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Chicken Bhuna Masala

Chicken Bhuna Masala

Want to make a SMASHING, AUTHENTIC Chicken Bhuna curry?

Let’s get real – who doesn’t love a good Chicken Bhuna? Honestly, I can’t think of a single person.

Bhuna curries are popular on the British Indian takeout scene – you’ll often hear this name alongside Jalfrezis, Karahis and Dopiazas.

But the problem is, I’ve tried my fair share of curries from these take outs and honestly? Lacklustre at best. 

As any Asian may be able to attest, a lot of curries out there are just the same creamy, sweet base used for everything. Everything tastes the same. Just with different ingredients. OK, I won’t taint EVERY British Indian restaurant with the same brush, that would be wrong, but I have not had particularly pleasant curry dine-outs on any of my holidays around the country,

Bhuna Chicken Curry - Recipe @

What makes a good Chicken Bhuna curry then?

So first of all, lets go ahead and put that shaker of curry powder to the side. 

Sorry, got nothing against the use of curry powder, but we’re after the real deal, amiright?

So for that, I’m going to getting in the spices that actually make the curry powder, but in my own quantities. 

Here’s what else makes a good Chicken Bhuna

  • Fresh ingredients – onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes – all fresh, no compromises! 
  • The garnishes – chillis and fresh coriander are a must
  • A thick, tasty, well spiced masala which is made from caramelised, melted onions and garlic and jammy tomatoes
  • A small variety of aromatic spices. In my recipe, I don’t use anything particularly fancy, but the coriander and cumin play a pretty central role in the flavour.
  • The actual technique of the ‘Bhun’, which I’ll tell you about next

Bhuna Chicken Curry - Recipe @

What’s a Chicken Bhuna curry?

‘Bhuna’ refers to a technique in cooking in which the meat is seared or sautéed on high heat. 

It’s a technique which is paramount in all Pakistani cooking. It’s generally accepted amongst the best Pakistani cooks that no curry is worth the effort if it hasn’t had a good ‘bhun’ session, also known as ‘sautéing it till it can no longer be sautéed any more’.

Bhuna Masala curries are usually a dry curry with a thicker masala and no soupiness, like my No Effort Bhuna Gosht Masala. The difference between the No Effort Bhuna Gosht Masala recipe and this Bhuna Chicken is that the searing in the Gosht happens at the end. The searing here will happen towards the beginning. This results is a jammier masala where the onions and tomatoes melt into one another much better.

I’ve written about this with a lot of gusto and passion (lol) in my Matar Keema recipe here. You can check that post out too after you’ve read this if you want to know more about the ‘Bhun’.

Bhuna Chicken Curry - Recipe @

How can you serve Chicken Bhuna?

Garnish this Chicken Bhuna curry with plenty of coriander and a couple of red chillies if you’re feeling up to it!

On this instance had this with warm chapattis on the first day and rice the next day and they were both equally as good. It’s what’s so great about this curry, it’s just such a non-fussy dish! It would go great with Mattar Pilau too!

Bhuna Chicken Curry - Recipe @

Some additional, good-to-know tips for Chicken Bhuna brilliance

  • Whilst this recipe doesn’t utilise whole spices, you can actually throw in a few black peppercorns for some extra heat, or a few whole cardamoms (black or green) for a sweet fragrance. I prefer my curry as the recipe is just out of personal preference to not have that strong garam masala kind of flavour, but if that’s your jam, go for it!
  • The best kind of salad to serve alongside this is either a kachumbar salad (simple diced onions, tomatoes and cucumber) or some onions doused in vinegar for a kick. Delicious!
  • As with ALL recipes, the quality of your ingredients matter. Always opt for fresh wherever you can. If you can get hold of organic chicken, that is GREAT – but you will need to increase cook times by about 30 minutes extra
  • If you can dry roast your spices before using them, then my friend, you will be BLOWN AWAY by the flavour. This tip applies to all curries, not just this. To dry roast your spices, heat a dry pan, preferably cast iron, until it’s hot and add one spice at a time. Roast this, stirring it constantly until it begins to release smoke. Immediately upon the releasing of smoke, remove the spice from the pan, and then proceed onto the next spice.

