Pakastani Keema

Closely adapted from Summayya Usmani. While I always recommend finding the spices called for if possible, I was happy with my substitute of a whole dried chipotle pepper and green cardamom pods--so do not let an inability to find black cardamom pods keep you from making this dish!

Course Entree
Cuisine Curry, Pakastani


For the main curry:

  • 2 T vegetable oil, such as avocado
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 black cardamom pod, bruised (substitute 2 bruised green cardamom pods and 1 dried chipotle chile pepper if necessary)
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 t whole cumin seeds
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 1/4 t ground turmeric
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t ground coriander
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • salt to taste
  • 2 medium-large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 lb ground meat of choice (lamb is most traditional; I used beef; if you use a milder meat like turkey you might increase the spices just a tad)
  • 1 t dried methi (fenugreek) leaves

For garnish:

  • lemon wedges
  • chopped fresh tomatoes--use cherry or grape tomatoes off season
  • chopped cilantro
  • garam masala (use one that is heavy on the warming spices, such as cloves, cardamom and cinnamon)
  • fresh ginger slivers (I left out)
  • chopped green onion or diced red onion that has been soaked in cold water and then drained


Make the keema:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick and star anise. Let them roast briefly and then add the whole peppercorns, whole cloves and black cardamom (add the green cardamom and chipotle chile pepper if you are using that).

  2. Let these larger whole spices roast until they are beginning to be fragrant. Shake the pan to move the spices around so they do not scorch, and add the spices that roast more quickly, the bay leaf, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. 

  3. Watch the pan carefully--cumin seeds especially can burn quickly. When the spices have darkened (and unfurled in the case of the cinnamon) and are fragrant, add the chopped onion with a pinch of salt.

  4. Stir the onion occasionally--keep some water nearby to splash the pan in case it starts to stick or scorch. Cook until it is caramelizing, about 10-15 minutes.

  5. Add the ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.

  6. Add the turmeric and smoked paprika. Cook another 2 minutes, stirring.

  7. Add the ground coriander and cumin. Stir for 1 minute.

  8. Add the tomatoes with another pinch of salt and a splash of water. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally at the beginning. Then leave it be and the oil should rise to the top, at which time it is ready for the meat.

  9. Add the ground meat with another pinch of salt. Break it up and stir it into the tomatoes. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until all of the excess moisture has evaporated, stirring nearly constantly. 

  10. Add the dried methi leaves and cook for another 7-10 minutes on medium low heat. This curry should be fairly dry and a dark brown. Taste for additional salt.

Serve and garnish individual servings:

  1. Serve the kheema over rice (I like Basmati) or with flatbread. Sprinkle it with a little garam masala. Squeeze the juice of one lemon wedge over the kheema and then serve it with another. Sprinkle the dish with the tomatoes, green or red onion and cilantro.