipes 🙂

  38. joe says


    this recipe and all these recipes look really good. is there a stovetop recipe for the onion masala?

    thx, joe

  39. Preeti Chima says

    5 stars
    Love it!! I honestly hate chopping and while it felt like ot took me forever to chop the onions I needed foe this onion masala recipe it was totally worth it! Now that its been made, I’ve stored about 3/4 of it in ice trays and have kept the rest in an air tight box in the fridge! So excited about not having to chop on a regular basis now! 😁😁

    • My Heart Beets says

      Preeti, I’m so glad you made it!! Hope you love everything you make with the masala! Also, if you have a food processor, you can use that to chop the onions easily – it’s definitely worth investing in one in my opinion 🙂

  40. kaviya says

    5 stars

    This is awesome. For simplified cooking method please check for OPOS recipes. Just google it. You have to try. Its easy and gives authentic taste too. I thought you should know about it.

  41. Jennifer says

    5 stars
    I love this recipe and use it all the time as a base for many dishes. I also got the burn message until I slightly covered the pot while cooking the onions so that they stayed a little moist. I also use canned diced tomatoes and that seems to have solved the problem.

    I have a time-saving tip that I use regularly! Since you blend everything at the end anyways, the cuts of the onions, garlic, and ginger don’t really matter. So I peel my onions and run them through a slicer blade in the cuisinart. It’s SO much faster than chopping by hand. Then I rinse out the cuisinart and throw in my peeled garlic and ginger with the chopper blade. This really speeds up prep time.

  42. Sylvia says

    I cannot wait to try this. I am Indian and I cook Indian food all the time but i never thought of making this ahead of time, even though I make and freeze so many other things regularly. I did try the pre-fried onions available in stores and didn’t like it at all.

    With this masala, my cooking time will be reduced by so much!

  43. ELF says

    Hi!! I stumbled across your blog earlier this afternoon. My first ever batch of onion masala is now bubbling away happily on my stove. THANK YOU for making Indian cooking so accessible. 🙂

  44. Shilpa Sharma says

    Hi Ashley, love your blog! I’ve tried a few ‘masala’ recipes and really want to give yours a try as well. I noticed you don’t add a ton of spice to the nasal, unlike a lot of other recipe’s I’ve used. Is this because you add the spice later, (whenever you use your masala cubes)? Just curious, whether I could add more cumin and other spices…or if you recommend adding them later. Thanks!

  45. Heather B says

    I want to make this but will it it make my whole house smell like onions? My husband hates when I cook onions on the stove. Thank you

    • My Heart Beets says

      You can keep the exhaust on and open up a window – or wait until he is out of the house? It may be better to get it all done in one day vs. cooking onions for several days. Hope that helps!

  46. Reenam says

    Hi Ashley, Ive made this recipe twice in the 6 quart instant pot duo. Both times I have had the burn error immediately, despite carefully following the instructions. In total Ive had to use two extra cups of water. I wonder if I have to boil this extra water off at the end to get the same volume- at the moment it looks more like a curry than a paste!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Reenam! I wonder why you’re getting a burn error – are you using a 6 quart? Is this with fresh or canned tomatoes? Just trying to see if we can troubleshoot. I don’t add any water so 2 cups seems like quite a lot – yes, you’d need to boil the water off at the end.

      • Reenam says

        Yes I am using the 6 quart pot. I used canned tomatoes. I have made this masala a few times, and each time I seem to be unable to get away with even reducing the water quantity to one cup! I am quite meticulous about ensuring there are no burnt bits before I put the pressure function on. I tried increasing the volume of oil used to 3/4 cup but it didnt make a difference! Thanks so much for your help!

  47. Sue says

    I don’t have an Instant Pot. I do have a crock pot, and I have successfully caramelized onions in it. If I cook the onions first separately, do you have any suggestions for how long I should cook the onions with the tomatoes and everything else? At a low or high setting?
    Thanks for any insights you can provide

  48. Lizzy says

    4 stars
    Hi Ashley….I am making the Onion Marsala and have tried 4 times each time getting the Burn message this last attempt I have added 2 cups of water to the mix and it seems to ok now as reached pressure and counting down for 5 minutes…my tinned tomatoes were the Mutti Brand of finely chopped tomatoes, so quite alot of water had to be added so do I need to boil off some of this water ?

  49. Lizzy says

    HI Guys I have had 2 Burn messages not a happy chappy at the moment…last time I added extra water but still got the burn message on the 2nd attempt. I have turned off the pot now so will I add extra water again as my chopped tomatoes were quite thick, how much water is enough please ?

