#74 – Decidedly Inauthentic Vegan Masala Sauce

#74 – Decidedly Inauthentic Vegan Masala Sauce

This is Recipe Roundup, episode 74. I typically make some sort of spiced curry once a week – usually I would use some sort of store-bought premade sauce, but since I finally have access to a large number of fresh tomatoes from my garden, I decided to try my hand at a fresh mock up!


Before we get into the recipe, let’s talk about the almost problematically vague term at play today – CURRY.  I’m sure we all have an image that pops to mind…but if you ask around, this word refers to quite a lot of different foods, particularly across cultures. There is the curry leaf, curry powders of varying spice combinations, curry pastes, curry cubes. When we think of dishes, you might imagine an Indian-inspired dish of vegetables and meats in a thick sauce served with rice and naan – you also wouldn’t be wrong to see a soupy coconut milk based Thai dish – and if  you have experience with Japanese curry, you might be imagining a yellow or brown gravy.


If you are wondering why English-speakers might have all of these fairly different associations with a single word, the answer is European, and specifically, British Imperialism. As far as anyone can tell, the term Curry is an anglicized version of the Tamil term Kari which simply means …sauce. That’s it. Some may argue that it’s exactly what they mean – but under this logic, wouldn’t spaghetti sauce also be a curry? Gravy on Thanksgiving turkey? Chocolate syrup on ice cream? While part of me loves the culinary chaos of such a term, if you want people to actually know what you are talking about, there might be some specific terms that are more useful to your purpose based on the type of flavors present in the sauce or the content of the meat and vegetables included. 


It’s also important to note that the vast majority of Indian food that is available for purchase here in the United States is not the same as food available in India. Just like how there is a big difference between American Chinese Takeout and the vast variety of food you can find in China, it’s important to acknowledge the role that a diaspora plays in the permutations of their cultural cuisine across the world.      


Today’s recipe is the perfect dish in which to examine the complex influence of colonialism and immigration on cuisine. Chicken Tikka Masala was by far the most ordered dish I served while working at an Indian restaurant in Charlottesville Virginia. It’s been upheld by former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook as a “true British national dish.” Though similar to Butter Chicken of Punjab, Chicken Tikka masala’s popularity is hugely credited to  South Asian Chef’s living in the UK in the 1970s. 


Without further ado, here is my decidedly inauthentic Vegan Masala Sauce! Note that fresh tomatoes yield a much sweeter sauce than canned! 


3 lbs of fresh tomatoes

2 tbs garam masala 

½ can of coconut milk (dairy milk or cream can be used) 

3 cloves of garlic, pressed into a paste

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Wash tomatoes and cut a small “x” on the bottom. Scald in boiling water for about thirty seconds, and place in ice water for about 5 minutes. Peel and discard the skins. 
  2. Heat peeled tomatoes in a large pot on medium heat. Sprinkle in a few pinches of salt to aid the breakdown. 
  3. Add garlic and masala spices. Mash or use an immersion blender to break down the remaining chunks of tomato. 
  4. Mix in coconut milk and blend completely. 
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste, and feel free to add more of individual spices that may or may not be in the garam masala already – cumin, coriander – whatever you would like. 
  6. Enjoy as a curry for meat or vegetables, or simply as a dipping sauce – Only your mind can limit the ways to use this! 




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