The $2 Find I Buy Every Single Time I Go to Aldi
Like so many people, cooking has always been a source of comfort and stress relief for me. Chop, slice, measure, sauté, simmer, serve — when I get into a rhythm, I get out of my head and just focus on the pots, pans, and bowls. Of course, I’m not always able to spend hours on a cooking project: When my life outside the kitchen gets extra busy, I find myself in search of recipes that give me all the calm in half the time.
That’s where Aldi’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce comes in. At just $2.35, it has become the most affordable weeknight staple in my pantry. It’s inexpensive and means a quick dinner. And I buy a jar every single time I go to Aldi.
I must confess: I’m an Aldi novice. For years, I’ve heard friends rave about the great finds (and even greater prices), but never got around to seeing for myself. That all changed when I moved to a new city and spotted an Aldi while I was running errands one day. Who knew that my last-minute grab on that very first trip would become a near-constant staple?
As a home cook with a deep appreciation for the “semi-homemade” approach, simmer sauce is not a new concept to me. Aldi’s Tikka Masala sauce ticks the most important boxes: It’s flavorful, rich but not too thick, and has the perfect balance of salty, sweet, and spice.
The recipe on the back of the jar calls for sliced chicken with red and green bell peppers, but my go-to version is full veggies. First, I chop an onion, a small head of cauliflower, and whatever bell peppers I have on hand into large pieces. Then I sauté the veggies with olive oil over medium-high heat in a deep pan. (This step is important because it brings out the flavor of the veggies so they stand on their own in the sauce.) I season everything with salt and pepper after a few minutes of stirring.
When the onions turn translucent and the skin on the peppers gets a bit blistered, I turn the heat to low-medium to prepare the pan for the simmering part. I want to keep the veggies cooking without scorching the room-temperature sauce.
This is when the magic happens. I pour in the entire jar and, instantly, my kitchen gets filled with the magical sound of sauce jumping on the pan. Then, I stir to combine, making sure each vegetable is coated. I like a really saucy result, so I add 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of plant-based milk (I use almond). Then I lower the heat all the way, cover the pan, and let it simmer.
I spend the next 10 to 15 minutes finishing my rice and warming bread in the oven. This sauce is so good, I need something to soak it up. Sometimes I’ll add spices and chopped nuts to the rice, or cheese to the naan for additional flavor, but the veggie-filled sauce is the star of the show. It takes center stage on the plate, flanked by triangles of naan and mounds of rice.
This is the perfect weeknight meal: quick, comforting, and an easy reheat for lunch the next day. I have a feeling this recipe will be in heavy rotation for the foreseeable future. Did I mention it’s $2.35 a jar?
What’s your favorite dinner shortcut from Aldi?