A Quick & Easy Weeknight Win: Chicken Bhuna Masala

Chicken Bhuna Masala is an Indian style stir fry of chicken chunks in a deliciously thick and intensely flavorful bhuna masala (translates to “stir-fry sauce”). It is made with a few basic ingredients and is well-spiced with moderate heat.  It is perfect with some soft and warm rotis or naans and also goes well with some steamed basmati rice.

After a busy working day, I love to unwind by getting in my kitchen and whipping up something quick and easy but at the same time, hearty and comforting for dinner. A deliciously spicy chicken dinner, that’s not too hot and pairs well with the staples like basmati rice or tandoori rotis/naans from the freezer, is a definite weeknight winner with my family!

Chicken Bhuna Masala is one such quick and easy recipe that’s perfect for weeknight cooking! It uses basic ingredients like onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and a mixture of whole and ground spices that are stir-fried together to create a deliciously spicy, but not too hot, dry bhuna masala sauce that coats the chunks of chicken or any other protein or vegetables of your choice.

I really love the versatility of this dish! Once you make the Bhuna Masala sauce, you can play with the main ingredient and switch things up. You can use chunks of boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs in the recipe below or even use bone-in chicken legs, switch it up with boneless lamb, pork or beef, turn it into a vegetarian dish with paneer cubes or make it vegan with cubes of firm tofu or a combination of mixed vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, peas, green beans, etc. It is such a versatile recipe that can be tailored to any diet and is suitable for all palettes.

Speaking of spices, the spice cabinet in my Indian kitchen is full of jars filled with ground and whole spices but for my day-to-day cooking, I store smaller quantities of my go-to spices in my pretty paisley shaped spice boxes. These elegant, teardrop motif shaped boxes are a part of the Yin Yang Storage Bin Set and is the modern version of the traditional masala dabba i.e. the spice box that you can find in every Indian kitchen. It’s not only beautiful and elegant looking, but has a sturdy design and provides an airtight storage solution so that my spices can retain their freshness and last longer!

To prepare the Bhuna Masala sauce, I use almost all of the spices that I keep handy in my Yin Yang Storage Bin! The combination of whole and ground spices is what gives the simple onion-tomato sauce its characteristic warmth and gives it an intense depth of flavor. You can always control the heat by adding in as much or as little of the red chilies and the chili powder.  If you don’t have any of the spices listed in the ingredients below, don’t fret! You can always increase the amount of the basic garam masala to develop the flavor. This is a very versatile recipe and has a lot of room for flexibility in terms of the spices and also for the protein or vegetables as the main ingredient.

A Quick & Easy Weeknight Win: Chicken Bhuna Masala

Recipe by ChristinaCourse: Main CourseCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Medium
Servings

3-4

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

Chicken Bhuna Masala is an Indian style stir fry of chicken chunks in a deliciously thick and intensely flavorful bhuna masala (translates to “stir-fry sauce”). It is made with a few basic ingredients and is well-spiced with moderate heat. It is perfect with some soft and warm rotis or naans and also goes well with some steamed basmati rice.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb (680 gms) boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into 1 inch chunks*

  • 2 tbsp neutral cooking oil like safflower, canola, etc.

  • 1-2 bay leaves**

  • 1 star anise**

  • 1-2 cinnamon barks/sticks, about 1-inch long**

  • 1 black cardamom pod**

  • 1-2 green cardamom pods with seeds**

  • 1-2 cloves**

  • 4-5 black peppercorns **

  • ½ tsp cumin seeds

  • 1-2 dried red chilies, optional

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • Salt, to taste

  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated

  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated

  • ½ tsp turmeric

  • ½ tsp ground cumin

  • ½ tsp ground coriander

  • Red chili powder, to taste

  • 2 tsp garam masala

  • 3-4 small tomatoes, finely chopped (Roma or Campari tomatoes work well)

  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt, whisked

  • 3-4 cilantro sprigs, leaves and tender part of stems minced, for garnish

  • Tandoori Naan or Roti, for serving

  • Steamed Basmati rice, for serving

Directions

  • In a deep sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat and add in the whole spices. Let them sizzle in the oil for about 30 seconds and infuse it with their flavor.
  • Add in the cumin seeds and dried red chilies, if using. When the seeds splutter, add the onions, ginger and garlic. Season with salt and sauté over medium heat until onions are soft and translucent, about 5-7 mins.
  • Add the turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, red chili powder and garam masala and continue sauteing for 30 seconds to let the spices bloom. Add in the diced tomatoes and and continue sautéeing over medium heat, for 8-10 mins, till oil separates out.
    Check for salt and add a little more if needed.
  • Then add the chicken and combine well. Stir in the whisked Greek yogurt and cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring frequently ensuring nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, for 10-15 mins till the chicken is cooked completely and the sauce is thickened.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rice, naan or steamed basmati rice.
  • *Variations:
    – Substitute boneless skinless chicken thighs with chicken breast, bone-in chicken thighs and legs, boneless lamb, pork or beef
    – Make it vegetarian by substituting chicken with the same quantity of paneer cubes.
    – Make it vegan by substituting chicken with the same quantity of firm tofu cubes and/or vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, peas, etc. and using vegan yogurt onstead of the regular one.

Notes

  • ** If you don’t have any or some of the whole spices, you can simply skip them in the recipe and increase the quantity of garam masala by ½ – 1 tsp.

This lovely recipe has been created by Vasanti, creator of the Indian food blog Signature Concoctions. On her blog she shares a modern take on Indian cuisine that is cooked at home for family and friends, using new techniques and fresh ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity.

Find more delicious recipes in her new cook book!

You can also follow Vasanti on

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