10 Store-Bought Tikka Masala Sauces, Ranked Worst To Best

Tikka Masala Simmer Sauces
Tikka Masala Simmer Sauces - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

There are few things I love more than cozying up with a bowl of piping hot chicken tikka masala. While the exact origins of this Indian dish are hotly contested, and variations can be found all over India and beyond, this aromatic offering is typically made with chicken and features a tangy tomato-based yogurt sauce simmered with Indian spices, such as coriander, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, and garam masala.

Growing up with Indian-citizen parents, I had my fair share of tikka masala on family vacations to India — which wasn't nearly as cool as it sounds, especially to a younger me. But, now, as a trained chef, I can appreciate those trips filled with uniquely spiced foods that introduced me to the wildly flavorful cuisine of this South Asian country.

No doubt, chicken tikka masala is one of the most popular dishes at Indian restaurants in the U.S. This popularity has led to a surge in jarred tikka masala sauces lining U.S.  grocery store shelves. For this ranking, I sampled different brands, preparing each sauce with sautéed chicken pieces and reviewing the taste, aroma, mouthfeel, and visual appeal. Hopefully, this ranking will help you quickly decide on a jarred tikka masala sauce next time you crave an easy Indian meal at home.

Read more: 16 Worst Canned Foods You Can Buy

10. Kroger Indian Inspirations Tikka Masala Sauce

Kroger Tikka Masala Sauce
Kroger Tikka Masala Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

Here's the good news: Kroger's Indian Inspirations Tikka Masala Sauce is one of the most affordable on this list. Its aroma is buttery, and its color is a familiar and enticing orange. The bad news is that this sauce's price, fragrance, and visible allure didn't translate into a satisfying taste experience.

Kroger's take on one of the most popular Indian dishes falls flat on several fronts. The sauce's lack of depth and complexity is particularly disappointing, with a flavor profile that fails to evoke the rich and layered flavors of tikka masala. Adding to the shortfall is its gelatinous consistency, possibly from the inclusion of corn starch, which creates an unappealing mouthfeel. But what stands out the most is the artificial taste of the sauce. This lack of natural flavor combined with its unappealing texture led me to discard the sauce after just one taste.

9. 365 By Whole Foods Organic Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

365 Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce
365 Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

I had high expectations for Whole Foods Market's private label brand's organic rendition of tikka masala sauce, but I was left disappointed. The primary downfall of this sauce lies in its overpowering aroma and flavor profile. It's heavy-handed with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper, creating a scent reminiscent of baking Christmas gingerbread as it simmers on the stove. Ultimately, while I do enjoy gingerbread, I don't want my tikka masala to taste like it. After a few bites, it was clear to me that I wouldn't purchase this sauce again.

While the sauce's chunky texture, filled with bits of onion, ginger, and spices, coats the chicken pieces well, its dark brown color is atypical of tikka masala. Additionally, the sauce is labeled medium heat, but I'd say medium-hot is more accurate. Overall, it lacks the balance and subtlety I look for in a tikka masala sauce, and it left a less-than-positive impression on me.

8. Saffron Road Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

Saffron Road Tikka Masala Sauce
Saffron Road Tikka Masala Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

Saffron Road's Halal and Kosher-certified Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce, packaged in a single-use pouch, greets you with a delightful aroma of garlic and ginger. The sauce's appetizing color matches its balanced sweetness and medium heat. However, there are some areas where it could have done better.

The most notable drawback is the sauce's texture — it's puréed, resembling a super smooth gazpacho. The smoothness of the sauce causes it to coat the chicken pieces inadequately, and the heavy tomato presence reminds me more of tomato soup than tikka masala sauce. Additionally, the sauce leans towards being slightly sour, likely due to the presence of citric acid, lemon juice, and tomato paste in the ingredients. This imbalance in flavor and consistency detracts from the richness and depth I expect in tikka masala. It's worth noting that this high-priced sauce comes in a compact 7-ounce pouch, which was sufficient for about two servings in my household.

