Kheema with Cardamom and Curry Leaves

Given that many people think of vegetarian food when they think of India, it may surprise you to hear me say that I think ground beef (or any ground meat, your choice) reaches new heights in Indian cuisine.  In my own personal repertoire of ground meat dishes, only chili comes close to as many exciting variations as Indian kheema (or keema).  Some are more complex, like this Kheema with Springtime Greens.  Some are richer, like this Safaid Kheema.  Some are comforting, tasting of the home I share with my husband and daughters.  And some, like this one, are a super simple new kheema to try on any given weeknight.

Although I can make kheema without a recipe, I always like trying new recipes, because there is always some combination of the many exotic spices of India that has not occurred to me.  This is a good example, as the only cumin and coriander come in the form of the garam masala, quite a few curry leaves are used, and for whatever reason I don’t usually reach for cardamom seeds.

I found this kheema late at night watching Spice Goddess on the Cooking Channel, Bal Arneson‘s awesome contemporary Indian cooking show (and then pinned it so I wouldn’t forget).  I DVR it for attacks of insomnia.  In an effort to not automatically reach for the cumin seeds and try the cardamom seeds, I stayed true to the spice mixture of the original recipe.  I did add zucchini and increase the onions and peas.  This is a drier kheema, and as I have noted before I tend to prefer those with chutneys or yogurt, possibly because we serve them on rice (versus flatbread), so I did add those options as well.

Kheema with Cardamom and Curry Leaves
Closely adapted from Bal Arneson
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (you can chop finely if you don't love onions like we do)
  • ¼ cup curry leaves
  • 1 T garam masala, divided, to taste
  • 1 t black mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • salt to taste
  • 1½ cups frozen peas
  • 3 small or 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • juice of half lemon, to taste
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish
  • plain Greek yogurt, for serving
  • chutney, for serving
  • sambal olek or chile pepper flakes, for serving
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the mustard seeds--when they start to pop, add the cardamom seeds. When the mustard seeds finish popping, add the curry leaves (be careful, they will splatter). Stir once or twice, and then add the onions with a pinch of salt. Cook the onions, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until translucent and starting to turn golden. Add the ginger with a teaspoon of garam masala. Cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring.
  2. Add the ground beef and break it up, stirring to incorporate it into the spices and onions. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally. When the beef is mostly cooked through, add the zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is cooked through and no longer pink. Add the peas with a teaspoon of garam masala and mix in, heating through.
  3. When you are ready to serve the kheema, sprinkle the dish with cilantro, 1 teaspoon of garam masala and lemon juice. Taste for additional salt, garam masala or lemon juice. Serve with yogurt and chutney on the side, and either sambal olek or red chile pepper flakes for anyone who wants heat in the dish.



  1. says

    You’re absolutely right.Indian cuisine takes the meats to a different level altogether.With different regions having their own method of preparing them :)This keema looks so delicious, I can almost imagine the taste :)

  2. Kiri W. says

    Oh wow, this is a new to em dish that I think I’d just about kill for. Looks fabulous, and kardamom always wins me over :)

  3. AMH says

    Hi Laura – this looks like an excellent dish! Quick question – where do you find curry leaves? I searched JJs yesterday…but only in the Indian section…
    Cheers, AMH

  4. Josie says

    Made this tonight for a small dinner party I hosted, and it was fabulous!! I used one part lamb to two parts beef, and it came out perfectly. I ate two giant helpings. I loved the subtle but uniquely strong cardamom flavor (I used green… Assumed that to be correct).
    Thanks for posting :)

    • Laura says

      Interesting question. I have always assumed green too, and am pretty sure that is correct. To be honest I was super happy to find a bottle of just the seeds, as I hate splitting and retrieving the seeds! I do keep the pods too as sometimes a smashed pod is all that is called for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Rate this recipe: