7 Simmer Sauces (You Can Buy Online) That Will Make Your Life So Much Easier

updated May 6, 2020
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simmer sauces graphic
Credit: photo: Bunches & Bunches, Masala Mama Foods, Thrive Market

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve looked at the clock after a busy day and realized, with a sinking feeling of dread, that I probably should have started making dinner already. Every time this happens, I basically have two choices: Order takeout or grab a simmer sauce from the pantry. Since takeout is pricey and a jar of sauce is relatively cheap, I usually reach for the latter (and thank myself for stocking up).

For the uninitiated, simmer sauces are exactly what they sound like: All you need to do is crack open a jar, add veggies and/or a protein of your choice, and dinner is just a quick simmer on the stove away. These days there are tons of really delicious, complexly flavored simmer sauces available at almost any supermarket. Many options are based in international cuisines, including Indian, Mexican, Moroccan, and Thai. Their labels often read like recipes and are chock-full of recognizable ingredients I can feel good about. I love that I can just add protein and vegetables and dinner is on. 

If you want to stock your own pantry with ready-in-minutes simmer sauces to make your life a million times easier, here are seven really great ones to try.

Credit: Thrive Market

1. Maya Kaimal Goan Coconut

Of all the complex Indian simmer sauces layered with flavor from Maya Kaimal, the Goan Coconut just might be the most delicious. It’s bright with tomato and tamarind; fragrant with curry leaves, turmeric, and ginger; and just rich enough with coconut cream. I love pairing this with shrimp and chicken. It’s available online at Thrive Market and at supermarkets nationwide.

Buy: Maya Kaimal Goan Coconut, $5.50 for 12.5 ounces at Thrive Market

Credit: Masala Mama Foods

2. Masala Mama Vindaloo

Sweetened with Indian jaggery instead of refined sugar, this small-batch, Brooklyn-made vindaloo will ruin you for any other. It’s deeply spiced with fenugreek, cloves, and cardamom, and perked up by cider vinegar and a punch of red chile. It’s available in three-packs with free shipping at the Masala Mama website, or at Whole Foods nationwide.

Buy: Masala Mama Vindaloo, $24 for 3 (10-ounce) jars at Masala Mama

Credit: Indian Life

3. Indian Life Butter Masala

This British Columbia-based company makes all-natural vegetarian and vegan Indian foods inspired by traditional family recipes. This sauce is rich and complex, blending tangy tomatoes and spicy heat with yogurt, cream, and a whole cabinet of spices. It’s available online and at West Coast co-ops and gourmet grocers, and Woodman’s Markets in the Midwest.

Buy: Indian Life Butter Masala, $60 for 6 (11.5-ounce) jars at Indian Life

Credit: Casablanca Foods

4. Mina Moroccan Fish Tagine

Simmer any fish of your choosing in this salty, funky, herbal sauce packed cilantro, parsley, lemon, a touch of tomato, and spices. It’s great served with crusty bread for dipping or over couscous. It’s available online or at Whole Foods, HEB, and other supermarkets nationwide.

Buy: Mina Moroccan Fish Tagine, $7 for 12 ounces at Mina

Credit: Williams Sonoma

5. Thai Fusions Panang Curry

This rich, Seattle-made panang curry combines spicy heat with fish sauce, lemongrass, galangal, makrut lime, and Thai basil. Best of all, it pairs well with everything. Available online at Williams Sonoma or at West Coast supermarkets.

Buy: Thai Fusions Panang Curry, $17 for 12 ounces at Williams Sonoma 

Credit: Target

6. Frontera Red Chile Barbacoa Slow Cook Sauce

This simmer sauce is tailor-made for the slow cooker and is packed with three kinds of toasted chiles for added heat. Just add chuck roast and you’ll have enough beefy barbacoa for a giant taco spread. Available at supermarkets nationwide.

Buy: Frontera Red Chile Barbacoa Slow Cook Sauce, $2.50 for 8 ounces at Target

Credit: Bunches & Bunches

7. Bunches & Bunches Smoked Oaxacan Mole ($13/15 ounces)

While the double-digit price may seem hard to swallow, trust me when I say this sauce is worth every penny. The mole is made with smoked chiles imported from Oaxaca, which are simmered for hours into a thick, luscious sauce that’s fantastic over chicken or pork. I’ve stirred it into soups and drizzled it on nachos too. Available online or at select retailers.

Buy: Bunches & Bunches Smoked Oaxacan Mole, $13 for 15 ounces at Bunches & Bunches

Tell us about your favorite simmer sauce in the comments below!