  50. Shilpa says

    5 stars
    Just made this and used a muffin pan which worked great for the 1/4 cup servings. I am sold on doing this for all my cooking needs. Thank you for making my life easier.

  51. Priti says

    Hi! Thank you so so much for this series. It’s cold here so thinking canned might be better. Any need to add sugar in your experience?

  52. Priya says

    Hi Ashley,

    I made your green moong daal recipe in the instant pot tonight and it was so delicious! I didn’t enjoy all of the tedious chopping which is why I came to this recipe 🙂

    Would this work if I froze the tomato/onion/ginger/garlic without the spices and add them when I actually use the frozen masala cubes? Just wondering as different recipes call for different spices. Thanks in advance!

  53. Sharmila says

    Hi! If I don’t have this onion masala available and I want to make your shrimp curry, what are the proportion for doing it with the recipe?

  54. Alison says

    5 stars
    Thanks so much for this! I made a batch today after finding your recipe for Instant Pot Indian Chicken Curry and I froze several portions to use as starters for other dishes in the future. I love cooking (and especially EATING) Indian food, but sometimes the prep work can be daunting. This will make sure we’re eating lots more flavorful dishes in the near future!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Yes 🙂 You can add additional spices depending on what you make with the masala. If you use one of my onion masala recipes it takes into account the spices in the masala so I just list any additional spices you’ll want to add.

  55. Nisha says

    Hi Ashley, I’ve made this before and spent quite a while chopping, which was well worth it given all the delicious recipes that came from it (even my mom who was born in India was impressed with me haha). But I am about to make another batch today and had a quick question. Instead of chopping, would putting the onions and then the tomatoes in a food processor work? Or would that change the flavors/carmelizing? Thank you! I honestly can’t thank you enough for your recipes. They make me feel like I’m home again and I just am so appreciative to have stumbled upon the website and FB group.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Nisha, that’s so great to hear!! It’s definitely a big accomplishment when you can impress an Indian mom lol. Also, sorry for taking awhile to reply but yes you can definitely chop them separately in a food processor! I just wouldn’t suggest chopping them together as you’ll first want to caramelize the onions. One other thing – if you use a food processor, just don’t over process – if you end up with more of an onion puree then it’ll take forever to caramelize due to the water content. Hope that helps! So glad you found my site and my fb group 🙂

  56. Lena says

    Hi Ashley, I am excited to try this. I have an “mini” instant Pot though. Should I cut the recipe in half?
    Thank you!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Lena! I believe some people in my facebook group (instant pot for indian food) have made the recipe as written in their mini IPs but you can definitely halve the recipe to be safe! Let me know how it goes 🙂

    • Susan says

      4 stars
      Lena, I just used the mini. It works! I made the full amount. Didn’t see the comment section until later, wish I had. I, too, got a burn notice. So, I stopped everything, converted to a Pot in pot method after cleaning the bottom of the IP. (placed ok portion of mixture into a separate glass bowl. Scrubbed the burned bottom of the stainless pot. Added 1 cup water on bottom of IO, placed a trivet, then glass bowl with mixture on top. 5 min on high, natural release eg followed rest of recipe)

  57. Alexa says

    Do you have any guidance on making this in a regular pot? (Nickel allergy = no IP for me!) I’m guessing that most of the steps would be the same, but it’s more a question of how long to let it cook down for/when to add the spices in.

  58. jrh0 says

    I made masala in my new Instant Pot Ultra. I’m at 2500 ft elevation, so I set the Pot accordingly. I used 4 Roma tomatoes and one can of diced tomatoes (I failed to buy enough Romas). I sauteed the onions for 20 minutes, and they still had a lot of moisture. After starting pressure cooking, I got a BURN error in a few minutes. I emptied and cleaned the inner pot, added more oil and water, and started it again. Got another BURN message! Cleaned the pot, and added even more oil and water. This time it worked. Thankfully, the BURN message and shutdown happens before any flavor-spoiling major burning takes place! Next, I’ll try some recipes that use this masala, after which I’ll rate it.

