One of my most popular articles in 2019 was a review of a curry simmer sauce in a bottle–and that sauce was not very good, so we wanted to try some other convenient, ready-to-use curry sauces in search of a better one.
We’ve found two that are quite tasty, and they’re not an obscure brand that’s difficult to find in stores: Simply Balanced is one of the house brands at Target, which has stores all over the United States and also sells this line of curry sauces online. This is not a sponsored post! I’m just a satisfied Target customer who would also like to share this useful tip: A Target-affiliated MasterCard gives you a 5% discount on all Target purchases as well as free shipping of online orders.
UPDATE: Shortly after I published this article, Target changed these sauces to one of their other house brand names. Good & Gather curry sauces are the same sauces reviewed here, just with different labels.
We tried two flavors of Simply Balanced curry sauces: Panang Ginger and Yellow Curry. Both have much better flavor than that other sauce, probably because they contain more coconut milk than vegetable oil and used fresh instead of dried garlic, onion, and ginger. In these sauces, the oil is soybean, not canola–so watch out if you’re allergic to soy! These sauces are safe for dairy, egg, and gluten allergies, though–they’re vegan, as coconut curry sauce should be, and gluten-free.
At $2.99 per jar, these sauces are not pricey but do cost more than making your own sauce. (That price also includes the nice reusable jar, just the right size for carrot sticks or a similar picnic snack.) When you have the time and mental energy–and a well-stocked spice rack–try making my Creamy Lentil Coconut Curry with Roasted Vegetables!
For busier days, here’s an easy way to create some homemade food and enhance it with ready-made sauce to make a hearty dinner in 30 minutes or less! (For a version with tofu instead of lentils, see my Trader Joe’s curry sauce review.)
To make 4 servings, you will need:
- 3-4 cups of cooked vegetables. These might be leftover roasted, steamed, or stir-fried veggies, or you might give them a quick stir-frying as described below.
- 3 cups cooked rice (white or brown). This also might be left over and reheated.
- 1 cup dry red lentils and 2 cups water, or about 2 cups leftover cooked lentils of any color.
- 1 jar of curry sauce.
If you need to cook the rice and/or lentils, start them first. To cook the lentils, simply put them in the water in a small, covered saucepan; bring to a boil; turn down to low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and falling apart–the consistency will be similar to oatmeal. Red lentils will be cooked soft in just 15-20 minutes (about the same time as white rice or quick-cooking brown rice), and they’ll blend in with the sauce such that you’ll barely notice you’re eating all that protein, iron, B vitamins, and manganese!
Next, cook the vegetables as necessary, then add the curry sauce and heat them together on medium-low, stirring frequently, until sauce is bubbling a lot.
Finally, you can mix the lentils into the curry sauce as well (if lentils are cold leftovers, this is the easiest way to warm them up) or fill your bowl with a scoop of rice, scoop of lentils, and then the saucy veggies on top.
Details and Tips
When I used the yellow curry sauce, I had a bag of only about 2 cups of roasted vegetables (eggplant, carrots, broccoli, onion) that I had frozen, a handful of fresh mushrooms, and plenty of frozen broccoli. I decided to supplement the roasted veggies with the mushrooms and a little extra broccoli.
I cut up the mushrooms and started cooking them in oil in the saucepan where I was going to heat up the sauce. I grabbed some broccoli out of the freezer bag and, because it was in very large pieces, tore it up with my hands and dropped it into the pot. It quickly defrosted and cooked along with the mushrooms. I kept the heat medium-high and stirred frequently.
Next, I turned the heat to medium-low and added the pre-roasted veggies, which had been thawing for several hours but were still semi-frozen. I broke them up with the spoon and stirred for a couple minutes before adding the sauce.
In the pot at the back, you see what the lentils should look like when you turn off the heat. Stir them a few more times as they’re cooling so they don’t stick to the pot.
The veggie mixture looks super-saucy here, but remember, that sauce is going to sink down into the lentils and rice in your bowl, as well.
Ready to eat!
Simply Balanced Yellow Curry Simmer Sauce seems to be thicker than the Panang Ginger Curry Sauce–or maybe it thickened when I heated it. When we used the Panang sauce, we were putting it on freshly-roasted vegetables that had just come out of a 400-degree oven, so I didn’t bother heating the sauce but simply poured it from the jar onto each serving. It kind of slid off the top of the food and settled around the edges of the bowl. Oh well–you can just stir your bowl, or mix it up as you eat!
What’s so good about these sauces?
Both sauces taste like coconut curry you might get in a restaurant–not quite like our very favorite restaurant curry but much more like it than that other sauce. The flavors are well-blended into a cohesive sauce that tastes like it was cooked by someone who understands the process of adding fresh ingredients in the proper order and simmering them together for the right amount of time.
Panang Ginger is more spicy–sharp notes of fresh ginger, lemongrass, and hot pepper–while Yellow Curry is mild and mellow.
My 15-year-old Nicholas, who has been critical of my homemade curry, says both of these sauces are better than mine! He judged the Panang Ginger sauce “pretty good, but not quite right somehow” and the Yellow Curry sauce “closer” to his ideal.
My partner Daniel said Yellow Curry is “a little on the simple and sweet side” but that’s not so bad–you can always add a squirt of hot sauce! It’s better than a sauce that is oily, bitter, or “weird” in some indefinable way. Daniel also said that both sauces have the right amount of coconut milk, which is important to him as a person who doesn’t really care for coconut sauces.
I do love coconut, but I think it’s important to balance the coconut milk with the other sauce ingredients, and these sauces get the proportions right: My first impression was, “Mmm, tasty sauce!” rather than, “This has coconut milk in it.”
Both sauces are kind of high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. Of course saturated fat is inevitable in coconut. You can make an overall healthy meal by cooking your veggies, lentils, and rice with no salt or sugar and with just enough unsaturated fat to prevent veggies sticking to the pan.
We look forward to trying other flavors of Simply Balanced curry sauces!
Mushrooms are delicious in curry, but they’re actually not vegetables. Did you know that mushrooms are the only non-animal source of Vitamin D? Learn more about the nutrients in mushrooms, how to increase their Vitamin D content naturally, and their other culinary uses in my article at Kitchen Stewardship!