Ultimate Guide to Cooking Authentic Chicken Bhuna Masala at Home

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Written By Haryana’s Restaurant

Authentic Indian Food – Classic Indian Cuisine in Terrace BC

Craving a dish that’s rich, flavorful, and packs a punch? Chicken Bhuna Masala is your answer. This classic Indian recipe combines tender chicken pieces with a thick, aromatic sauce made from sautéed onions, tomatoes, and a blend of spices. Unlike other curries that rely on heavy creams or coconut milk, Bhuna Masala focuses on the intense flavors developed through slow cooking.

Originating from the Indian subcontinent “bhuna” means to fry or sauté. The method involves frying spices in oil until they release their essential oils and aromas. It’s this technique that gives Chicken Bhuna Masala its unique depth of flavor. Whether you’re new to Indian cuisine or a seasoned pro looking for something special, this dish promises to be a hit at your table.


For a perfectly balanced Chicken Bhuna Masala, you’ll need the following ingredients divided into specific categories for organization and ease.

Chicken and Marinade

  • 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Spices for Bhuna Masala

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 2 green chilies, slit lengthwise (optional)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric

Additional Ingredients

  • 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped.
  • Salt to taste.
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish.

Required Tools and Equipment

To achieve the authentic flavors of Chicken Bhuna Masala, gather the following tools and equipment. These items will ensure a smooth cooking process and help you bring out the best in your ingredients.

Essential Tools

  • Sharp Knife: For finely chopping onions, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes.
  • Cutting Board: A sturdy surface for safe chopping.
  • Measuring Spoons and Cups: Accurate measurements are key to balancing spices.
  • Mixing Bowls: Various sizes for marinating chicken and mixing masala.

Cooking Equipment

  • Heavy-Bottomed Pan or Kadai: Ideal for even heat distribution during slow cooking. A cast iron skillet can also work well.
  • Spatula or Wooden Spoon: For stirring ingredients without scratching your cookware.
  • Lid for Pan or Kadai: Helps retain moisture while cooking the masala.
  • Serving Platter or Bowl: To present your Chicken Bhuna Masala beautifully at the table.
  • Ladle or Serving Spoon: For portioning out servings with ease.

Having these tools ready will streamline your cooking process, allowing you to focus on perfecting each step of this flavorful dish.

Preparation Steps

Follow these steps to prepare your Chicken Bhuna Masala, ensuring each stage is completed for maximum flavor.

Marinating the Chicken

  1. Ingredients Needed:
  • 1 lb chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, chili powder, and salt.
  2. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well until all pieces are evenly coated with the marinade.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid.
  4. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight for best results.

Cooking the Bhuna Masala

  1. Ingredients Needed:
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, finely sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inches ginger root, grated
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • Cumin seeds (1 teaspoon)
  • Coriander powder (2 teaspoons)
  • Garam masala (1 teaspoon)
  • Red chili powder (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  1. Heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or kadai over medium heat.
  2. Add cumin seeds and let them sizzle for about a minute until aromatic.
  3. Add finely sliced onions and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  4. Stir in minced garlic and grated ginger; sauté for another minute until fragrant.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes; cook until they soften and start to break down into a thick sauce-like consistency.
  6. Mix in coriander powder, garam masala, red chili powder, and salt; cook for an additional two minutes while stirring continuously.

Cooking Instructions

Follow these steps to create a deeply flavorful Chicken Bhuna Masala. Each stage builds layers of taste and aroma, making the dish unforgettable.

Cooking the Chicken

  1. Heat Oil: In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add Whole Spices: Add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds until fragrant.
  3. Sauté Onions: Add 2 finely chopped onions and sauté until golden brown. This should take about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Incorporate Ginger-Garlic Paste: Stir in 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste and cook for another minute until the raw smell disappears.
  5. Mix Ground Spices:
  • Add 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
    Cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning the spices.
  1. Brown the Chicken: Add marinated chicken thighs (about 1 pound) to the pan in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding. Sear each piece until browned on all sides, which takes around 5-7 minutes per batch.

Creating the Masala Base

  1. Add Tomatoes: Incorporate 2 finely chopped tomatoes into the pan with browned chicken and cook until they soften and release their juices, approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Bhuna Process:
  • Continuously stir the mixture as it cooks on medium heat
  • Let it reduce and thicken while stirring occasionally to prevent sticking
    This process should take about 15-20 minutes, resulting in a thick masala that clings to the chicken pieces.
  1. Final Seasoning:
  • Mix in salt to taste (around one teaspoon)
  • Sprinkle half a teaspoon of garam masala
  1. Simmer Gently:
  • Reduce heat to low
  • Cover with a lid
    Allow it to simmer gently for another 10 minutes so flavors meld together beautifully.
  1. Garnish & Serve:
    Finish by garnishing with freshly chopped cilantro leaves before serving.

Serving Suggestions

Chicken Bhuna Masala is a versatile dish that pairs perfectly with a variety of sides. Here are some serving suggestions to complement and enhance your meal:

With Steamed Basmati Rice

Serve your Chicken Bhuna Masala over a bed of steamed basmati rice. The fragrant, long-grain rice absorbs the rich flavors of the masala, providing a delightful contrast in texture.

Accompanied by Naan or Roti

Pair this dish with warm naan or roti for an authentic Indian experience. Use the bread to scoop up the thick, flavorful sauce and tender chicken pieces.

Alongside Cucumber Raita

Balance the heat of the bhuna masala with cool cucumber raita. This yogurt-based side dish soothes your palate and adds a refreshing element to your meal.

Garnished with Fresh Herbs

Enhance the visual appeal and flavor by garnishing your Chicken Bhuna Masala with freshly chopped cilantro or mint leaves just before serving.

With Pickled Vegetables

Serve pickled vegetables on the side for an added tangy crunch. They provide a bright contrast to the richly spiced chicken.

Considering these serving suggestions, you can create a well-rounded and enjoyable dining experience that highlights the robust flavors of Chicken Bhuna Masala.

Make-Ahead Tips

Making Chicken Bhuna Masala ahead of time can save you effort and enhance the flavors. Here are some tips to streamline your preparation:

Prepping Ingredients

  • Marinate the Chicken: Mix yogurt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and salt with chicken thighs. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Chop Vegetables Ahead: Dice onions and tomatoes, mince garlic, and grate ginger. Store them separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

Cooking Steps

  • Prepare Spice Mixes: Measure out all dry spices (coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garam masala) into small bowls so they’re ready to be added during cooking.
  • Cook Base Sauce: Sauté onions until golden brown. Add ginger-garlic paste and cook until aromatic. Incorporate ground spices and tomatoes to create a rich base sauce. Cool this mixture completely before storing it in an airtight container.


  • Refrigeration: The prepared base sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • Freezing Options: For longer storage, freeze the base sauce in portions that suit your needs. Use freezer-safe containers or zip-lock bags labeled with dates.

Following these make-ahead tips you’ll have more manageable steps during actual cooking while ensuring that your Chicken Bhuna Masala bursts with deepened flavors.


Mastering Chicken Bhuna Masala is easier than you might think. By following the steps outlined and incorporating the make-ahead tips, you’ll be able to enjoy this flavorful dish with minimal stress. The rich combination of marinated chicken, aromatic spices, and robust ingredients ensures a meal that’s both satisfying and impressive.

With these techniques at your disposal, you’re well-equipped to bring restaurant-quality Chicken Bhuna Masala to your table. So gather your ingredients prep in advance and savor the journey of creating this beloved Indian classic right in your own kitchen. Happy cooking!

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