Tomato Puree for Curry | 2022 Ultimate Guide

When it comes to often-used ingredients, you are definitely going to need tomato puree for curry. Any curry that has a tomato base will rely on it! How you use it makes a massive difference to the dish too. Today we will look at how to use tomato puree to get a really authentic Indian dish!

What is Tomato Puree?

For curry, tomato puree is a really key ingredient. You’ll be familiar with it as it is used in other types of cuisine, particularly Italian and Mexican food.

Tomato Puree can come in a tube or a can. It is a cooked down and highly concentrated tomato sauce that is more like a paste.

Tomato puree can be a little bit overpowering and normally tastes quite acidic and tangy if it is unprepared. We never actually squeeze the tube directly into the curry. That isn’t how they do it in an authentic Indian takeaway kitchen.

What do you Use Tomato Puree for?

Tomato puree is essential in any curry dish with a tomato base, such as madras or even a fiery phaal!

You may find that some recipes call for tinned or fresh tomatoes. However, this isn’t how Indian restaurants do it. They get through gallons of tomato puree for curry made in the kitchen every day!

Recipes Using Tomato Puree

Now I said that tomato puree is really versatile and used in a lot of curries. Tomato puree forms the base for all of the following curries: -

And many more…

Even with the short list of tomato-based curries above, you can see that one tube will help go a long way to cooking many different Indian dishes.

What is a Good Substitute for Tomato Puree (for curry)?

Now I’m going to say this right now. Your curry will taste different depending on which Tomato Puree substitute you use. There are a few alternatives if you have run out and don’t want to do without an Indian. Let’s go through them

Using Fresh Tomatoes in Curry

You can, at a push, use fresh tomatoes in curry. You might read the odd guide telling you just to whizz them up.

But there’s a better way.

I find that if you oven roast your tomatoes in a shallow dish for around 20 minutes and then mash them with a fork, you can get a similar flavour profile to the tomato puree. The texture won’t be the same, but by roasting your homemade tomato paste, you’ll find the flavour a bit more intense. From there, it is a case of using your homemade tomato puree in curry as you would the regular shop-bought kind.

Passata in Curry

Passata is more like tomato sauce than a paste. It’s basically blended tomatoes that are pushed through a sieve to remove the skin and the seeds. It’s rich and pretty thick.  Passata is actually a really decent alternative if you haven’t got tomato puree for curry. If the recipe calls for 5 tablespoons of tomato puree, you use an equal amount of passata.

You might find that passata has a few extra ingredients. Italian Passata will often include oregano or garlic.

Tinned Tomatoes to Make Curry

Tinned tomatoes aren’t a bad option if you haven’t got any tomato puree. You’ll find that the flavour isn’t quite as strong. You can just tip the can in and cook as normal. Or alternatively, you can blend a tin to make a kind of passata.

You’ll notice that blended tomatoes are pretty pale in colour and quite watery.

Can I Use Ketchup in Curry?

You could use ketchup in curry. However, it’s going to really alter the flavour profile. Ketchup contains a large amount of sugar.

If you absolutely have no choice, you could give it a try, but it won’t cook or taste like regular tomato puree in curry. Make sure you use it sparingly.

Make your own tomato puree for curry!

Ok, listen, I like my curries to be quick and easy, and this method is more work. But that said, I love using scratch ingredients.

Here’s how you can make your own tomato puree…

Homemade Tomato Puree Recipe (authentic Indian recipe)



  1. Place all of your tomatoes in a blender and pulse until you have a pale pinkish sauce.
  2. Add this sauce to a large frying pan, along with the oil, sugar, and salt.
  3. Simmer over high heat for 10 minutes until the paste starts to darken and fry slightly.
  4. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool and use immediately or freeze in individual portions.

If you want to see a video of the process, check this out. It’s pretty similar. You may notice that the lady in the video adds some Kashmiri mix powder too! 

How to Use Tomato Puree for Curry

Using tomato puree for curry is actually really simple.

Here’s what you do.

To use tomato puree for curry, you have to dilute it first. The proportions we like to use are around 2 parts water to every part of tomato puree. It should be about the same consistency as single cream.

So, for every tablespoon of tomato puree, add 2 tablespoons of water and give it a stir.

Why do we do this?

There are a few reasons: -

It makes your tomato puree last much longer.

From a single tube of tomato puree, you’ll probably get at least 20 curries. Considering the cost, I think that’s a pretty good deal!

It soaks up the spices.

If you’ve seen my curry from scratch guide, you can see how I normally like to use tomato puree for curry. By diluting your puree, you create a loose sauce that acts as a vehicle to soak up all of those wonderful spices.

It changes the flavour of your puree

Remember at the start I said that tomato puree can be a bit tangy and acidic? Well, by diluting it and cooking it down, you’ll find that it gets much sweeter. If you add it without diluting it, it is just going to fry and taste bitter.

Nobody wants fried bitter tomato puree.

The water lets you simmer the tomato puree at a controllable rate. You’ll notice that as you cook it down, it will go darker, and combined with the spices, will start to form a wonderful tomato curry paste.

How will I know when my tomato puree is ‘cooked’?

It is pretty easy to tell when to start adding in your base gravy when using tomato puree.

When you first add it to the pan, it will bubble and boil. As it reduces, you’ll see that these bubbles start to last a little bit longer, and all of a sudden, your tomato puree will thicken and begin to form little craters.

Once this happens, it means your puree is cooked!

In Summary…

When talking about key ingredients, one that is really high up the list is tomato puree. For curry and Indian takeaway recipes, it is absolutely essential. Have you tried to make your own or thought of a great alternative? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

Enjoy Making Curry Yourself?

Hey folks, thanks for reading this article. I hope you found it useful, and that you learned something new allowing you to make your curry extra special. Here are a few things that can really elevate your curry game to the next level. 

These are affiliate links, so if you use them I receive a small commission, but this won't cost you any extra. In all honesty, I use very similar items myself, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to my friends.

A Complete Curry Kit: - Literally, everything you'll need to make curry all in one place. Cookware, storage, utensils, even the spices! This is my dedicated guide to getting you up and running all for the price of few takeaways.

Curry pans: - You need one, and one only. A frying pan exactly like this is really easy to use, and is exactly the type that authentic Indian chefs use to make the type of curry that you'll have in your local takeaway. You can see my full reviews of several pans right here...

Spice Storage: - Being organised is half the battle in making great curry. Spices can be notoriously hard to keep tidy. That's why I tend to use a spice rack like this. You can arrange your spices by size, heat, or any way you choose. I've got a detailed review of several Indian spice racks in this guide.

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