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Chicken bhuna is a well spiced curry in a thick, rich sauce. Big tastes of Indian spice, onions and tomatoes. It’s just good home cooking – Indian style.

It’s a little different though. Almost a dry curry. Chicken coated in sauce. No gravy really. Think chicken dunked in a spicy tomato puree. Chicken cooked in its own juices.

Terrible description. I know. But it’s the best I can come up with. You’ll see what I mean if you make it.

Chicken bhuna, dahl and bowl of bhuna and rice from above.

Chicken bhuna isn’t really a dish at all

I’m going to get some pretty good comments for this. I really don’t think it’s a dish. Everybody’s recipe is different. Really different.

It doesn’t even have a standard spelling. Chicken bhuna. Chicken bhoona. I’ve even seen bhunao.

According to Collins dictionary it’s a dish where spices are dry roasted and then moistened with liquid. Not sure where that comes from. Doesn’t even make sense. Has nothing to do with any recipe I’ve ever seen.

What I see everywhere is “a thick, well spiced curry”. Seriously? What is that exactly? I’ve looked pretty hard to try to understand. Books. Internet. Video. I think it’s a secret. Only the chosen bhuninati know the truth.

As far as I can tell bhuna is actually a technique. You can make just about any curry a bhuna. Wikipedia says chicken bhuna is a curry cooked in oil with no additional water. That I believe.

So if this isn’t your idea of chicken bhuna please point me to the definitive description. Because I can’t find it. Chicken coated in delicious sauce. That’s what I’m going with. That’s what this chicken bhuna recipe is about.

Indian style serving dish full of chicken bhuna from the front.

Don’t go crazy browning the onions

Heresy. I know. I am going against everything I say in every Indian recipe on this blog.

But in this case you don’t want your onions deeply browned. I’m not saying to sweat them until they are translucent. That would be crazy talk. But just take them to the point where the edges are brown.

And use bigger pieces for chicken bhuna. The onions aren’t supposed to completely disappear into the sauce here.

Bowls of chicken bhuna, dhal and rice from above.

Make chicken bhuna your own

Think of this recipe as a baseline. There’s no standard. So you can’t go wrong.

I like it this way. There’s a nice mix of powdered and whole spices. Pretty good heat. A little heavy handed on the tomatoes. Tamarind for that hint of tang.

That’s my way. But there’s no right or wrong. It’s good with green chilies. Some people like green or red peppers. Yoghurt. Even bigger pieces of onion. Lemon juice instead of tamarind. Or both for extra tang.

Play with it. Make this one the way it’s written. Or makes it your own. Just make it. It’s tasty stuff.

Serving of chicken bhuna and rice from the front.
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4.43 from 7 votes

chicken bhuna curry

Chicken bhuna is delicious, well spiced chicken cooked in its own juices.
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken bhuna, chicken curry
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 465kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen

Ingredients

powdered spice mix

  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 2 tsp paprika for colour
  • 2 tsp kasoor methi fenugreek leaves, crumbled between your fingers
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

whole spice mix

  • 2 inch piece of cinnamon bark also known as cassia
  • 3 cloves whole
  • 1 black cardamom whole
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 3 red chilies dried
  • 1 Indian bay leaf also known as tej patta – optional

chicken bhuna curry

  • 8 chicken thighs boneless, skinless
  • 2 large onions chopped into 1/2 inch dice
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1 1/2 cups pureed tomatoes I use whole canned tomatoes with their puree if I can't get decent fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste or lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup cilantro chopped. A good handful really. No need to be super precise here.

