indian restaurant bhuna curry

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. It’s really tasty. This bhuna is just that.

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.

Bhuna is the mystery curry

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.


Bhuna curry close up in small copper pan


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 paneer, pre-cooked potatoes or eggplant for vegetarian options.

Bloom the spices in oil

Enough oil to fry the spices. That is a fundamental rule to Indian restaurant style curries. You can’t get around it. Too little oil and your spices will stick. They will burn. Not good.

It may seem like a lot of oil but it’s necessary. I’ve tried rolling back on it. It doesn’t work. Pretty much guaranteed to fail.

And frying spices is what makes bhuna curry what it is. Any curry really. It’s worth the extra calories.

Prep is key for Indian restaurant style curry cooking

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 a video there so you can see for yourself. And a guide to Indian ingredients in that post.

Indian restaurant bhuna curry. It may not trace it’s roots back to a famous Indian dish but it delicious. And that’s really all that matters…


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


Bhuna curry close up in small copper pan
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4.66 from 63 votes

indian restaurant bhuna curry

Indian restaurant bhuna curry is a thick, medium hot curry heavy on the tomato and long on flavour.
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword bhuna, bhuna curry
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 446kcal
Author glebe kitchen


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
  • 3-4 cherry tomatoes - cut in half


  • Make the spice mix.
  • Dilute the tomato paste with enough water to get to the consistency of passata.
  • Heat your frying pan (don't use non-stick) briefly over medium heat. Add the oil.
  • 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.
  • Next comes the garlic ginger paste. Add it into the pan and cook it, stirring constantly, until it stops sputtering.
  • Add the green chilies and cilantro stems. Cook about 15-20 seconds.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Now add 6 oz of curry base and stir briefly. Let it cook until the bubbles form again. This takes 1-2 minutes.
  • 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.
  • Let the curry simmer for about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick add a bit more curry base. Don't add water. Add the cherry tomatoes for the final 2-3 minutes of cooking.
  • Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and serve.


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.


Serving: 2servings | Calories: 446kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 90mg | Sodium: 1228mg | Potassium: 995mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1380IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 2.3mg


74 thoughts on “indian restaurant bhuna curry”

  1. 5 stars
    Fantastic recipe I love this bhuna indian restaurant style curry I just truly love this recipe it’s the best I’ve ever made

  2. 5 stars
    We have just eaten this for our evening meal and it was delicious. My husband has never like lamb in a curry, but that has all changed now thanks to your suggestion of cooking the meat first, it was SO tender. I said, on another of your recipes that I liked curry one day old and although I didnt cook this recipe the day before, I did so in the morning. The flavours just intensify and come together wonderfully. Rice was pilau with nigella seeds scattered in it, just to make it look pretty!!! I just spotted hotel style version recipe, must try it soon. Thank you once again for making everything so simple and making mediocre cooks turn into professionals hahah

  3. 5 stars
    Just made your curry base and spice mix and made the bhuna recipe. It is amazing and so tasty. Thank you so much for the recipes. I will never get a takeaway curry again. It’s so easy to make!

    • Delighted you took the plunge. It’s work up front but once you have a good supply of gravy and spice mix it goes quickly!

  4. 5 stars
    It looks delicious if i use raw chicken in this at what stage in the cooking process do you recommend i add it ?

    • You can add raw chicken after the third ladle of curry base. Simmer uncovered. The challenge you may have is the chicken will throw a lot of liquid as it cooks. This will dilute your final dish – possibly more than you want. If that happens remove the chicken and reduce your curry until you get your desired consistency.

  5. 5 stars
    Delicious dish. So many flavors. I made a double recipe and liked it even more second go round. I loved being able to have everything prepared in advance and by the time the rice was cooked, the curry was ready.

    • That is the beauty of restaurant style cooking. Once you are ready to go it all comes together fast.

      Great to hear you enjoyed it!

  6. 5 stars
    Great recipe The best I’ve made by some margin Followed the recipe to the letter other than I fried two star anise along with the onion and removed them near the end as I know from experience I’m a sucker for those background notes

  7. 5 stars
    Can I just say that lockdown has done one amazing thing and that is introducing me to Amazing recipes for curries like this Bhuna! When I order from a local takeaway in Birmingham I’ve always had Lamb Bhuna. Since I’ve found this recipe will be cooking my own from now “WOW”
    Thank you for introducing me to your cook book and look forward to more to come. I’ve just got to master Samosas and I’m set for life. So if anybody out there can help because the flour I buy is expensive but is there a cheaper alternative I can. buy….?
    Thank you

