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What is Bhuna?

M.C. Huguelet
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bhuna is technically an Indian cooking technique in which spices are fried in very hot oil, often until they have formed a paste. For many people, however, the term bhuna is used to refer to a curry dish which has been prepared using these fried spices. This type of curry usually consists of meat, vegetables, or a combination of the two, cooked and served in a thick, spiced sauce. It is common throughout the Bengal region of northeast India and western Bangladesh and is also a popular menu item at Indian restaurants in the US and Europe.

Spice pastes prepared using the bhuna technique usually contain ginger, garlic, and shallots. These ingredients are peeled and then pan-fried in hot oil, often until they have broken down to form a paste. This paste is then used to season curry dishes.

The dish known by many as bhuna is a curry which has been seasoned using a spice paste prepared using the technique described above. It usually consists of a meat such as lamb or chicken, along with vegetables such as onions and peppers. In some cases it may be prepared with fish or with vegetables alone. The chosen ingredients are cooked slowly in bhuna paste, which combines with the meat’s juices to form a small amount of thick sauce. In some variations, coconut milk is added to the ingredients during cooking, resulting in a sauce that is thinner but more abundant than that of traditional bhunas.

Bhuna’s origins can be traced to the Bengal area of northeast India and western Bangladesh. This method of cooking spices was originally used in preparing meals for Indian rulers and aristocrats. Over time, the technique “trickled down” to the rest of Bengali society, and bhuna became a popular dish among both monarchs and commoners alike.

As Westerners have become increasingly familiar with South Asian culture and cuisine, bhuna’s popularity has spread far beyond Indian shores. It has become a familiar feature on the menus of Indian restaurants in the US and in parts of Europe, particularly the countries of the United Kingdom. These restaurants commonly serve it with a side of pilau rice, sometimes including warm, flat naan bread for dipping. Most will prepare the dish using the diner’s choice of meat and are willing to adjust its level of spiciness to suit the palates of those unused to the strong seasonings common to Indian cuisine.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet , Former Writer
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including DelightedCooking. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By anon1004055 — On Nov 05, 2020

Helpful. Thank you.

By runner101 — On Oct 06, 2011

I used to have neighbors that were from India, and whenever I left my apartment I could usually smell their food. It smells good, but it is very strong. I would not want to smell any food all the time, that is just my personal preference though. I am sure if you grow up that way, you probably don't even notice it, or you actually will develop a love for the smell of your food all of the time.

By Saraq90 — On Oct 06, 2011

Bhuna sounds very scrumptious! I do not eat oily or greasy foods often though, so I would probably pay for it later, but it seems so good and worth it! The lamb or the beef bhuna with lots of vegetables sounds very good. I love India's spices, so I would want them to include all of their spices! I have not had naan bread, but that sounds delightful to dip in the bhuna as well.

By discographer — On Oct 06, 2011

@burcinc-- I don't think bhuna has more spices or oil than any other curry dish. It's just that since the spices are cooked in oil, there's more flavor and you will be able to taste the spices more so than other kinds of dishes.

I think you should definitely order some bhuna next time you go to an Indian restaurant. It is one of the best Indian foods ever, it's very rich and satisfying. Mutton bhuna is very good, my personal favorite is lamb bhuna with rice and garlic naan. It's excellent.

By burcinc — On Oct 05, 2011

I've been tempted to try bhuna at Indian restaurants. Especially the beef and mutton curry bhunas sound very tempting. But every time the server mentions that it has a lot spices and oil, I change my mind.

I do love curries, but I cannot handle too much spice and too much oil also gives me a stomach upset. Bhuna really does look delicious and maybe I'll give it a shot one day but it definitely doesn't look like a dish I could eat every day.

By ysmina — On Oct 04, 2011

My roommate in college was Indian and I've seen her cook Indian food many times. She started practically every dish by frying spices in ghee (clarified butter). I often complained about this because cooking spices in oil created a lot of aroma that basically took over the entire house, but I think it was also the main reason why her food tasted so good.

I don't ever remember the spices becoming a paste though, so I'm not sure if it could be considered the bhuna style of cooking. My friend was from North India, but was not Bengali, so if it is specifically used by Bengalis, it probably wasn't bhuna.

So when cooking bhuna style, how long does it usually take for the spices to become a paste?

M.C. Huguelet

M.C. Huguelet

Former Writer

Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
Learn more
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