Indian restaurant bhuna curry is a recipe that shows up all on menus all over the place. It’s typically a thick, well spiced, medium hot dish. There’s no real guideline other than that. That’s why it’s so different from restaurant to restaurant. Kind of like balti in the UK.

I think bhuna varies so much in restaurants because technically it’s not a dish. It’s a way of cooking. By definition spices are gently fried and then meat is added. The whole thing is left to stew in it’s own juices. At the end, you wind up really big flavours and not a lot of sauce. Super concentrated curry.

I’ve looked at quite a few definitions of bhuna and it seems to come down to a curry with onions, garlic, tomatoes, chilies and spices. That’s what this Indian restaurant bhuna curry recipe is all about. I hope the curry police don’t come and take me away for misleading people with this post. Or worse yet, take away my spices and condemn me to cooking curry with pre-fab curry powder for the rest of my life.

Indian restaurant bhuna curry is a thick curry loaded with tomato, spices and onions.

This is a master Indian restaurant bhuna curry recipe. You can make it with pre-cooked chicken, lamb, beef or use tofu, pre-cooked potatoes or eggplant for vegan options.

Before you start do your prep. That’s important. Make your curry base and have some heated and ready to go. Pre-cook your meat. Measure out your ingredients. Have everything ready. Put on an apron – a bit of splatter is part of the fun.

If you have not yet read the guide to Indian restaurant technique yet, do it now. It has pictures to help you understand the recipe. There’s also a guide to Indian ingredients in that post.

Indian restaurant bhuna curry is a thick curry loaded with tomato, spices and onions.

5 from 3 votes
Indian restaurant bhuna curry is a thick curry loaded with tomato, spices and onions.
indian restaurant bhuna curry
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
30 mins
Indian restaurant bhuna curry is a thick, medium hot curry heavy on the tomato. If you want it milder roll back on the green chili and/or chili powder but do try to include a bit of green chili for flavour. Do not cut back on the oil in this recipe. That makes the spice fry step nearly impossible. Seriously. It's a bad idea. If you haven't yet read the primer on Indian restaurant curry at home do that before you start.
Course: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 2
The spice mix
  • 2 tsp indian restaurant spice mix or curry powder - recipe link below
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder or 1/4 tsp cayenne mixed with 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp kasoor methi
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
The curry ingredients
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 green chilies seeded and diced (or thinly sliced if you want a bit of extra heat from the ribs)
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro stems minced
  • 1 Tbsp garlic/ginger paste - recipe link below
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste with enough water to dilute to the consistency of pasatta
  • 15 oz curry base - recipe link below
  • 10-12 oz pre-cooked chicken or lamb
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind sauce - I use Maggi brand
  1. Make the spice mix.
  2. Dilute the tomato paste with enough water to get to the consistency of passata.
  3. Heat your frying pan (don't use non-stick) briefly over medium heat. Add the oil.
  4. When the oil starts to shimmer add the onions and stir constantly until the edges of the onions start to brown. This takes about a minute.
  5. Next comes the garlic ginger paste. Add it into the pan and cook it, stirring constantly, until it stops sputtering.
  6. Add the green chilies and cilantro stems. Cook about 15-20 seconds.
  7. Turn down the heat and add the spice mix. This is the critical step. Stir it constantly for 30 seconds. If it starts to darken lift the pan off the heat. You want the spice mix to cook in the oil but not burn.
  8. Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the diluted tomato paste and stir until bubbles form (the oil will likely separate). This takes around 30 seconds to one minute depending on the heat.
  9. Add 3 oz of curry base. Stir until bubbles form (little craters really), around 30 seconds. Watch the edges of the pan. The curry can stick here.
  10. Now add 6 oz of curry base and stir briefly. Let it cook until the bubbles form again. This takes 1-2 minutes.
  11. Add the rest of the curry base and let cook until the bubbles form. Add the tamarind sauce. Turn the heat down to low and add the pre-cooked lamb, beef, chicken, tofu or vegetables.
  12. Let the curry simmer for about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick add a bit more curry base. Don't add water.
  13. Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and serve.
Recipe Notes

The recipe for curry base is here.


The recipe for indian restaurant spice mix is here


The recipe for garlic ginger paste is here.


If you haven't read about Indian restaurant technique yet, do that before you start cooking.

Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go.

If you are making multiple curries, have your curry base warming in a pot on the stove. If you are just making one, microwave it to warm it up right before you start cooking.

Indian restaurants pre-cook their meat so it's ready for service. This recipe assumes the same. To pre-cook chicken, simply simmer it with a bit of curry powder and salt in chicken stock for about 10-15 minutes - until it's barely cooked.

To pre-cook lamb or beef, do the same but plan for 1 to 1/2 hours for lamb and 2 hours or more for beef. You are making stew meat so you are braising until tender. You will need to keep an eye on the level of the stock. For beef use beef stock.


12 thoughts on “indian restaurant bhuna curry

  1. *drooooling* This looks fantastic. I went out to buy kasoor methi and am excited to have your recipe guide me through an awesome curry recipe! haha I have ‘chili’ powder from the indian grocers but I am not 100% sure if its kashmiri chili. They all say, chili. o_O Hope I have the right one!

    • Watch out for the chili. Kashmiri is pretty mild and it can go all the way up to incendiary. Around here kashmiri chili is marked as kashmiri. There’s also a chili powder from MDH called Deggi Mirch (comes in a little box) that is about the same heat.

  2. I had no idea that bhuna was a technique rather than a dish! Your photos of this bhuna curry are fantastic. It makes me immediately think cold evening, warm dinner, hot spices, blankie and a movie night. Do you typically use chicken or lamb?

    • With all my curries lamb and chicken are interchangeable. You need to allow for longer to pre-cook lamb of course, but otherwise it’s exactly the same. I also do vegetarian versions by mixing one recipe worth of restaurant curry without the meat into 3 cups of cooked masoor dal. Play with it. It’s fun!

  3. Its so great to learn all these restaurant tricks for cooking Indian food! I love concept of prepping everything beforehand. This would be perfect for having company over for dinner when you don’t want to spend your whole time in the kitchen.

    • Riva, depending on how many dishes you cook it can still be a fair bit of work so keep that in mind. It’s about 10 minutes of dedicated cooking time per curry plus rice, plus a lentil dish, plus whatever else you want to serve. Helps to have someone to clean pans for you between curries though!

  4. Thank you for another wonderfully detailed recipe, I always learn so much from your posts! Curry is one of my favorites and I’m never satisfied with what I get when I order it out, I can now try to make my own at home with your help, thank you!

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