  8. I’ve cooked the Lamb Bhuna Curry OMG it’s the best Curry I have ever cooked at home it was amazing. The only criticism I have is cooking the Lamb separately is good but don’t cook to long as I did. I also added potato to mine with Lamb and simply AMAZING!
    Curry spices & Curry base made all the difference to the end product.
    Thank to Glebe for this Curry will never buy one again brilliant 👍🏻

  9. 5 stars
    So last night i attempted my first ever homemade curry from scratch, and followed your advice to the letter. Made the Curry base, the ginger garlic paste, the spice mix, pre-cooked the meat, and i have to say it turned out amazing! As good or better than anything i have ever had in a restaurant. I am still highly impressed with myself, but really all i did was follow your instructions, so thank you! It was a lot of work and took me 3 hours of hard graft(plus a trip to the Indian grocers), but now i have loads of left over curry base etc, the next ones will be a cinch. Well worth the effort. My girlfriend now thinks i am genius.

    • That is just so awesome. I’m absolutely delighted to hear that! It’s real work getting started but once you’re past that it’s much easier.

  10. Made this curry again…ditched the Natco GM and went with the East End brand…And yes we’re back on song. Having a curry night this weekend and this dish along with your delicious Jalrazi. Can’t wait to impress my friends thank you once again. BTW I also tried Pilau rice Perfect! I swear my friend will insist on me taking a lie detector as they will not believe that these dishes are not from the restaurant. Your a star Romain

  11. Hi Romain

    I made my spice mix exactly the same as before. but I used a different brand (1st time East End) (2nd time Natco) and its changed the flavour of the spice mix and the Garam Masala is completely overwhelming the flavour. I though I had done it wrong so i made a smaller batch and the same thing happened!

    I went back to using East End on the (Garam Masala only!) and I got the taste back. So I now have a huge tube of spice spoiled by the GM can I do anything to counteract the taste or shall I just throw it away?
    Many Thanks

    • That’s a shame. If it doesn’t taste right I just wouldn’t keep it around. No sense risking dinner over a few spices.

  12. 5 stars
    I’ve just cooked this curry. I followed the ingredients and methods to the letter – Made the curry gravy, Indian spice mix, Garlic & Ginger. Then set about making the curry. We ALL agree it was like eating at the restaurant, I’m still in shock at how authentic it tasted – Thank you-I’m hooked and a fan, I’ll be singing your praises!!

    • I’m so happy to hear this! It’s a bit daunting getting started on restaurant style curries but now you’ve taken the first step it gets much easier. You can freeze your base in curry size portions so you can make curries easily any time you want.

  13. 5 stars
    Hi Romain.

    We’ve tried several of your Indian Restaurant Style dishes and find them very, very tasty; with easy to follow recipies.
    However, we are cooking for three hungry adults and are struggling to scale up the spices & gravy ratios to suit 750g of meat for different recipies.
    What advice can you offer please?

    Looking forward to trying out further dishes.


    • It’s a tricky one. What I usually do is make dish twice. But you could make the sauce twice (right up to the point but before you put the chicken in). I’d transfer the first batch to a sauce pan, repeat and then put the chicken in the pot to warm through. I’d then add whatever finishing touches are needed.

      If you really just want to scale the recipe I would try maybe doubling whole spices, 1.75x powdered spices (except any chili powder which I would just double). Salt I would go 1.5x Use a larger skillet and maybe 1.5x the oil. Add the base 4 times, instead of three and taste your curry at the end and adjust salt.

      No guarantees it will be exactly the same. You may need to tinker a bit. Or you could look at my new series on hotel style curries. That will double nicely (again, be careful with the salt).

  14. 5 stars
    I’ve generally found restaurant Bhuna’s to be a bit weak but this is much more flavourful. As with most of my cooking, I do like to up the heat a bit though.

    Don’t do what I did and use tamarind paste in place of sauce – unless you water it right down! I ruined my first go at this. Second time around it was delicious 🙂

    • Bhuna is such a fuzzy term anyway. It can mean almost anything. Glad you liked this one!

      And everyone pay attention to the difference between tamarind paste and tamarind sauce. They are very different things…

  15. 5 stars
    I’m working my way through all your curry recipes and they are amazing, finally I can cook better than any takeaway, thank you so much for sharing your skills!

  16. I made this curry yesterday, I also made the curry base, the spice mix and the garlic and ginger paste, it was absolutely gorgeous and just like a restaurant curry which I wanted it to be like. This recipe is perfect thank you

  17. Fantastic recipe.
    Tweaked it with a dollop of honey. As we enjoy a slightly bitter sweet taste.
    Enjoying all your recipes.

