What's the optimum — or, at least, the most widely used — tomato to onion ratio for making the tomato masala (sauce)? Masala is used as the base for a number of north Indian dishes. Onions are fried in oil and then tomatoes and spices are added and cooked down until the oil separates out.

6 Answers 6


I am not intimately familiar with the recipe but according to the recipes I have researched the ratio seems to run the gamut from 2-1 tomatoes to onions all the way to 1-1 tomatoes to onions. I would recommend starting at the 2-1 ration and adjusting according to taste.

Here are the recipes I reviewed:




I hope that helps! Ideally someone with more experience with this dish can eventually write a more comprehensive answer.

  • Thanks for your effort. I am in the middle of trying out different ratios right now, and will see what works the best. Oct 12, 2011 at 18:02
  • Cool, report back with your results!
    – Katey HW
    Oct 12, 2011 at 19:23
  • I usually start with a 1:1 ratio and adjust based on personal preference. Most recipes will say something like "one medium onion, diced"...but that's not helpful to me since "medium" is a totally subjective term. I also don't like huge pieces of slimy cooked onions, so I sometimes adjust the amount (sometimes I just chop 'em smaller). But in general, 2:1 - 1:1 should work for most sauces.
    – Laura
    Oct 12, 2011 at 20:12
  • @LauraΨ: you are right that a lot of recipes call for a "medium" onion or a "large" tomato, measures that are totally useless. I will try different ratios by weight and report back. Thanks for your comment. Oct 12, 2011 at 21:29
  • Gravy comes out to be too sweet when used gives a sweet taste which i don't like. I am currently using 1:1 Ratio for Onions & Tomatoes. I am not sure on -> Should we light brown onions or dark brown them. Currently i do light brown is that wrong ? -> Is my ration wrong as i am using Onion & Tomatoes in Equal Quantities. Which should be more ? How does varying each vary the flavor.
    – Aman
    Nov 5, 2016 at 20:53

I have a coworker from North India whose wife is a fantastic cook. I asked him and he asked her.

Her response was basically "it depends".

Her recipes are commonly 1:1 ratios. I commented that this was a lot of onion and my coworker said that's fine because he's the one that chops it.

Some recipes have even more onion and the onion is pureed. Others have a little more tomato.

She recommended starting with a 1:1 ratio by volume unless there is a specific type of masala recipe that requires a different ratio.

  • Thank you, Sobachatina. I started with a 1:1 ratio (by weight), and in the coming days will increase the ratio and see what happens. Stay tuned for a more scientific analysis. Oct 12, 2011 at 21:26

The ratio basically depends upon ones taste and the dish in particular. 2:1 ratio is opted in cases where we would like to have a sweet taste of the tomato, in other cases we go for 1:1.

Often for spicy dishes 2:1 is preferred.

I would recommend to start from 1:1, and bring down the ratio depending upon whether you love the taste of tomato.

I basically stick to 2:1, as I am not a tomato fan.. B-)


Ratio should be 1 onion and 2 tomatoes.reason is onion is naturally sweet in taste and when u caramelised it it's become more sweet so adding double quantity of tomato help to balance the sweet in ur gravy.

  • 1
    Are you referring to masalas where the onion is only lightly fried, or fried/caramelized as much as you can? I am aware both variations exist in various recipes. Jun 20, 2016 at 8:49

An important factor is the type of tomatoes, and more specifically, how watery they are.

For example, roma tomatoes tend to be more fleshy, so I rarely go above 1:1 with those, while hothouse tomatoes can be very watery, so I may even go up to 3:1.


Depends upon Meat, On white meat it's 2 part onion to 1 part tomatoes and .5 pepper, carrot etc. However, On red meat, tomatoes can go equal portions to onions or even more.

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