  59. Kathy Lee says

    For people getting the burn indicator on the instant pot, I’ve had this MANY times and I’ve found how to avoid it. What happens is that the spices collect on the bottom of the pot and burn. So to avoid this, I add spices at the end and DO NOT STIR. I know this means the flavors won’t meld as well but better than the burn! Also, never try this in an 8 quart instant pot. 8 quarts can’t handle the thicker sauces that are tomato-based. Hope this helps! I made this yesterday but I forgot to blend with an immersion blender at the end! DOH! Next time! 🙂

  60. Irene says

    5 stars
    Hi, Ashley, I just wanted to say that I made your onion masala very successfully. To prevent the “burn”, I did the preliminary frying on the stove, and then transferred it all to the Instant Pot, and did the rest as you suggest. Came out perfect. I didn’t mind washing one more pot :). Also, since I didn’t have the silicone trays that you use, I used ice-cube trays and it came out perfect as well :). Each cube holds 1/8 cup, so 2 cubes will make 1/4 cup… Can’t wait to use it! 🙂

  61. Sybil says

    Hi, Ashley! Love your recipes and looking forward to making this onion masala. Can I make it in a slow cooker instead of an IP?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks, Sybil! I’m sure it can be done but I haven’t tested it out myself to know the times or anything. If I were going to use a slow cooker, I’d first add the onions and slow cook them until caramelized, then I’d add the tomatoes and cook longer. Please let us know how it goes if you try it this way!

  62. Evan says

    5 stars
    I can not thank you enough for how much you have put into these recipes that you have shared!! I love authentic Indian food and making it in such little time seems like a miracle to me. I recently shared this with my mother who finished her first batch of Onion Masala today. The IP and these recipes have changed my life!! Thank you so much.

  63. Michael Marks says

    Wonderful recipes. Thank you! However, this recipe caused my first major Instant Pot fail. Like some others who’ve commented above, I got the “overheating” error. I poured the contents into a bowl, saw that there were onions burned to the bottom of the Instant Pot. I cleaned it completely, poured everything back in, and tried again thinking I had solved the problem. To my surprise, I got the same error again. When I again poured out the contents, I found that again onions were burned to the bottom. So, I put everything in a pot and cooked on the stove (doubling the 5-minute pressure cooker time, which from a comment from you above, probably was not enough.) FYI, I used fresh Roma tomatoes, not canned. They had relatively little liquid. It seems like the amount of liquid in this recipe is key. It’d be great if you could comment on how to evaluate when there’s enough liquid and what to do if there’s not. Thanks!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks Michael! I’m sorry to hear you got the burn error too – I’ve never had this happen but it seems like if there’s anything stuck to the bottom then the error can come on. I’ll include a note in the recipe – but if you are getting a burn error the best thing to do is to deglaze the pot with a bit of water to make sure there’s nothing stuck at the bottom.

  64. Agnes says

    I am making this right now and am so excited about all the recipes that i can make with it!! I’m having issues with burning soon after i started pressure cooking. I added water a couple of times and it still burned.
    (This happened with the saag recipe as well). Does anyone have this problem, and any potential explanations and solution? Thanks!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Agnes, I have heard that the burn sign can come on if the IP detects that something on the bottom has burned – were there any burnt bits once it was done? If the pot reaches pressure then the dish should turn out fine… let me know!

  65. Inna says

    Thank you for the recipe! I made this today and I also had the burning notification display on the instant pot. There was not too much burning on the bottom, however, I had to scrape the bottom and add some water for the instant pot to pressurize. When it was done, it wasn’t very liquidity (so maybe the water didn’t do too much damage) but I feel like the masala needs salt? Any reason why not to add salt to cut into some of the tomatoe paste taste? (I used canned tomatoes)

    • My Heart Beets says

      Inna, you can definitely add salt if you’d like! I usually just add it directly to the dishes I am making (I have a toddler so I try to be mindful of salt for his portion, then add extra to ours). But feel free to adapt the masala to your taste!

  66. Charles says

    Quick question: why the spices? Seems like it’s better to add them fresh when you use the masala, and also it’s hard to adjust a recipe when there are spices already added. Thanks!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Charles, totally up to you as to whether you want to add them in or not 🙂 I find it easier as I have less work to do when I make recipes – I just add additional spices as needed. If you make any of my recipes that call for onion masala then just add extra spices when making a dish. Hope that helps answer your question!

  67. kiara says

    5 stars

    Thanks so much for sharing this! Quick question, if I were to make this fresh every time I made a recipe that required it, can I just divide all the ingredients by 6 to get one cup? Since this makes about 6 cups of onion masala, would that be a good approximation?

  68. Atma Khalsa says

    5 stars
    What about not adding the spices until you cook your final dish and just cook and freeze the onion, ginger, garlic and tomatoes adding spices later? Perhaps this cook give the dishes some variation. Also gives the chance to do try south vs. northern India?

