Bhuna Chicken Masala: Learn To Make This Authentic Indian Dish At Home

Master the art of Bhuna Chicken Masala, a flavorful Indian dish with tips and cultural insights.

Published On Mar 27, 2024 | Updated On Mar 27, 2024


Calling all curry aficionados and home chefs with a hunger for adventure! Today, we're embarking on a delicious expedition to the heart of Indian cuisine. Our destination? The irresistible realm of Bhuna Chicken Masala is a dish that's as rich in history as it is in flavour.

Bhuna, translating to "stir-fried" in Hindi, forms the base of this culinary masterpiece. But fear not, because the "fry" here is a gentle dance of spices, aromatics, and succulent chicken, resulting in a gravy that's both comforting and deeply satisfying.

Ready to ditch the takeout menu and whip up your own Bhuna Chicken Masala adventure? Buckle up, because we're about to dive into the ingredients, process, and a few secret tips to make this dish sing on your dinner table.


The beauty of Bhuna Chicken Masala lies in its versatility. While the core ingredients remain the same, feel free to adjust the spice levels to your preference. Here's what you'll need:

For the Chicken:

  • 1 kg bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (thighs and drumsticks work best)
  • 1 tablespoon yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust for spice level)
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying

For the Bhuna Masala:

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 4 cloves
  • 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon red chilli powder (adjust for spice level)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup water (or chicken stock)
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

  1. In a large bowl, combine the yoghurt, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, and salt. Add the chicken pieces and toss well to coat them evenly. Cover the bowl and marinate for at least 30 minutes, or preferably overnight, for maximum flavour infusion.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, carefully add the marinated chicken pieces (reserve the marinade) and cook until golden brown on all sides. This creates a beautiful sear that locks in the juices and adds another layer of depth to the dish.
  3. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside. Now comes the magic! In the same pan, add the bay leaf, black cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and green cardamoms. Let them sizzle for a few seconds, releasing their intoxicating aromas.
  4. Add the cumin seeds and let them splutter for a further 30 seconds. Then, introduce the star of the show - the onions. Sauté them over medium-low heat until they become translucent and beautifully softened. Patience is key here, as slow cooking coaxes out the natural sweetness of the onions, forming the base of our flavorful gravy.
  5. Once the onions are golden, add the chopped tomatoes and crank up the heat slightly. Cook the mixture until the tomatoes become mushy and release their juices. This forms the base of our vibrant masala.
  6. Now comes the moment when we unleash the powerful flavours of India. Add the coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, and turmeric powder to the pan. Stir-fry for a minute, allowing the spices to bloom and release their heady fragrance.
  7. Pour in the reserved marinade and enough water or chicken stock to create a gravy consistency of your preference. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Finally, add the browned chicken pieces back to the pan and simmer for another 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the gravy has thickened beautifully.
  8. Once the chicken is cooked and the gravy has reached your desired consistency, turn off the heat. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Now that you've mastered the basic recipe, let's explore some secrets to elevate your Bhuna Chicken Masala to legendary status:

  •  Don't underestimate the power of marinating. The longer you marinate the chicken (ideally overnight), the deeper the flavours will penetrate, resulting in incredibly juicy and flavorful meat.
  • Bhuna Chicken Masala offers a beautiful dance of heat and warmth. If you prefer a milder dish, reduce the red chilli powder or use Kashmiri chilli powder for a rich colour without the intense heat. Conversely, for a fiery kick, add a dash of cayenne pepper or a chopped green chilli.
  • Patience is key when it comes to sauteing the onions. Slow cooking coaxes out their natural sweetness, forming the base of a rich and flavorful gravy. Don't rush this step!
  •  For a touch of creaminess, add a splash of heavy cream or coconut milk towards the end of the cooking process. This creates a luxurious texture that complements the vibrant spices beautifully.
  • Feel free to add your favourite vegetables to the Bhuna party! Bell peppers, peas, carrots, and broccoli work wonderfully. Just ensure they are pre-cooked if needed, and add them during the simmering stage.
  • Bhuna Chicken Masala is traditionally served with fluffy rotis, a type of flatbread. You can make your rotis at home or opt for store-bought naan bread for a convenient alternative.
  • Bhuna Chicken Masala tastes even better the next day! The flavours have a chance to meld even further, creating an even more delectable experience.

Bhuna Chicken Masala isn't just a dish; it's a journey into the vibrant heart of Indian cuisine. It reflects the rich tapestry of spices, traditions, and regional variations that make Indian food so unique.

The origins of Bhuna are believed to lie in Mughal cuisine, where the "bhuna" technique of slow-cooking meat in spiced gravies was prevalent. Over time, this technique travelled across India, evolving and adapting to local flavours and ingredients.

Today, Bhuna Chicken Masala finds variations across different regions. In some parts of India, it may be drier, while others showcase a richer, creamier gravy. Regardless of the variation, the essence of Bhuna remains the same: a celebration of spices, aromatics, and the comforting warmth of slow-cooked chicken.

So, the next time you crave a culinary adventure, embark on the delicious journey of Bhuna Chicken Masala. With its vibrant flavours, rich history, and endless possibilities for customization, this dish is sure to become a staple in your home kitchen.

Now, go forth, brave home chefs, and conquer the art of Bhuna Chicken Masala!  May your kitchens be filled with the intoxicating aromas of India, and your dinner tables adorned with a dish that's both heartwarming and utterly unforgettable.

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