  18. 5 stars
    Out of all the chicken curry recipes on Glebe, including the Jalfrezi which is awesome this Bhuna recipe is the best. Make the curry base as this really gives it the indian restaurant touch. A curry that delivers, without the takeway price. BOOM!

  19. Hi there

    I made the chicken bhuna last night for my family and I fried the spice mix beforehand and it was gorgeous. my two young boys thought I had bought a takeaway it was that tasty.

    Brilliant site. Thank you

  20. “It may seem like a lot of oil but it’s necessary. I’ve tried rolling back on it. It doesn’t work. Pretty much guaranteed to fail.”

    Have you tried using Ghee? I find by using this instead of oil it lasts longer in the pan and also rounds off the flavours and makes the curry a bit buttery.

    Give it a go.


    • I have tried ghee. I’ve even tried making curry base with ghee. I prefer oil. The rounding of the flavours with ghee is exactly why. I find the big flavours get blunted and a bit lost with ghee. But it is absolutely a personal preference thing. Thank you for posting. I hope it encourages people to experiment.

  21. 5 stars
    Absolutely delightful curry. I’m here in Bradford England and discovered your site by accident whilst looking for a bhuna recipe. I cant get your chilli powder though despite being spoilt for choice with Asian grocers, it hasn’t spoiled the curry though I’d appreciate your thoughts. Jan

    • So glad you found it! I’m not in the UK but I see there are a number of online retailers in the UK that carry it. Also, if you can find a shop with MDH products (look for rows of little boxes of Indian masalas) they have one called Deggi Mirch. That is an excellent substitute for Kashmiri chili powder.

      Alternately, you can ask your grocer for a mild Indian chili powder. Kashmiri is bright red but if you aren’t concerned about the colour it imparts most any mild Indian chili powder will do.

    • 5 stars
      Very first time I made chicken tikka masala from scratch,the curry base,spice mix, everything.well worth it,bloody gorgious

    • It’s a lot of work the first time but once you get going it’s much easier. And I think it’s so worth it.

  22. 5 stars
    Hi, thanks for your brilliant recipes. My family love them,they all fancy a buhna this weekend. I made the recipe for two the other week and it was awesome. There will be six of us this weekend and I wondered what adjustments to make to the spice mix etc.thaks again Phil.

    • Phil – it’s the same challenge as the aloo chaat chicken curry (and every other restaurant style curry on glebe kitchen. They don’t scale well. You could maybe scale up 50 percent and do it twice or do it three times. Just keep each batch warm in a pot as you make it. It does hold well over very low heat for long enough to make the 3 batches. If it gets too thick mix in a bit of curry base to get it back to the texture/consistency you like.

  23. 5 stars
    I have tamarind paste but not the sauce. Will this work in the same way or should I adjust quantities of the paste? I’ve made this recipe without the fenugreek leaves and tamarind and it was lovely, but is really like to try it with those ingredients

    • Glad you liked it. Fenugreek leaves add a real something so do try that. I still remember the first time I added them. It was an aha moment for me. If you use tamarind sauce (unsweetened) then you might want to add a little sugar. Taste it first and decide. The paste (if it’s the same as mine) a bit more tart so maybe add a little less than the recipe calls for. Again, tasty and decide. Good luck!

  24. 5 stars
    Another great dish , I’m becoming very confident with your cooking technics in preparing my curries mind you I was a bit heavy with the chillies this time haha .
    I’m hoping sometime you’ll come up with a vegetable curry recipe.

  25. I wish you had a photo submission option so you can see what people are making thanks to you! This is the third thing I’ve made within 2 days of discovering your site! I stared off making the masoor spinach daal, ended up making a masoor daal and salmon bhuna combined. This is the first time I’ve actually made things and I’m pleased with the way they taste ? Thanks Romain

    • I cannot believe I somehow missed this comment Jay. Thank you so much! I am absolutely delighted my recipes are working out for you.

  26. 5 stars
    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!

  27. 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!

  28. 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!

  29. 5 stars
    Yay more curry! I can’t get enough of your awesome curry recipes, Romain! They always make me hungry. Love the tomato base in this one. I’ll have to try it using your Indian Restaurant Spice Mix! Yum!

  30. 5 stars
    *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.

  31. This looks delicious – nice consistency with a deep, rich color – tells me this has some real flavor! I love how quickly it comes together, too, due to all the prep you do in advance for different ingredients!

    • No shortage of flavour in this style of cooking. This is how they do it in Indian restaurants. 90 percent prep 10 percent cook…

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