Enjoy, with love x

Chicken Bhuna Curry - Recipe @

Bhuna Chicken Masala - Seared Chicken Curry

Yield: 3
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

I love the simpicity of this recipe. It's so easy to make but packs in such flavour! This curry is on the spicy side so adjust the red chilli accordingly if you so wish. Don't miss out the paprika as it is for the red colour.


  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 6 tbsp oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 800 grams chicken, bone in
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric (haldi)
  • 3.5 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
  • 2.5 tsp cumin (zeera) powder
  • 1.5 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1.3 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 0.5 tsp black pepper, ideally coarsely ground
  • coriander, fresh, for garnish, optional
  • red chilli, fresh or dried, for garnish, optional


  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, ginger and onions. Saute this on medium heat till brown and almost burning on the edges. This will take about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, spices and 1/4 cup water. Cook this for 5-10 minutes till the masala looks thick and jammyBhuna Chicken Masala - Seared Chicken Curry @
  3. Turn the heat to high and add the chicken. Sear the chicken till it no longer remains pink and browns ever so slightly. If you want it to form a slight crispy crust, you can saute it for longer. The more you sear the chicken at this stage, the better the results are Bhuna Chicken Masala - Seared Chicken Curry @
  4. Once the chicken has browned, turn the heat to the lowest possible, cover and let simmer for 30-40 minutes. You may not need to add any water because the chicken will release a lot of it's own juices, but do check every 10-15 minutes to ensure it isn't burning. If needed, add 1/4 cup of water.Bhuna Chicken Masala - Seared Chicken Curry @
  5. After 40 minutes, this is how much water I had! At this point, you want to uncover it and begin to dry up the curry till the masala is thick and coating the chicken pieces. This took me 10 minutes but it depends on how much water your chicken released. Stay close by at all times during this stage and stir often.Bhuna Chicken Masala - Seared Chicken Curry @
  6. Your Bhuna Chicken Masala is done! Garnish with fresh coriander and red chillis and serve with rice or chapattis.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Bhuna Chicken Masala - Seared Chicken Curry


Glenn B

Wednesday 5th of October 2022

This is amazing. Loved the gloopy jammy texture. Nearly as good as chicken karahi


Monday 20th of June 2022

I love this recipe, Fatima. I previously asked about the Yoghurt substitute for tomatoes because my local Tescos ran out of tomatoes, and I only had yoghurt at hand, lol. Can I make a recipe suggestion? I would love to see a Fatima cooks-style Lahori Chicken, speaking of Yoghurt ๐Ÿ˜ƒ. Also, do you have a good recipe for chapatis? Mine never seem to stay soft, they always crisp up for some reason and become more like a hard tortilla ๐Ÿค”


Tuesday 28th of June 2022

Ben - you'll be happy to know I do have a Lahori Chargha recipe up! It's under the 'Chicken' section of the 'All Recipes' page.

I don't have a chapatti recipe yet but do watch this space!


Friday 20th of May 2022

Just made this, and seared the meat/spice mix for ages. SO GOOD. The best Iโ€™ve ever made. Itโ€™s going in my handwritten recipe book so I donโ€™t lose it ๐Ÿ˜Š


Wednesday 25th of May 2022

Thank you so much, Alice! I am honoured!


Friday 15th of April 2022

Fatima, could you make this recipe by substituting the tomatoes with yoghurt? If so, what would be the ratio?


Monday 25th of April 2022

Hmmm, it would work, Ben, but the end result would be different. The masala of this recipe is meant to be textures and that is partly achieved by the tomatoes. Having said that, it would still taste good. And regarding the ratio, I would say 2tbsp yogurt per 1 tomato is a good starting place.

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