Low Sodium Veggie Masala (High Protein!)

The CHF’s Dietitians Version of a Standby Indian Dish

A larger stainless steel saucepan sits on the stove.  Author is stirring masala with a wooden spatula.
Low Sodium High Protein Masala

One of the best ways to forget about sodium is to make a dish so flavorful that you will never miss it!

Veggie Masala is loaded with spices and can be made as “hot” or “mild” as you like. My love of Indian food started twenty five years ago when I lived in Saudi Arabia.  We had a favorite Indian restaurant that had the most amazing fresh food.  

When we moved to Raleigh we frequented Indian buffets. I didn’t know the names of the dishes, but I knew I liked them. Over the years, I started my own attempts at Indian meals.  A large percentage of people in India are vegetarian, especially in the Northern states, so Indian cuisine has a plethora of plant based yumminess to choose from.  They have really perfected plant based eating.

While my versions are far from authentic, I have experimented a lot over the years and this recipe is one of my go-to’s when guests are coming or whenever I want a special treat.

What You’ll Need and How You’ll Make It

Canned chick peas are pictured in a stainless steel colander.
Roasted cauliflower and cubed tofu are on a cookie sheet.
Roasted Cauliflower and Tofu

You don’t need any fancy equipment, just the basic knife, cutting board, pans and cookie sheet.  For the rice, I use an inexpensive rice cooker that I have had for over ten years.  I always made terrible rice before that rice cooker.  So you don’t need a rice cooker, but your life will be easier if you have one.

When I have a recipe like this, I gather up everything in advance. Once it’s all out on the counter, it feels much less overwhelming. You can even slice the onion and cauliflower, drain the chickpeas, and open the tomato sauce can.

Once everything is set up, it’s time to get cooking. Jump down to the recipe card for step by step directions!


I used cauliflower, chickpeas, and tofu in this recipe, but you can use many different vegetable combinations. Try green peas, carrots, green beans, or potatoes. I always recommend a plant based protein like baked tofu, but you can use whatever protein sources you like. 

I recommend plant based protein as they are cholesterol free and low in saturated fat.  And plant based proteins are considered heart protective.  So while this recipe may be about amazing flavor, I never forget that my number one purpose is to give you recipes that are both low sodium and heart healthy!


Chopped onions and a large knife lay on a cutting board.  Spices, garlic, ginger, and red chilis sit on the board nearby.
Masala spices

The word masala in Hindi actually means spice!

A typical masala is a blend of dry and fresh spices, sometimes made into a paste.  So the recipe looks super long, but if you look closely, a big portion of that list is spices. 

My veggie masala is mixed vegetables cooked in a special blend of spices with a tomato base. Feel free to experiment with the spices and play around with a little more of this or that. 

One tip is to add spices to the hot oil at the beginning of cooking.  You don’t want to burn them, you just want the flavors to blend in the oil until they become aromatic.  So, when you smell their fragrant yumminess, it’s time to add your other ingredients.

How to Store and Reheat (or Make Ahead)

One of the best things about this recipe is that it stores well in the fridge and tastes even better the next day.  The sauce thickens a bit and the flavors blend.  I put them into small, two-cup glass containers, and bring them to work for as many days as I possibly can.

Store in an airtight glass or ceramic container for up to five days. You can freeze it too, although the veggies may be a bit mushy when you reheat them.

Serving Tips

Pictured is the author holding a large yellow lemon.
Lemon is the key to this dish! Don’t leave it out.

Serve it with a long grain basmati rice and a bit of fresh cilantro. I don’t put anything on the rice and cook the rice in plain water. You don’t need the salt, and you don’t want any competing flavors. You don’t want any competing flavors.

But the real key to this dish is the lemon.  You may think it tastes good on its own, but you will not believe how that squeeze of fresh lemon makes the flavors dance.

To Sum it Up

A large pan of veggie masala sits on the stove.  The camera is poined toward a small black chihuahua who is looking up at the food.
Booboo Likes Masala

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I hope it gives you a chance to get creative in the kitchen.

And for more heart healthy recipes, see Low Sodium Minestrone Soup and Low Sodium Veggie Rice Bowls 

For more information on the heart health benefits of beans and legumes, check out this article: https://thechfdietitian.com/beans-for-heart-health-the-nutritional-benefits-and-latest-research

A white bowl sits on a wooden table with a macrame runner. The bowl has basmati rice on the left and veggie masala on the right. It is garnished with lemon and cilantro

Low Sodium Veggie Masala (High Protein)

Print Recipe
A flavorful take on a traditional Indian dish. This masala is bursting with flavor without the salt. It packs a protein punch from chick peas and roasted tofu.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 425


  • 1 Chopping knife
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • 1 Small Spoon
  • 1 Wooden spoon
  • 1 serving spoon
  • 1 large saute pan
  • 1 set measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 Cookie Sheet


  • 2 tbsp olive oil – divided may sub sesame oil or coconut oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1-3 red chilis may use green or omit if you prefer mild
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh ginger I like a lot of ginger
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp paprika may sub ancho chili powder or regular chili powder
  • 1 dash cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, cardomom if you don't have all of these, use what you have
  • ½ bunch chopped fresh cilantro ~ ½ -⅔ cup
  • 1 block firm tofu cubed
  • ½ head fresh cauliflower cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 14 oz cans "no salt added" tomato puree or six medium tomatoes pureed in blender
  • 1 cup water adjust based on desired consistency
  • 1 14 oz can "no salt added" chick peas drained
  • 1 sliced lemon *Do not skip as this is the true flavor enhancer
  • extra spices–garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and black pepper for sprinkling on tofu and cauliflower before roasting


  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Be careful not to burn. Add all of the spices and stir well. Once the spices become aromatic, add the second tablespoon of olive oil. This shouldn't take longer than a minute or two.
  • Add chopped onion and saute for 3 minutes.
  • Add finely chopped (or minced) red chilis, garlic, and fresh ginger and saute an additional 1-2 minutes.
  • Add tomato puree and water. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  • While the tomato mixture is cooking, sprinkle spices over tofu and cauliflower. Place on cookie sheets and roast at 425 degrees until golden brown–about 20 minutes.
  • Add chick peas and cilantro to tomato mixture and simmer another 20 minutes. Add more water if needed.
  • Once cauliflower and tofu are well cooked and golden brown, remove from oven. (Sometimes I turn on the broiler for 3-4 minutes to brown the tops but this is totally optional.)
  • Add cauliflower and tofu to tomato mixture and combine well.
  • Serve over basmati rice.
  • Don't forget to squeeze fresh lemon over the masala. This is key for flavor!


This recipe makes four large dinner servings with 425 calories, 18g protein, 12g fat, and less than 50g sodium as long as unsalted tomato puree and chickpeas are used.  


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