Bhuna Masala: Basic Curry Masala

One of the most common questions I get asked about Indian food is; how do you make curry? There’s no simple answer to this question because almost every Indian dish uses different spices, ingredients, and tempering techniques. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as curry powder or curry sauce that can magically transform any vegetable into “Indian curry”. There are however a few masalas that you can use to create a base for a variety of Indian dishes. I’ve already shared my ‘tadka’ recipe which is great for North Indian dishes, and today I’m going to share my latest discovery, bhuna masala.

Psst … there is an awesome contest for a grocery gift card at the bottom of this post, so even if you don’t want to make bhuna masala read through!

bhuna masala recipe

This is a masala you can make ahead and keep in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. (Just be sure it’s in an airtight container and you don’t get any moisture in it.) When I was at No Frills for my grocery run last week I stopped to check out the premixed spice packets and jarred sauces, and many of them had similar flavours to this bhuna masala.  If you usually use a jarred sauce, this might be something fun to try!

A few notes about cooking & using bhuna masala paste:

  • Don’t try to skip or combine steps. I don’t know why, but if you change the order the ingredients are added, it doesn’t taste the same.
  • If at all possible, buy the spices whole and grind them.
  • When cooking with this masala, use less than you think you’ll need to start, it’s potent!
  • Use bhuna masala as a base for Punjabi choley, dal tadka, bhindi (okra), or tari wala chicken (curry chicken).
  • Make sure you keep the masala in an airtight container in the fridge. If you don’t think you’ll use it all in 1-2 weeks, freeze it in portions (check out this post for details.)

bhuna masala ingredients{This week I had offers for both tomatoes and spices from PC Plus so making Bhuna Masala was the perfect choice! }bhuna-masala-ingredients


  • 2 chopped yellow onions blended into a paste
  • 2 inch piece of ginger chopped
  • 15-20 garlic cloves chopped (adjust based on your love of garlic, I used 18)
  • 3-5 whole dry red chilies. (I use 3 chilies so that the kids will eat it, but I’ve seen recipes that call for 15-20 chilies! Use your own discretion).
  • 3 large tomatoes blended into a coarse paste.
  • 1/2 cup of oil for frying the masala
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • salt to taste

Spices (measure whole and then grind together):

  • 3 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp whole cumin seeds
  • 4 green cardamom
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 1 sliver of mace
  • 1 tbsp turmeric

Note: most recipes for bhuna masala call for black peppercorns and black cardamom,  but my family is really picky about those flavours so I left them out. 


Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add the cumin seeds. Once the seeds start to sputter, add the onions and fry until they start to turn pink. Season with salt. 

Make a paste out of the ginger, garlic, and red chilies (I use my mini food chopper for this). Once the onions have browned nicely – this takes 7-10 minutes on medium heat, add the ginger garlic paste and cook for another 5-7 minutes, You want everything to have a golden brown colour.

Add a few drops of water to your spice mixture and create a paste. Add the spice paste to your pan and start the ‘bhunoeing’ (cooking) process. You need to keep scraping the spices off the side and bottom of the pot while it’s all cooking. If it gets really sticky add a few drops of water and deglaze the pan. 

After about 10-15 minutes you’ll notice the aroma of the mixture will change and the oil will begin to separate from the vegetables, this is when you add the tomato paste. Mix it all together and cook for 5 – 7 more minutes. With this amount of masala it will take about 30-35 minutes to cook. I know it’s a little labour intensive, but so worth it. I hope you’ll try it!

PC Plus Update

So this was my last post in collaboration with No Frills & PC Plus. I have to say, the PC Plus program is pretty amazing, and I’m going to continue to use it. A friend recently mentioned to me that she didn’t really feel like she was earning any points even though she was shopping at an approved store. What I found is, it takes 2-3 weeks for the offers to really match your shopping habits. Once you’ve done at least 2 proper grocery trips, they will start to reflect your purchases. If you are shopping at an approved store anyway, it’s a no brainer. Over the last month I’ve collected 18,500 points without buying anything just because it’s on sale, and once I get 20,000 points I can redeem it for $20 in groceries. 

I’m so convinced that you need to try this program that I’ve teamed up with my friends at PC Plus and am giving away a $100 Gift Card to any Loblaws grocery store over on my Facebook page. Quick, head over to the page and enter now!



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