7. Patak's Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

Patak's Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce
Patak's Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

Patak's foods are known for bold and intense flavors, and the Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce is no exception. The aroma is robust and fragrant. The sauce's orange-reddish color is appetizing, boasting vibrancy and eye-catching appeal. However, the sauce's consistency was exceptionally thick and clumpy, probably the thickest of this group, which was a bit too much for my liking. The heat level, labeled as medium, felt more like medium-hot in reality.

The sauce delivers a tasty flavor profile, although it leans heavily on cumin, which may not suit everyone's taste. The standout feature is the use of smoked paprika for bold flavor that's deep and intoxicating. That said, it's a strong, thick, and rich sauce, full of flavor, but its intensity may be overpowering for some. However, this robustness is characteristic of Patak's go-big-or-go-home approach to flavor, making it a choice for those who appreciate bold and assertive tastes.

6. Brooklyn Delhi Tikka Masala Indian Simmer Sauce

Brooklyn Delhi Tikka Masala Sauce
Brooklyn Delhi Tikka Masala Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

Get ready to spend a bit more for Brooklyn Delhi's plant-based, vegan tikka masala sauce. As someone who enjoys a vegetable-forward diet, I appreciate having a vegan option available. The aroma is light and pleasant but dominated by coconut. While I understand it is made with coconut cream instead of butter and cream to adhere to being plant-based, the coconut flavor is too overpowering for my taste. The sauce's color is a bit lackluster, and the strands of cilantro floating in the sauce are distracting.

On the positive side, the sweetness of the sauce is delectable and caused me to go back for more slurps. The inclusion of brown sugar likely contributed to its delicious depth of sweetness. Despite this, I would forego paying the steep price for this sauce and opt to make a vegan tikka masala sauce at home, adding more spices to enhance the flavor, as this sauce was a bit lacking in that department.

If you're looking for a lighter version of tikka masala, Brooklyn Delhi's jarred concoction might be worth trying. This sauce would be an excellent introduction to Indian food for newbies or kids, as it is mildly spiced and sweet. As for me, I need more oomph in my tikka masala.

5. Private Selections Indian Inspired Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

Private Selection Tikka Masala Sauce
Private Selection Tikka Masala Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

While I don't really have any major complaints about Private Selection Indian Inspired Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce, it doesn't quite taste like traditional tikka masala. That's why I appreciate the "Indian Inspired" label. It's made with typical tikka masala ingredients, but this jarred sauce doesn't quite capture the essence of the Indian dish I grew up eating. That aside, this sauce is quite yummy, and I think I may have found the perfect way to enjoy it.

This sauce is creamy — impressively creamy. Its aroma is pleasing but puzzling — sweet, milky, and coconutty, with an unexpected hint of cheesy béchamel sauce. Upon tasting the sauce, the béchamel aroma translated into the taste of Alfredo sauce infused with Indian spices. I kept craving a bowl of hot pasta to pour the sauce over. In fact, I would absolutely eat this with pasta! I look forward to buying this sauce again and enjoying it over pasta for a tasty, comforting Indian-fusion chicken fettuccine Alfredo.

4. Tasty Bite Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

Tasty Bite Tikka Masala Sauce
Tasty Bite Tikka Masala Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

This was my first time trying a Tasty Bite product, and it made a positive first impression. The sauce's aroma is sweet, savory, and fragrant, and despite its lackluster brownish-reddish color, it is still appetizing. This sauce is one of the sweetest on our list, likely from jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), which added flavorsome, mouthwatering caramel and molasses notes.

The biggest letdown was the sauce's lumpiness, probably from guar gum and chickpea flour, which gave it a slightly unappetizing gelatinous texture. However, if you can overlook that oddity, the flavor is delicious. The sweetness from the jaggery and red bell pepper is particularly enjoyable. That said, while I like the flavor, I find that it tastes more like curry than tikka masala. Although it's on the pricier side, I would buy it again because I enjoy the taste. Next time, though, I will thin the sauce with water to improve the consistency.

