Nihari (Indian Beef Stew)
September 30th, 2012 25 Comments

Nihari (Indian Beef Stew)

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Nihari (Indian Beef Stew)

Serves: 3 to 4 people | Prep time: 25 minutes | Total Cook Time: 4 hours


2 lbs Beef shank (or 1 ½ lb boneless beef)
1 bay leaf
2 one-inch cinnamon sticks
1 ½ teaspoons + 1 ½ teaspoons ginger paste
1 ½ teaspoons + 2 teaspoons garlic paste
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red chili powder
2 1/2 teaspoons Nihari Masala
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, julienned
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 lemon, sliced

Nihari Masala:

2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pods
8 cloves
15 whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 bay leaf


Preparing Nihari Masala:

Add all the ingredients in a spice grinder and grind to fine powder form. Sift the powder through a fine sieve to remove any rough pieces and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can keep this for about a month.

Boiling the Shanks:

In a large pot add the beef shanks along with 1 ½ teaspoon of ginger paste, 1 ½ teaspoon of garlic paste, bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon of salt and 5 cups of water. Boil the shanks on low-medium heat till the meat is tender and well done, about 2-3 hours. (Make sure to add little more water if the water starts to dry out too fast; there should be enough water in the pot to cover the meat).

Once the meat is done, use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the meat from the liquid and keep aside. Measure the stock (liquid) and add water if needed to make it 4 cups, reserve. Discard the bay leaf and cinnamon. You can do this step up to 2 days in advance. Let the meat and stock stay together while you store them in refrigerator, remove the meat from the stock just before you start to put the stew together.

Stew (Nihari):

In a non-stick saucepan or a pot, heat oil over medium heat. When the oil gets hot, add the sliced onions and stir-fry constantly until they turn golden-brown in color. Don’t over fry or the onions will burn.

Add the remaining 1½ teaspoon of ginger paste and 2 teaspoons of garlic paste and do a quick stir. Add 1 cup of the reserved stock to the pan, cover the pan and let everything cook on low heat for 5-6 minutes until the liquid starts to dry out and the onions turn very soft.

Add the beef shanks to the pan along with the chili powder and Nihari Masala. Sauté gently for 2-3 minutes, and try to avoid the meat from breaking down.

Add 3 cups of remaining stock (if the stock is less than 3 cups add water). Give everything a gentle stir and cover the pan. Let it simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, in a small bowl, combine the flour with ½ cup of water. Stir well.

After the stew has simmered for 10 minutes, add the flour mixture to the pan, stirring gently. Cover the pan and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes on low heat. Check it once or twice to make sure the gravy is not drying out.

Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes with its lid on before serving. When ready to serve, add salt to taste and garnish the stew with the ginger, cilantro and lemon juice and serve hot with pita, naan or any bread of your choice.

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25 comments... read them below or add one

  1. yuefung says:

    Bee, what if I use the regular Masala, would that be different?

    • You can use regular Nihari Masala from brands like Shan etc. Every packaged spice mix has different flavor due to the difference in spices used so the taste may differ. Also I won’t recommended using chili powder if using packaged masala, as it is included in it most of the time.

  2. Very delicious looking stew, and perfect for the season! I am loving those mouthwatering pictures, very tempting!

  3. Zee says:

    The recipes on your blog are so versatile.. Love it!

  4. Thank you for posting, this looks so good! The cooler weather of fall and winter make this a great thing to make! Must try! You post wonderful recipes!

  5. Thank you BeeYinn Low, it is an honor and absolute pleasure to be able to share this on Rasa Malaysia… Thanks you!!

  6. Nala says:

    Im very interested in trying this stew. Its interesting that it is usually eaten for breakfast, after being slow cooked during the night. I think I will try this method, sounds delicious.

  7. Hi Bee! Really excited to see Reem’s beef stew here. She takes amazing photography and it was fun seeing her feature on your site! Her beef stew looks so comforting and it looks and sounds like a wonderful flavor! Have a great week!

  8. Jessica says:

    From the first look at this, I thought it was “oxtails” for the meat. Either way, this looks quite delicious.

  9. Julia | says:

    I love Indian cuisine. This stew looks very appetizing on your photos.

  10. Great recipe, and Reem’s photos are stunning as always!

  11. Great recipe! I love Rheem’s stuff, and this recipe is among her best! Great guest post – thanks.

  12. Rosanna says:

    This looks amazing! I was wondering what size pieces do you cut the meat into if using boneless beef instead of beef shanks? Thanks!

  13. Agnes Ma says:

    Do I cut the shank before or after cooking. What size do I cut the meat? tks.

    • Get the shank cut from the butcher if you can in big chunks, like about 2/12 -3 inch size or even bigger. You can use smaller size or boneless if you like but larger piece of meat works well for this stew.

  14. Brittany says:

    Hi Reem!

    Thanks so much for posting! I’ve been researching online for the best nihari recipe and yours definitely looks like it’s the easiest to follow. One thing that attracts me to nihari is the slow cooking which allows for access to the luscious bone marrow. All the other recipes I saw instructed to simmer for five to eight hours. Seeing as yours only calls for three, I’m wondering if that’s enough time to allow for marrow access?

    Thanks for your help!

  15. netty says:

    I reckon this would be fantastic using oxtail.

  16. Zeenath A. Rahim says:

    Hi. Love your recipe. However you forgot to mention how much oil you use in this recipe? I think it needs quite a bit. Please include the amount in your ingredient list.
    Thanks Zeenath

  17. hebintn says:

    I made this with pork instead of beef. It worked fine, but beef would be better. I did add a teaspoon of Better Than Boullion beef base. I cut the red pepper in half and it was about right for me, but my wife would say it should be cut to 1/4 or less. Nihari in our favorite place in Milwaukee, Tandoori, downtown, was delicious but way to hot for our American tastes. I didn’t have cinnamon sticks so I used powdered cinnamon guessing at the amount. A taste test indicated that it needed more of the masala so I put in an additional teaspoon. I also substituted finely diced fresh garlic and ginger for the paste, since I didn’t have it on hand. Overall, an excellent recipe.

  18. Chris says:

    Hi Bee, can you use a make nihari with half an amount of beef and half lamb?

  19. Jane says:

    Hello Bee,
    We have just tried the Nihari recipe and although it is delicious it does not look at all like your picture as ours had no red in it. Does this mean that there is an error in the recipe? We followed it exactly. What I am thinking is that maybe that we should have used Chile paste instead of chile powder, and/or maybe that it should be 1 tablespoon instead of 1 teaspoon?

    • AsianCookinMama says:

      Hi Jane. Reem’s Nihari is really very well photographed – as a Nihari connoisseur and cook, I can tell you that it looks perfect! I have been cooking Nihari and other Indian curries for years and although many recipes call for a lot of chili powder (cayenne NOT chili powder blend), I cook for milder palates, so I tend to cutdown the quantity of cayenne pepper by a lot. In order to achieve the same beautiful reddish-brown curry I will add paprika. Usually 1/2 – 1 tsp will do, but I will add more if needed.

    • Rose says:

      Try using kashmiri red chili powder. Its gives color without giving too much heat..

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