  69. Anita says

    Hi, I am new to IP way of cooking and want to start with making a small batch of this masala before making a big batch as your recipe says. How should I vary the onion/ tomato/ ginger garlic quality if I want to make 1 cup of the paste? Also, after closing the lid do you change the IP settings to pressure cook or cook it in the sauté mode itself? Thank you

  70. Bobbie says

    I’m making this right now, but after 20 minutes of sauteing, my onions are still as white as when I put them in the pot. I wonder why?

    • Bobbie says

      * The onions were quite soft, so I went ahead and followed the rest of the recipe; the masala came out quite well! I may have over-blended a bit, as yours looks a little chunkier. That’s fine–the flavor is great! Thank you for your recipes. I’ve made several and have enjoyed all of them.

  71. Karuna says

    5 stars
    Hi Ashley,
    Thank you for such an amazing idea to store masala!
    I made my first batch of masala today. However, my IP showed “burn” error after the pressure was achieved so I had to release the pressure immediately(before 5 mins).
    What might have went wrong? I used 3 medium size onions and 4 normal size roma tomatoes.
    Did I put less number of tomatoes? Or did I saute for a long time?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks, Karuna! I have heard from others that as long as the pot reaches pressure the contents of the pot are fine. Sometimes the burn sign comes up if there’s a bit of something stuck at the bottom. You can try adding a few tablespoons of water, deglaze the bottom then try again. Let me know if it works out 🙂

  72. Michelle says

    Hi Ashley. I know your recipes that call for onion masala explain wether or not we can use the cubes still frozen but could you explain how to determine this ? I’m experimenting with using the onion masala in other recipes… thanks!

  73. Neeraja says

    In this recipe, when you say npr , do you release pressure after 10 mins, or do you wait till valve comes down?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Michelle, yes, you can definitely use red onions! I just suggest yellow because I feel it gives the masala a slightly sweet flavor. Let me know what you think of the masala and any recipes that you try!

  74. Ken says

    I was having a lot of fun making this until the Instant Pot gave me the dreaded “burn” indication and wouldn’t pressurize. That seems to be the risk of not having additional liquid in the recipe. after a bit of deglazing I’m putting the bowl through a wash cycle before scraping the saved masala back in and trying again. Wish me luck!

    Other than ramping up my stirring, any suggestions on how to avoid this? I used canned diced tomatoes – and yes, I included the juice. Thanks for any ideas, I’m still new to pressure cooking.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Ken, just now seeing this comment but I replied to your comment in the facebook group earlier today. I’ll share my reply here too incase you see it sooner: the burn sign comes on sometimes if the IP detects that something on the bottom has burned but it sounds like you removed any burnt bits before starting. Does this happen with other recipes too? I’ve made this many times without adding water and haven’t had this happen so something is up… Knowing that it eventually turned out well for you makes me think the sign came on because the mixture was thick. I *think* the burn sign is only an issue if the pot doesn’t come to pressure due to something scorched on the bottom.

      • Charlene says

        Hi there, I tried to make this recipe for the first time today, also my first time using the instant pot. I got the burn error 3 times, each time I added more oil but it still kept burning the mix to the bottom of the pan, also thoroughly cleaned the pan between each try. The mix is now swimming in oil and we’re going to try one more time turning the heat level to “less” instead of “normal”. Any other tips?

        • Jennifer says

          Hi Charlene –
          My experience with the InstantPot is that you have to be vigilant using “saute” – stuff sticks very easily! Stir constantly, or lower the heat. If I need to step away for a bit, I switch the InstantPot to “warm” until I can give it my undivided attention. Good luck!

    • PrimaVed says

      I tried making the Onion Masala for the first time last weekend, followed the recipe as it is and still got the burn notification. I emptied the pot and cleaned it thoroughly, added some more oil and put the masala back but got a burn notification again. I let it be for a few minutes and the Burn message went away and IP started cooking the masala again. Eventually it came out fine. I have another question – will post separately.

  75. Fenny says

    Hi, Ashley! If using canned tomatoes, do I drain it first or use the liquid in the can as well? Thanks & can’t wait to make this!

  76. Cristina Tijerina Sepúlveda says

    My question from yesterday is whether onion masala may be substituted for the spice ingredients in the butter chicken. If so, what would the substitution amount ge and should I still add the spices in the recipe as with the Aloo and peas?

    • My Heart Beets says

      You can sub it in any recipe calling for the same ingredients (tomatoes, onions, spices). I suggest following the recipes in my series to get the hang of using the masala, then hopefully you’ll feel confident using it in any recipe! 🙂 My guess for the butter chicken would be 1 cup.

