Quick Indian Cooking – Tadka Cubes

It’s no secret I love my desi food. In fact my ultimate comfort food is dal chawal (lentils and rice). I could eat that meal every day, and it is definitely my death bed choice – if I had to choose of course. However, with all the moving office business, and the crazy workload lately, Indian cooking has taken a back seat at my place for a few month. I’m pretty embarrassed to say how heavily we’ve been relying on drive-thru’s and grocery store deli’s to sustain us lately.

But enough is enough, so I’m getting serious and stocking my fridge and freezer this week. First up, a bulk tadka cooking session, and a few bags of these tadka cubes I used to use religiously.  This is a recipe I’m reviving from the archives, and is a life-saver for weeknight cooking.


tadka cubes, punjabi tadka recipe{Two must haves for tadka making marathons; my Kitchenaid mini chopper, and ghee.}tadka cubes, punjabi tadka recipe

Before we get into the recipe specifics, a quick primer on tadka is in order. Tadka is basically a process of tempering certain spices and onions (among other things)  in a hot oil or ghee which then forms the basis of most Indian food. Different regions of India have different items they include in their tadka (also known as chaunk). What I’m sharing today is basically a Punjabi tadka with some of my own touches. If you’ve eaten any tomato based curries, this is probably the tempering that was used.

Having these tadka cubes on hand substantially reduces the amount of prep time it takes to cook Indian food. In a pinch, I just chop up whatever veggies I have the fridge and throw in a couple of these cubes for an Indian stir fry and serve over rice.

*Important note – do not use an ice cube tray that you plan to use for regular ice again for this recipe. By one exclusively for tadka use. 

Tadka Cubes – Recipe:


2 tbs ghee (or a high heat oil)
1/2 tbs jeera
1 tsp salt (or too taste)
1 tsp turmeric (haldi)
2 tsp garam masala
1 extra large onion
4 garlic cloves
2 Roma tomatoes (with the juice squeezed out)
1 inch piece of ginger

Yield: 12 Ice Cubes
I sometimes make up to 3 batches of this recipe in one large pot and just adjust the ingredients accordingly


  • Chop all of your vegetables into a fine dice, either by hand or machine. Keep them separated for now.
  • Warm the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Add in the cumin seeds. Let them pop and sizzle for a minute or two and then add in the onions.
  • Sweat the onions out for 5-7 minutes on a medium high heat. Keep stirring them so they don’t stick to the bottom.
  • Add the ginger and tomatoes cook for 1 minute
  • Add the garlic and spices (keep stirring garlic will stick!)
  • Let the whole tadka come together on medium low heat for 8-10 minutes.
  • Take the pan off the stove and cool.
  • Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, you can scoop it into the individual ice cube trays and freeze until they hard. After that, I pop them into Ziploc bags.

quick indian cooking tadka cubes

The process of making the tadka is a bit tedious with all the chopping, and it stinks up the whole house, but it is so worth it. My mother says you can keep frozen tadka in the freezer for 4-6 months, but I usually use mine up within a month or two anyway!

Do you have any tips for speeding up your Indian meals – do share below in the comments.





  1. Rupinder Kaur
    November 6, 2015 / 6:09 am

    I try my best to avoid LOOOONG sessions in the kitchen so I’ve also adopted batch cooking where I make a big pot of something and freeze portions for use later in the week or month. My new best friends are my slow cooker (perfect for making daal – just throw everything in it, set it and come back 8 hours later to a kitchen smelling like my mom’s…yum!); also my pressure cooker (when you need to make a meal fast, you can do just about anything – daal, chicken curry, vegetables, rice).

  2. April 5, 2017 / 7:13 am

    Batch cooking saves my sanity too! I make ice cube masala but haven’t tried tadka. Great idea!

  3. Smriti Mahajan
    April 6, 2017 / 11:58 pm

    Hi Raj,

    My first comment on your very nice blog, although I have been following you for a while! Being a working mom in India, I quicken up the cooking by chopping batch of onions in the food processor and refrigerate them in a bowl covered with cling film. I also blend 4-6 tomatoes with a 1-1.5 inch piece of beetroot (for the extra red colour) and store it the same way. These two ingredients can then be used in any dishes I intend to prepare at any of the meal times from sandwitches, poha, vermicelli, veg idli and of course tadka for dal or veg as and when i need them. I also keep peeled garlic cloves refrigerated (done in batches of 1-2 whole garlics) and basically just crush them up with a piece of ginger in the small marble mortar and pestle to add into the tadka.

    • April 8, 2017 / 10:49 am

      Thank you for taking the time to comment Smriti! I’m very intrigued by your use of beetroot in the tomatoes, I am going to have to try that. I’m always a bit hesitant with beets because I don’t know what to cook with them, but I love the idea of added colour!

  4. April 9, 2017 / 9:27 am

    Daal chawal is my go-to comfort food as well! I love this idea of freezing ahead of time, I’m gonna have to give it a try!

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