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Make Indian food with ease using the [2-1-2-3] Bhuna Masala recipe hack


Hello, I am Rohit.
I am an Indian living in Spain. It is hard to get decent Indian food here. If you do, it is either super expensive or unhealthy or both. Not ideal for daily consumption. Then is the time. Work, wandering, and meeting (or making) friends. I cannot cook daily.

So, I tried to break down my Indian cooking and figure out what takes the most time. It is the whole onion cutting, garlic frying, a bit of crying, spice simmering, and cumin explosions. This step takes most of the time and effort. What if we batch this and make this beforehand? Then throw in anything and magic! Tasty Indian Food !?

Intrigued? Follow along to make your own Bhuna masala. Bhuna means toasted/sautéed. Masala here means a mix of things, usually spices.

The [2-1-2-3] Bhuna Masala recipe

You will need 2 Tomatoes, 1 Red onion, 2 Green chillies, and 3 cloves of Garlic. Chop them in this order. Hence, the name 2-1-2-3. These quantities are enough to make 3-4 dishes for one person. Do not wash the knife when switching from Tomatoes to Onions. You will have lesser tears this way :)

Now you need some dry spices.

  1. Cumin Seeds (1 tablespoon)
  2. Red Chilli Powder (1/2 tablespoon)
  3. Coriander Powder (1 tablespoon)
  4. Turmeric Powder (1/4 tablespoon)
  5. Mongo Powder/ Fresh Lemon Juice/ Amchur (1/2 teaspoon) — Acts as a preservative and adds a tinge of sourness. (optional)
  6. Pink salt/ Iodised salt (to taste)
  7. Bay Leaves (Two leaves)

You will need some fat to cook it in. I prefer Olive oil. You can use ghee, sunflower oil etc.


  1. Add three tablespoons of oil to a deep non-stick pan. The pan is on medium heat.

  2. After the oil is mildly heated, add the cumin seeds. They should start exploding. Experience the aroma of cumin. It is so refreshing. `

  3. Once the cumin seeds have exploded, add in the finely chopped onions. Avoid over-cooking the cumin. Otherwise, the whole thing will taste off.

  4. Wait a bit for the onions to start browning. Then add in some chopped garlic or use a garlic press. The whole thing smells crazy now. Keep moving the mixture in the pan until the onions are golden brown.

  5. Add in the bay leaves and chopped chilies. Give it a light toss and notice the aroma change.

  6. The ‘Allium’ part is done. Let us work on the body. Add in the chopped tomatoes. Notice the pan roar at you. Do not roar back! Wait for the roaring to calm down and then add :

    1. Salt (will take away the water)
    2. Red Chilli Powder
    3. Turmeric Powder
    4. Coriander Powder
    5. Mango Powder

    Mix it thoroughly and let it cook for a while on low heat. I like to keep it a bit damp. If you prefer to keep it dry, maintain the heat for a bit more time.

  7. Once cool, transfer it into a container (preferably glass) and keep it in the refrigerator. Voilà!

Side note regarding spice quantities

I believe that cooking is a sensorial activity. The chef is always 'feeling' the spices and the combinations. She is in a closed-loop mode to realize the dish in her head with what is happening on the stove. Almost like a painter. It is far from mechanical activity. Hence, I encourage you to ‘feel’ these spices and experiment with their quantities based on your taste and aesthetics. Be an artist, my friend.

How to use it

Well, you can make almost anything with this — magic potion Bhuna Masala.

Let us say, you want to stir some veggies. Add in some oil + the Bhuna Masala. Let it heat up. You should start noticing the aroma build-up. Toss in some boiled veggies. Just add some salt to taste. You should have a nice dish now. You can take it a more gourmet/creamier route by adding additional tomato paste, fresh cream, and a pinch of garam masala.

Another example is, say, you want to cook some yellow lentils. Even easier. Boil the lentils. Once done, drain the water and add in the Bhuna Masala. Stir, add salt, and some curry powder/spice mix of your choice. Stir again. Ready!


I store it in those small IKEA glass containers and refrigerate them. The mix stays good for about 3-4 days. This is good for a week of cooking. If you want to store for longer, you can freeze it. I would not recommend that as last time I did this, things did not taste the same.

Now, go and cook something.

My name is Rohit and I hope you enjoy this cooking hack. Please let me know how it went.



On this reddit thread people have been giving great feedback. Some notable ones :

User: mbg20 says:

One key to the base masala that everyone forgets is to cook till the oil separates from the masala. Till then, it is not fully cooked.

User : MrPhatBob talks about the Maillard reaction

...So I tend to get a bunch of onions, skin and chop them, put them in large pot with some cooking oil, start on a high heat for a few minutes, then down to medium and add 1/4 tsp of sodium bicarb, stir and cover the pot, then after 10 mins reduce heat to a minimum and let the onions break down for another 10-15mins....

Image Credits — Tom Dillon (@hey_itst0m) : Unsplash

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