  77. Carey says

    5 stars
    I made this yesterday and got approximately 22 quarter cup servings. I froze the mixture in silicone muffin cups and they were easy to pop out into a large ziploc for freezer storage. I love this idea of making a flavour base in advance to make tasty easy meals!

  78. Emily M says

    I am wondering how many 1/2 cup servings (or 1/4 cup) your batches usually make? I made this yesterday and I think mine might be a bit thin and I’ll just adjust portion size that way. Thanks in advance. Looking forward to trying it out.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Emily! Sorry for the late reply – I think you posted this in my FB group as well – hopefully more folks will be able to help. I can’t believe I haven’t measured as I’ve made this so many times… I want to say 4-5 cups. This is a good question and I’ll be sure to update the recipe and share it with the FB group when I do!

  79. Kavia says

    5 stars
    I just finished my first batch of onion masala and I’m moving on to toor dal. We’ve been wanting to make it for ages! Fun fact, I have a Duo Mini and this recipe fit perfectly. I’m hoping the same is true for the dal!

    • Shweta Puranik says

      4 stars
      Hi Ashley
      Thanks for this wonderful recipe. It sure sounds time saving. I tried the masala today with suggested quantities of ingredients however the Masala came out to be slightly tangier than I would I thought it would be. I am worried if I use this in a curry would that make it sour? I am planning to make the paneer onion masala stir fry.
      Any suggestions?


    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi, you can definitely make this on the stovetop – just sauté the onions until browned then cook the tomatoes until they fully break down. This takes a long time to do on the stovetop. If you have an electric pressure cooker, I highly recommend using that as it’s a huge time saver!

    • Chelsea C says

      5 stars

      I make onion masala on the stove because I don’t have an instapot. I’m caramelize the onions on medium to medium low for about 45 min and then cook the tomatoes/spices for another 45-1 hour. I stay near the stove so it doesn’t burn just in case.

      It does take a while but to it’s SO worth it because to me because it cuts down on the prep work when I want to cook Indian dishes.

      Hope that helps!

  80. JEM says

    Can this be made without oil? I don’t use any oil, butter, or fat at all because it does so much damage to the arteries. Thank you.

    • Donna S says

      JEM – I made it without oil this morning. It took a lot longer for the onions to brown – a good 30-35 mins before I was close to the colour in Ashley’s picture, but other than that no problems. I used a little bit of water in the beginning to saute the onions and then when I deglazed after about 20 mins and again a couple of mins before I added the garlic/ginger. Just a splash each time, which surprised me. I thought I’d need more. I was worried about scorching once I went to pressure but no issues. The other thing to bear in mind is that for the recipes where you use the masala, you’ll want to keep a closer eye as you’re cooking just to make sure you don’t need to adjust for the residual oil from the original recipe. I have to tell you, my kitchen smells AMAZING right now so I’d say definitely give it a go!

  81. Madhavi says

    Hi Ashley,
    I made your Instant Pot Butter chicken yesterday and it was yummy! I also use pre-made Onion masala except that I have not yet figured out how much to use in a dish. I went to your Onion Masala Blog series but cannot find a link to recipes that use this pre cooked Masala to understand the quantity needed. Could you please guide me.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Madhavi, I’m so glad you liked the butter chicken! 🙂 And I’m so glad you’re interested in this series! This is a series that I am working on during the month of February, so I will update the blog with recipes that call for onion masala throughout the next several weeks. You’ll be able to find the recipes that call for Indian Onion Masala here: Right now it just says coming soon but stay tuned!

      • Cristina Tijerina Sepúlveda says

        5 stars
        Yes, but butter chicken was not used as one of the recipes that you can use with the onion masala. So if it can be used for butter chicken, what is the amount and do the spices listed in the butter chick need to me added still?

        • My Heart Beets says

          You can use it with butter chicken! My guess is 1 cup of masala – if you try it out, let me know how it goes! You can also reduce or remove the same spices that are in the masala.

    • dorz says

      5 stars
      There was this indian Restaurant we used to go in HK. I love the sizzling Paneer Masala. II have been trying to search for every masala recipe i could find and tried most of them and failed. UNTIL NOW. Thank you so much for this recipe. i didnt do it on an instant pot but with traditional cooktop and a lot of love power.

      I have made a big batch of this and i dont think this will last a week in my household. i just made cauliflower masala with it and my daughter loves it. Made my paneer masala and basically just ate it all by myself. Now my son has requested for more cauliflower masala for himself and his flatmate. Another batch of this will be made very soon.