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Bhuna Sauce

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You can make this BIR (British Indian Restaurant) bhuna sauce with the main ingredient of your choice.

Bhuna sauce curries are to die for! I love them as do so many people.

The curry house version of a bhuna sauce is a lot less time consuming and easier to make than more authentic recipes.

bhuna sauce

Add the main ingredient of your choice to this delicious bhuna sauce

What is bhuna sauce?

Cooking bhuna style is a way of slowly cooking meat by adding just enough water or stock to the pan while cooking.

Literally, a few splashes of water or stock here and there. As the meat cooks, you add a little more until it is tender and delicious.

This is an amazing way to cook a curry but it would take way to long to cook bhuna style in a busy curry house.

So what is the curry house style bhuna sauce?

When you order your favourite meat, seafood or veggies in a bhuna sauce at a curry house, it will usually come out to your table in about 15 minutes.

The curry house style bhuna sauce is really just a bhuna in name only. It is cooked in a completely different way using a base sauce.

Like the more authentic bhunas, it is a thick sauce, perfect for scooping up with naans or stirred into rice.

At many restaurants, the chefs add just a little red food colouring which gives the curry a nice pinkish hue. I usually don’t add food colouring to my bhuna sauce.

The base sauce.

All curry house curries are made with a base sauce. This base sauce is what gives the curries their famous flavour and texture.

My ‘go to’ recipe is here.

You need to make the base sauce if you want to make curry house style curries. It only takes about an hour to make. Once made, you can cook up a ceylon sauce in minutes.

With bhuna sauce curries, very little of this base sauce is used. They need to look like the real thing so they are served quite dry.

Working ahead…

As with most curries, you can prepare and cook your bhuna sauce a day or two before serving.

In fact, the bhuna sauce will actually get better as the flavours develop.

If you make this bhuna sauce and perhaps a few others for your next curry feast, just place them in the fridge.

Then all you need to do is add your main ingredient of choice and heat them up to serve.

Pre-cooked meat

Most curry house style curries call for pre-cooked meat.

The reason for this is simple. It would take far to long for the meat to become tender enough to serve if it wasn’t pre-cooked to perfection.

This is especially so with red meat like lamb and beef.

You could get away with cooking some ingredients from raw such as chicken and prawns though it will take slightly longer.

I highly recommend pre-cooking these ingredients to though. This can add another layer of delicious flavour.

finished bhuna curry

The finished curry should be quite dry. Perfect for scooping up with naans.

bhuna sauce curry

Dig in!

If you like this BIR (British Indian restaurant) style bhuna sauce, you might like to try some of these curry house favourites too…

Tikka masala sauce
Korma sauce
Pasanda sauce
Chasni sauce
Ceylon sauce
Chilli garlic sauce
Dhansak sauce
Pathia sauce
Jalfrezi sauce
Keema sauce
Methi sauce
Saag sauce
Madras sauce
Vindaloo sauce
Phaal sauce

Yield: 1 - 2

Bhuna Sauce

bhuna sauce
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 2 tbsp ghee or rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 1/2 onion - finely chopped
  • 1/4 red bell pepper - diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 2 tbsp coriander (cilantro) stalks - finely chopped
  • 70ml (1/4 cup) tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp mixed powder
  • 1 tbsp tandoori masala
  • 250ml (1 cup) base sauce
  • 1 tbsp natural plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp coriander (cilantro) leaves - finely chopped
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 red spur chilli - cut into thin rings
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat the ghee or oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. When visibly hot, add the chopped onion and bell pepper and fry them for about four minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent.
  2. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste along with the coriander stalks and fry for a further 30 seconds
  3. Stir in the tomato puree and when it begins to simmer, stir in the mixed powder and tandoori masala, followed by about half of the base sauce.
  4. Bring this to a simmer and let it bubble for a couple of minutes, only stirring if the sauce is sticking to the pan. As it simmers, the sauce will caramelise to the side of the pan. Stir this into the sauce for additional flavour.
  5. This is a good time to add your main ingredient of choice or just continue cooking the sauce on it's own. You can always add the main ingredient when you heat it up again to serve.
  6. Increase the heat to high and add the remaining base sauce. Continue simmering until you have a really thick sauce. If you did add a main ingredient like lamb or chicken, the sauce should adhere to the meat.
  7. To finish, reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the yoghurt. Check for seasoning and add salt to taste. Top with the fresh coriander and serve with a good squeeze of lime juice and garnish with the spur chilli rings.

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I hope you enjoy this curry house style bhuna sauce recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Eva Taylor

Friday 13th of August 2021

I just made this for a dinner party and it was OUTSTANDING. It really tastes exactly like the restaurant version that we can get here in Toronto, Ontario. I will definitely be keeping this tasty recipe in my repertoire. Thank you!

Dan Toombs

Sunday 15th of August 2021

Great to hear, thank you very much for letting me know. Dan

Peter Levene

Thursday 1st of July 2021

Hi Dan - what is a red spur chilli? Can't find them anywhere. What should I substitute?

Dan Toombs

Friday 2nd of July 2021

They are just the standard red chillies you find in all supermarkets. Thanks Dan


Monday 2nd of November 2020

Hi Dan, great recipes on here! Can you tell me the ratio of chicken to base sauce to use in the Bhuna recipe, please?

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 4th of November 2020

Hi Julie The amount of chicken you use is not that important, use as much or as little as you have. I usually find two chicken breasts is about right. Thanks Dan


Friday 4th of September 2020

Wow...... That was an awesome recipe. I m gonna definitely try out this dish at home.

Dan Toombs

Sunday 6th of September 2020

Good to hear. Thanks Dan

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