Bhuna masala or Indian curry paste is the base of a lot of Indian curries. If you enjoy Indian cooking then having bhuna masala at hand can be incredibly useful.
You can create almost all kinds of Indian curries with this starting point.
As you are aware, meal planning and prepping are important for eating healthy and wholesome.
This is a basic bhuna masala paste made with onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, green chillies and some spices.
As I eat a lot of Indian food through the week, I generally make a generous batch of Indian curry paste over the weekend that makes my work of churning delicious curries super easy.
Making this little extra effort over the weekend making it easy for you to churn out any curry-based recipe through the week.
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What is Bhuna masala?
Bhuna masala is the cooked paste of onion, garlic, ginger, green chillies and tomatoes sautéed in oil till they are well cooked.
We also add spices like turmeric, cayenne or paprika for colour and salt for preservation and taste.
I like to add cumin as well. This thick base is then used to make vegan, vegetarian or non-vegetarian Indian curries.
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1. Onion: Onion is an essential part of bhuna masala.
The onion has to be sauteed well till it bhunaoed or golden brown and caramelized. This fried onion gives a nice sweetish taste to the curry.
2. Ginger, garlic and green chillies: Ginger and garlic are used extensively in Indian cooking. They provide a gentle heat and zing to the curry.
Sometimes only garlic or only ginger are also used. But mostly ginger garlic paste is a regular condiment in Indian cooking.
Green chillies can be either sauteed in the curry base with the masala or can be skipped. Some people prefer to use cayenne in its place.
3. Tomatoes: These are the souring ingredient that balance out the heat and zing of ginger garlic paste and the sweetness of onion.
Mostly Indian tomatoes are more sour than sweet and provide a good tang.
Some curries also use amchur powder or raw mango powder, tamarind paste and kokum paste for sourness depending upon the recipe.
4. Coconut: A lot of South Indian curries use freshly ground coconut. It can be ground and added to the bhuna masala paste when making a curry.
This bhuna masala did not include coconut.
5. Oil: I normally use cold pressed mustard oil or peanut oil for frying the masala paste. Feel free to use any good vegetable oil for the same.
How to Use Indian Curry Paste
You can make vegetable bhuna by adding veggies of your choice to the curry paste and cooking it covered till the vegetables are done.
You can also make curries like matar paneer, chicken curry where you can expedite the process of making the curry by using this prepared curry base.
Tips to Use Bhuna Masala
1. This Indian curry paste is very versatile and can be used to churn both North Indian and South Indian curries.
2. For preparing North Indian curries, use the paste and add some garam masala or other spices like ground coriander after adding vegetables, beans or chicken. Add any other spices as per taste.
3. For preparing South Indian curries, give a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves in oil for an authentic taste. You can also add ground coconut to the curry paste.
4. You can really reduce the slog in churning out tasty Indian curries by making a large batch of this curry paste at one go.
1. The Indian curry base can easily stay in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
2. Beyond that time, it helps to freeze the bhuna masala paste and then it will stay for 3 months easily. I generally make curry base that lasts me a week or two.
3. You can freeze in single serve jars or even in ice cube trays. Thaw them completely before using.
4. When freezing, I store in ½ to 1 cup serves because that is the amount of base I use for my family of 4 at a single time.
For couple of serves, ¼ to ½ cup curry paste at a time works well.
1. This is a vegan recipe. You can use olive oil or coconut oil in place of mustard oil or peanut oil.
You can reduce the quantity of oil as per preference.
2. Instead of making a paste of the ingredients, you can roughly chop them and fry till they are cooked.
Then this can be blended and stored as a masala paste.
Here’s my easy bhuna paste recipe or every day Indian curry base:
Peel and chop onions roughly. Immerse them in water for 10 minutes.
Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds and allow to sputter.
Add blended paste of onion and green chillies along with ginger-garlic paste and mix well.
Cook on low to medium flame for 20 minutes till the base is well cooked and brown. You will see that the raw smell goes away.
Add tomato puree along with cayenne or paprika, turmeric powder and salt. Cook for 20-25 minutes more till the paste is well cooked and most of the water has evaporated.
Your bhuna masala paste is done when oil starts separating from the masala. Cool down the bhuna masala and store in the fridge for later use.
1. This bhuna masala is slightly spicy if you use cayenne. You can modify the heat as per your taste.
2. Using kashmiri chilli powder gives it a vibrant red colour without the heat.
3. Turmeric and salt along with oil help in preserving it well. Store in airtight jars.
4. I peel onions and immerse them in water for 10 minutes. Then I roughly chop them. That reduces the tear-inducing quality when cooking out.
5. You can easily quarter, halve or double the recipe.
Here's the recipe card:
📖 Recipe Card
Bhuna Masala Recipe | Indian curry base
- Blend together onions and green chillies into a paste. Blend together ginger and garlic into a paste. And blend together tomatoes to a paste and keep aside. Make sure not to use any water or just minimal water.
- Heat oil in a wide pan. Add cumin seeds and allow to sputter. Now add in the onion paste, ginger garlic paste and mix well. It will start sputtering in some time so you can use a cover. Keep stirring and cook for about 20 minutes on low to medium flame making sure that you stir often.
- Cook well till the raw smell goes, the mixture looks darker and glossier. You will also see oil coming out from the sides.
- Now add tomato paste, turmeric powder, cayenne or paprika and salt. Mix well and cook some more, say 20-25 minutes. Yes, the curry paste really needs to cook out. Keep the flame low or medium low. Stir regularly and keep covered.
- Once done, you will have thick curry paste that smells like curry and you can see the oil coming out from the sides.
- Your bhuna masala is ready. Cool it down and then store in the fridge or in single serves you can freeze to thaw later and use.
- This bhuna masala is slightly spicy. You can modify the heat as per your taste.
- Using chilli powder gives it a vibrant red colour.
- Turmeric and salt along with oil help in preserving it well. Store in airtight jars.
- I peel onions and immerse them in water for 10 minutes. Then I roughly chop them. That reduces the tear-inducing quality when cooking out.
- You can easily halve or double the recipe.
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