Bunjal chicken is a Guyanese curry simmered with juicy chicken thighs until it’s a thick masala. This recipe comes together in less than one hour and is a great Whole 30-compliant and paleo-friendly weeknight dinner.
Guyanese Bunjal Chicken
Bunjal Chicken (sometimes spelled Bhunjal) refers to a type of curry we make in Guyana. When making bunjal curry, we cook the curry until there isn’t any sauce left, just a thick masala clinging to the protein. I used this same method to make Bunjal Shrimp Curry.
In a conversation with my cousin-in-law (who is from India) I discovered that Bhuna is the Indian term for this type of curry. It made me wonder if bunjal is Bhuna but it became distorted through years of oral dissemination. If anyone has any insight on this, I would love to know more!
- Guyanese Bunjal Chicken
- Why You’ll Love This Bunjal Chicken Recipe
- Ingredients for Bunjal Chicken
- How to Make Bunjal Chicken Guyanese Style
- Making the Curry Paste
- Bunjaling the chicken
- Tips for the Best Bunjal Chicken
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Bunjal Chicken
Why You’ll Love This Bunjal Chicken Recipe
- Easy: This dish is gradually built in one pot, from sautéed onions, curry paste, and eventually chicken thighs.
- Flavorful: In Guyana when we make curry, we typically make a form of madras curry—rich with turmeric, coriander, cumin and garam masala. So bunjal chicken has plenty of herbs and spices. Even the chicken thighs add depth of flavor, since they are moist and juicy. This dish has a great aromatic quality that makes it even more mouthwatering.
- Traditional Guyanese Dish: I didn’t know there were other types of curries (outside of madras curry)—red curry, green curry, massaman, etc—until I immigrated to the United States. This recipe was taught to me by my mother, who learned from her mother, so it’s a part of our family traditions. One day, I will teach it to my daughter, just as I am teaching it to you.
Ingredients for Bunjal Chicken
This bunjal curry recipe is straightforward, uses pantry ingredients, and comes together quickly.
- Boneless chicken thighs: Dice the chicken into 1-inch pieces.
- Yellow onion: Diced.
- Oil: Use this to sauté the onions.
- Madras/yellow curry powder: Both of these powders contain turmeric but madras is a bit spicier.
- Crushed dried thyme leaves: This adds an herby flavor to this savory dish.
- Garam masala: This is a blend of cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
- Roasted ground cumin: This is more fragrant than regular cumin. It tastes earthy with a touch of citrus flavor.
- Seasoning: I use salt, paprika, cayenne or chili pepper (optional for additional heat).
- Garlic cloves: Grated (may substitute with 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic).
- Tomato paste: Use compliant tomato paste if on Whole30.
- Water: Use the liquid to form a curry paste.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Bunjal Chicken Guyanese Style
Prepare the Chicken
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs work best for this recipe, but you may also use chicken breasts. In my original post, I shared some steps for making your own boneless chicken thighs. I’ve replaced those photos with a link to this really great video that explains the deboning process in a few simple steps. Click here for the video.
Making the Curry Paste
I love using pantry ingredients for this simple curry. Yellow or madras curry powder, roasted cumin (geera), garam masala and paprika gives this dish a rich and warm curry flavor. Turn up the heat by adding some chili powder or cayenne pepper.
Bunjaling the chicken
The best part about cooking this dish is when the curry paste hits the hot oil and all of the aroma explodes in your kitchen. It’s such a rich and familiar smell to me. It takes me right back to my childhood and memories of my mother making curry in our tiny kitchen in Guyana.
When the curry paste cooks down to a rich sauce, add your chicken and sauté or bunjal, as we say in Guyana, until the chicken is completely cooked. This is the secret to great bunjal chicken. Just letting the chicken sauté in the curry until cooked and adding a small amount of water at the end, if necessary.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and consume within 4 days. To reheat, microwave or warm it up on the stove over medium heat, stirring continuously until it is warmed through. You may need to add a bit of water in order to loosen the sauce.
Tips for the Best Bunjal Chicken
- Be careful not to burn the curry. Cook the paste until the water cooks down and the curry becomes thick and slightly brown. This should take no more than 5 minutes. Then immediately add the chicken.
- Stir the chicken often. This ensures the bunjal chicken is evenly coated with seasoning and cooks evenly too.
- The secret to great bunjal chicken is patience. Let the chicken sauté in the curry until cooked, adding a small amount of water at the end, if necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bunjal (sometimes spelled Bhunjal) is the Guyanese term for any curry that is cooked down without any sauce. It is a dry curry.
Bunjal chicken is cut into small, bite size pieces whereas chicken curry has larger chunks of chicken. Chicken curry is also saucier.
- 1½ lbs Boneless chicken thighs diced into 1 inch pieces
- 1 Small yellow onion diced
- 3 tbsp Oil
- 1 tbsp Madras/yellow curry powder
- 1 tsp Crushed dried thyme leaves
- ½ tsp Garam masala
- 1 tbsp Roasted ground cumin
- 1 tsp Salt
- 4 Garlic cloves grated (may substitute with 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic)
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1 tsp Tomato paste use compliant tomato paste if on Whole30
- pinch Cayenne or chili pepper optional for additional heat
- 1 cup Water
- Add salt to diced chicken thighs and set aside.
- Add oil to a large skillet or sauté pan on medium heat.
- When the oil comes up to temperature add the diced onions and cook until onions are soft and slightly brown.
- While onions are browning, add curry powder, thyme, garam masala, cumin or geera and paprika to a small bowl and mix together.
- Then add water and stir in the tomato paste to form a curry paste (it will be watery).
- When onions are soft and slightly brown, add the garlic, followed by the curry paste and cook until all the water cooks down and curry paste becomes thick and slightly brown. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the curry paste.
- Next, add the chicken thighs and mix together with the curry paste to ensure that the chicken is completely coated.
- Increase the heat to high heat and sauté for about 10 minutes (stirring often) or until chicken becomes a little brown.
- Then reduce the heat to medium cover and continue to cook for another 10 minutes turning the chicken often to avoid burning.
- After 10 minutes of covered cooking the juices of the chicken should cook all the way down, add 1 cup of water and increase the heat to high, bringing the curry sauce to a quick boil.
- Cook for about 2 minutes or until the water cooks down from the sauce and a very thick curry sauce is left.
- Remove from the heat and serve with your favorite side dish.
The information listed in the recipe card is an estimate provided by an online nutrition tool. The tool evaluates ingredient names and amounts then makes calculations based on the number of servings listed for the recipe. It is provided as a general guideline and not as a precise calculation. For precise nutrition information please feel free to add the ingredients to your preferred nutrition calculator or consult a doctor or licensed nutritionist.