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Chicken Bhuna Karahi

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 A delicious and thick sauce! This chicken bhuna karahi recipe is one you need to try soon. 

This is a chicken bhuna karahi recipe that is just like you’ll find in northern India and Pakistan. I know because I watched them being made and took notes. You are in for a treat with this chicken karahi!

Chicken bhuna karahi

Chicken cooked in a rich tomato sauce. Chicken bhuna karahi is amazing served with naans or chapattis.

How much oil?!

Street food style chicken bhuna karahi is cooked with a lot of oil. At street food stands, the chicken is first deep fried to cook. You could used less oil for this step or go authentic and deep fry.

When it comes to preparing the chicken bhuna karahi sauce, you will pour most of the oil out of the pan but at least 80ml (1/3 cup) is left in. Usually more like 125ml (1/2 cup) but I use less.

The oil helps break down the sauce and it does rise to the top at the end of cooking. So you could skim it off if you like or leave it for a more traditional look and flavour. 

What do you serve chicken bhuna karahi with?

If you’d like to make this curry into a feast, you’ve come to the right place. You could just go for a side of Basmati rice or mushroom fried rice.

If you’d like to make naans, why not try one of these?  Instant naans, Peshwari naans, stove top naans, keema naans, garlic naans, tandoor naans (if you have a tandoor oven), or if you’re cooking outdoors, karahi naans. Oh, and really easy but just as delicious are homemade chapatis.

Want to start your chicken bhuna karahi meal off with a bang? How about fried shop bought poppadoms or if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own poppadoms from scratch and serve them with coriander chutney, red onion chutney, and/or tamarind chutney.

Can I make chicken bhuna karahi with less oil?

Yes, but it will not be quite the same. You will need to add about 125ml (1/2 cup) of water to help make the sauce.

The resulting sauce will be thinner and it will not be authentic but it will still taste good.

So if you are on a diet, try another recipe or use about 2 tbsp oil and wing it. 

Do I have to cook the chicken on the bone?

Absolutely not! That said, you will get more flavour if you use bone in chicken pieces.

Karahis are meant to be eaten by hand. The bone in chicken pieces are picked up and eaten and the sauce is usually scooped up with hot chapattis or naans


Chicken bhuna karahi in step by step photos…

Ingredients for chicken bhuna karahi

Get all of your ingredients together before starting. It’s easier that way.


Chicken marinating in chilli powder, salt and turmeric

Apply the chilli powder, salt and ground turmeric to the chicken and set aside. This can be done a day ahead of cooking.

Ground bhuna spices

Roast the whole spices over a medium heat until warm to the touch and fragrant. Then grind to a fine powder.

Frying the chicken in oil.

Fry the chicken in the oil over a high heat until just cooked through. Then transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. You could deep fry the chicken too as I did above. 

Adding tomatoes to the karahi

Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate and pour out most of the oil. Fry the chopped onions for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and chillies. Then add the tomatoes. 

Removing the tomato skins

Cover the karahi and simmer over a low to medium heat. Then, using tongs or your hand, remove the tomato skins. They should come off easily.

Returning the chicken to the pan

Return the chicken to the pan and add the prepared bhuna spice blend. Cover and simmer on low for 7 minutes.

The thickened bhuna sauce

Remove the lid and continue cooking to thicken the sauce over a high heat. To finish, season with salt to taste and squeeze in the lemon juice. 



Yield: 4

Chicken Bhuna Karahi

Chicken bhuna karahi
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 1 x 1.5kg (3 lbs) chicken, skin removed and cut into 10 pieces
  • 2 - 3 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp lime or lemon juice
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 3 large red onions, very finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 6 tomatoes, halved
  • 5 green finger chillies, slit lengthwise down the middle
  • 4 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek powder)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lemon, sliced to garnish
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 black cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 x 5cm (2 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds


  1. Put all of the bhuna spice blend spices in a frying pan and roast them over a medium high heat until warm to the touch and fragrant but not yet smoking. This should take about 3 minutes. If your spices begin to smoke, get them off the heat. Pour onto a plate to cool some and then grind to a fine powder using a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Set aside.
  2. Pour the chicken pieces into a mixing bowl and sprinkle the chilli powder, turmeric, salt and lemon juice over the top. Mix well with your hands or a spoon to coat. Set aside to marinate for about 30 minutes or just start cooking. The longer marination time will help intensify the flavours.
  3. When ready to cook, heat the oil over a high heat and when visibly hot, add the finely chopped onions. Fry, stirring often for about 7 minutes or until the onions are beginning to turn a light, golden brown. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and fry for a further 30 seconds. Lower the heat to medium and add the diced tomatoes and chillies and the chicken.
  4. Stir well to combine and continue stirring for a couple of minutes. At this time, your pan might be looking a bit dry. That is what you are looking for as bhunas are dry curries. Lower the heat to low and cover the pan to simmer gently for 8 minutes. Lift the lid and give it another good stir and then stir in the bhuna spice blend, chilli powder and turmeric.
  5. The onions, chicken and tomatoes will have released liquid into the sauce and your bhuna will look nowhere near as dry as earlier. Cover the pan again and continue cooking over a low heat for another 5 to 6 minutes.
    Lift the lid again and your bhuna will be much more liquidy.
  6. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook for a further 7 to 10 minutes to thicken the sauce. When the sauce consistency is to your liking, try the curry and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the kasoori methi by rubbing it between your fingers and garnish with coriander and sliced lemons to serve.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 378Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 2259mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 10gSugar: 18gProtein: 15g

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I hope you enjoy this authentic chicken bhuna karahi recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Roy Lye

Monday 17th of April 2023

Being English, I love curries. And living in South Africa I love to cook on a wood-fired BBQ. I adapted this recipe to make oil-free, Bhuna Chicken Kebabs cooked on the BBQ and served with a Bhuna sauce (made from the marinade mix) and your yoghurt based recipe for Peshwari Naan (also cooked on the BBQ). Absolute heaven on a plate.

Would love to share the recipe I came up with and how I cooked the Naans. Let me know where I post the recipe and some pic's

Shaun B

Wednesday 26th of April 2023

@Dan Toombs, is the chilli powder and turmeric added near the end (step 4) the remnants of the marinade? Looks great, will be doing this weekend. Thanks again

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 18th of April 2023

Sounds great! If you join my FB group Curry Chit Chaat which is a group I set up to give support with my recipes you can let people k ow there how you adapted my recipe slightly. Thanks Dan

Jason pierro

Saturday 8th of April 2023

Knocked up this curry and it was a massive hit, so much so that I had to make it again the next day! Perfect for weeknights! Excellent recipe

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 11th of April 2023

Thanks very much for letting me know, great to hear. Dan

Terry Dactil

Friday 24th of March 2023

The spice blend smells so nice. If you wanted to add additional vegetables for example, presumably you would add them woth the chicken?

Dan Toombs

Sunday 2nd of April 2023

Correct, add them just after the chicken. Thanks Dan

Mary Mendonca

Sunday 19th of March 2023

Awesome and yummy yummy. Next on my list. Can't wait to Prepare the chicken using this recipe. Thank you for sharing.

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 22nd of March 2023

Thanks very much, it’s a nice, easy recipe too. Dan

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