3. Good & Gather Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

Good & Gather Tikka Masala Sauce
Good & Gather Tikka Masala Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

Target's Good & Gather Tikka Masala Sauce lives up to its name. This sauce is really good, and you'll want to gather around to enjoy it any day of the week. The taste test began on a promising note when a bit of sauce fell onto my finger as I twisted the jar open. I licked it off and my first thought was, "Yum."

This sauce has a vibrant orange-reddish color and a sweet, yet balanced aroma with savory notes. It's most like the tikka masala you find at Indian restaurants in the U.S. I was initially concerned that the coconut milk (coconut extract and water) in the ingredients might be a bit too strong, but it blends nicely without being overpowering. The mix of spices is balanced, and the flavor is light and pleasant. The sauce has a looser, more fluid consistency than others on this list, which I enjoyed. As the lowest-priced option on this list, this sauce is a steal of a deal for a quick and tasty Indian dinner at home.

2. Passage To India Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

Passage To India Tikka Masala Sauce
Passage To India Tikka Masala Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

This stellar, flavor-packed sauce comes in a single-use pouch and is one of the most affordable on this list. It boasts a delightful chunky texture, with small bits of onion floating throughout. Aromas of cardamom, clove, and cumin are prominent, and while its brownish-orange color is somewhat dull, it makes up for it with an outstanding taste.

This sauce is rich and full of complex flavor, leaning towards the tangier side, perhaps from the citric acid and yogurt powder. It is undeniably tomato heavy with tomato paste and tomatoes listed among the first three ingredients, but it all works really well together. The heat level is medium, and the sauce's chunky texture coats pieces of chicken nicely. This sauce has a delicious homemade taste and mouthfeel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely buy it again. It's a convenient option for an affordable weeknight dinner.

1. Maya Kaimal Tikka Masala Indian Simmer Sauce

Maya Kaimal Tikka Masala Sauce
Maya Kaimal Tikka Masala Sauce - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

Taking the top spot on the list is Maya Kaimal Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce, and, boy, is it delicious. Priced on the higher side, this sauce is well worth the cost. It has a tantalizing aroma and a well balanced mix of spices. The color is a rich, dark orange color that is vibrant but not fluorescent in any way and the thickness of the sauce is the perfect consistency. Despite tomatoes being the main ingredient, it's very well balanced with other ingredients, like buttermilk, evaporated cane sugar, garam masala, lemon juice, and Serrano chili.

This tasting got off to a great start. As I warmed the sauce in the pan, drops of oil glistened on the surface making it irresistibly appetizing; I knew I was in for a treat. The aroma is spicy and sweet, the mild heat is perfectly balanced, and the tang is present but not overpowering. The bright citrus notes from the lemon juice really elevate the flavor, and the sauce's chunky texture makes it taste and look homemade. The richness from butter and buttermilk also add to its deliciousness. This tikka masala sauce has broad appeal and can cater to many tastes because of its mild heat and well-balanced taste.


Tikka Masala Simmer Sauces
Tikka Masala Simmer Sauces - Lei Shishak/Tasting Table

I cook Indian food at home several times a week, so if there's a way to cut down on time spent laboring over the stove, I'm in. To test the jarred tikka masala sauces for this ranking, I used each to create a semi-homemade meal. I prepared each dish by first browning chicken chunks in olive oil, then adding the sauce and simmering until the chicken was cooked through. My findings were first based on visual appeal. I then judged the dish on aroma, sauce consistency, and flavor, while also considering price.

I was surprised by the distinct differences in flavor among the various sauces. Each one had a unique taste profile, with no two sauces tasting similar. Ultimately, the sauces that ranked well featured a balanced blend of spices, a pleasing texture, and an inviting aroma, and evoked the comfort of a home-cooked meal, making them worthy shortcuts for a delicious tikka masala.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.