Instructions

Prepare your spices

  • Combine all the dry powdered spices and salt in a small bowl.
  • Combine all the whole spices in another small bowl

Make the chicken bhuna

  • Heat the oil in a pot with a lid that is large enough to hold all the ingredients over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer add the onions.
  • Cook the onions until they are browned on the edges. You aren't going for the deep brown onions this time. This should take 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add the garlic ginger paste. Cook about a minute more.
  • Push the onions to one side. Give them a squeeze with a wooden spoon or spatula to get the oil into the pan. Add the whole spices and cook until you see little bubbles forming around the spices.
  • Pay attention to this step. Turn the heat to medium low. Add the powdered spice mix. Stir to combine thoroughly with the oil. You are going for a spicy oil slurry. You should have enough oil but if it looks dry add another tablespoon.
  • Cook the powdered spices for about a minute, stirring regularly. You need to be careful here. If you have enough oil the spices shouldn't burn. Burnt spices is the kiss of death. You have to start over if you burn them. If you have any doubts just push the pot off the burner.
  • Now stir the spice slurry into the onions. Mix it all up. Cook for about a minute more.
  • Add the pureed tomatoes. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the chicken. Give it a stir and bring to a lively simmer. Cover loosely, reduce heat to get a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through. Chicken thighs are perfectly cooked at 170F. Use your instant read thermometer. You have an instant read thermometer right? If you don't, you are just guessing.
  • The chicken should be done in 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on it. Give it a gentle stir every 5 minutes or so. You want this to be a pretty dry curry. The chicken will throw liquid as it cooks. If it looks really saucy take the lid off completely to finish cooking.
  • Add the tamarind or lemon and a good handful of chopped cilantro. Stir to combine. Cook for a couple more minutes. If it's too thick add a splash of water. Once you have reached your desired consistency taste and adjust salt.
  • Serve with roti or rice or both.

Notes

You can make this with bone-in, skinless chicken thighs as well. Just adjust the cooking times upwards by around 10-15 minutes. It’s a little messier to eat but bone-in is real home cooking.
Homemade garlic ginger paste is way better than the stuff you get in a jar. If you want to up your game think about making it. It keeps for weeks in the fridge.

Nutrition

Serving: 4servings | Calories: 465kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 194mg | Sodium: 911mg | Potassium: 1073mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1354IU | Vitamin C: 63mg | Calcium: 94mg | Iron: 4mg
Indian chicken bhuna curry .

9 thoughts on “chicken bhuna curry

  1. Do you think that passata can be used here instead of pureed tomatoes? I mean plain of course, not with herbs etc.

    Thanks in advance

  2. Just started getting in to Indian cooking. Have watched some of your videos, all good stuff. How come you’re not using pre-cooked chicken in this recipe ? Many thanks. John

    • Pre-cooked chicken is a restaurant trick that works when you are making curries with curry base gravy. They do that because a) it’s faster and b) the chicken releases juices when it cooks that dilute the texture of the final curry. It’s just easier to use pre-cooked chicken when you are cooking restaurant style.

      This recipe is more along the lines of traditional Indian cooking. In this recipe there is no curry base and the cooking technique allows for the juices of the chicken to become part of the sauce. I do not pre-cook the chicken for anything other than restaurant style because those juices are pure flavour and I want that in my sauce.

      • Thanks for your quick reply, makes sense. Have been following a few blogs/youtubers who are doing similar to you, keeping it simple they ain’t ! Carrots, cabbage, block of coconut in a base gravy , come on ! Now following you, keep ’em coming . Cheers from Spain

  3. In your chicken bhuna recipe you don’t mention adding the base gravy? I thought this was required in all Indian curry recipes and you add spices, ingredients depending on which curry you are making e.g. Bhuna, madras, jalfrezi etc. Please advise.

    • There’s more than one way to curry for dinner. This is a traditional home-style recipe. This is what goes on in Indian home kitchens, my own included. There are traditional Indian home cooking recipes scattered throughout the blog.

      What you are thinking of is the restaurant style cooking that originated in the UK. The recipes that have “restaurant style” in the title on glebekitchen are in that style and make use of curry base gravy.

      I also have a series of recipes called “nearly restaurant style” that give results very similar to restaurant style but don’t require that you make large batches of base gravy in advance. You can make them in well under an hour start to finish.

      Lastly I am working on a series of what I am going to call “Indian hotel style” which is how it’s done in restaurants in India. This one is a little different but I am amazed at the results I am getting. I will start publishing Indian hotel style in the coming weeks.

      Hope this helps clarify. If you desperately want curries done with base gravy just look for Indian restaurant in the title on glebekitchen.

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