There are a few Pakistani recipes that can stand on their own. That don't need a second fiddle, a side, anything else really except the garnishes that accompany it. Biryani is one such dish, Raan is another, but if I am to be honest than my favourite one dish meal is Nihari. With it's strong spices, beautifully tender meat, the sourness of the lemon, that bright leafy cilantro. If I had a last meal request it would be Nihari.
I shared my recipe for Dum ka Qeema here recently and said that it was one of my bucket list foods, one of the dishes that I wanted to be able to make well from scratch. Nihari is another such dish. There are several masala brands that sell a Nihari spice mix and while I enjoy it immensely there is something eminently satisfying about homemade. The flavour is decidedly different, earthier, more robust. However if you like that particularly flavour but want a homemade base then feel free to add a tablespoon or so of it into your "tari" oil at the end.
You may be wondering why I am sharing this recipe now. Well folks, Eid is a coming and Nihari is a wonderful Eid dish. That said, for optimum flavour it has to be made at least a day before you serve it. Bonus points if you make it two days ahead of time. As the Nihari sits the flavours really develop and come in to their own. I find it hard to be so patient, but it is far better this way.
Nihari in the Instant Pot
Speaking of patience, I used my Instant Pot to make the Nihari twice. The first time I slow cooked it for 5 hours and learnt that staring at it does not make the time go by any faster. The second time I tried it in my IP I pressure cooked it for 50 minutes and naturally released it. Both times the meat was tender and the bones had released their brothiness. I had a slight preference for the slow cooked flavour, but two days after making it the taste difference was negligible.
It does seem to me that the most important determinant of how good it will be are the bones. Harass your friendly neighborhood butcher, plead a little, bust our your best dialogues. Because without the bones it ain't worth it. True story.
What is the Best Meat for Nihari?
Nihari has traditionally been made with large shank pieces. You can use beef, mutton or even lamb. I make my Nihari with beef always and ask for the butcher to cut the meat into large cubes.
What Bones do I need for Nihari?
A great Nihari - with that beautiful rich broth - requires great bones. The best bones to use for Nihari are the bones from the shank, anything where joints are, and if you are a marrow person than that works well too. The bones are the reason why slow cooking Nihari creates better flavor. It takes a while for the bones to render their maximum flavour and richness.
- 2 lb Large chunks of beef/veal - 3 inch pieces
- 1-2 lb bones
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp ginger paste
- 1 ½ tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp red chilli powder
- 1 tbsp kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- Ghee/Oil for cooking
- 1 large onion
- 1.5 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1.5 tbsp saunf
- 1.5 tsp whole black pepper
- 1.5 tsp whole cloves
- ½ tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp grated nutmeg
- 2 1-inch cinnamon sticks
- 2-3 piece mace
- 3 black cardamoms
- 4-6 green cardamoms
- 1 piece dried ginger (small, can sub with ½ tbsp of gingepowder)
- 6 whole red chillies (round)
- 1 tsp kalonji
- 2 pieces of peepli or 3-4 kabab chini (optional)
- lemon wedges
- sliced green chillies
- julienned ginger
- Dry roast all the ingredients in a frying pan (no oil), grind to a powder. Set aside
Cooking the Nihari
- Heat oil in a large pot
- Thinly slice your onion, fry till golden brown then spread on paper towels to dry. (we will use these at the end)
- Add all the remaining ingredients in the first list and stir fry the meat until its browned and the masala is cooked - about 4-5 minutes
- Then add your Nihari Masala Mix and 7 cups of water and stir well.
- Pressure cook for 45-50 minutes or slow cook for 4-5 hours undisturbed to get beautifully tender meat. For slow cooking stove top, bring the mixture to a boil then let it simmer covered.
- Once the time is up skim any greyish scum that may rise to the top and discard.
- Crush the onions and mix in, bring the nihari to a boil
- If you are serving this another time then set it aside for the nihari to cool.
- When ready to eat then dissolve ⅓ cup atta in 1 cup water and whisk briskly as you add it to the nihari
- The nihari will thicken as it cooks - 10 to 15 minutes
- Adjust consistency per liking (more water or atta+water), just remember you need to simmer after adding it to lose the raw taste.
- Heat a few tbsp of oil in a small saucepan and add 1.5 tbsp of kashmiri laal mirch (for colour) and add it on top of the nihari like a tadka/baghaar.
Paras Iqbal-Khan says
Asa, I’m very new to cooking and have never made nihari before. How much oil or ghee should I use? Jzk
Wasalam and Welcome!!! Ok so for the initial cook I'd use 1/2 cup - if you find that after you fry the piyaz its too little add some more. Ghee will give it the BEST taste! In the end I'd say maybe 3-4tbsp of ghee for the tari (the last step). Do keep me posted on how it turns out!
Danish A Ali says
What kind of meat do you recommend for nihari? I want to make sure I request the right one from butcher.
Shank! Traditionally it would be a big piece that's slow cooked but I have mine cube it. Also bones are key so for bones I like anything with joints or shank. If you are a marrow person then that works too! Let me know what you think!
Thanks for the recipe! How much of the nihari masala should be used for the recipe?
Thank You for stopping by! You should use the entire batch of Nihari Masala for this recipe! Do keep me posted on how it goes
How many will this serve? I am planning to make this for a dinner party for ~15 people and wondering whether to double or triple the recipe!
Hi Aliya! SO exciting! Ok so for 15 people I'd say doubling is enough. However if it is a sit down event with people you know are Nihari enthusiasts and the Nihari is your only main then I'd triple it just to be safe. Nihari also freezes beautifully so leftovers are a gift you're giving your future self!
"Nihari also freezes beautifully so leftovers are a gift you're giving your future self!" <--- this quote just made my day! thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe, we're going to try it tonight or tomorrow!
I totally feel that way about it! How did it turn out?
Hi! Used the as a guideline to make Nihari for the first time from scratch (previously would only use Shan). It turned out amazing!! I did use 4lbs of beef (bigger party) and modified the spices and flour accordingly. But the flavor profile of the spice ratio you provided was perfect!! I did add a couple of tablespoons of fresh garam masala at the very end also. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. 💕
Komal, I can't even tell you how happy I am to hear that! There is something so incredibly special about a homemade Nihari and I am honored that you tried this recipe for your dawat!
Hi, can I use chicken instead of beef?
I’ve been craving chicken nihari and was wondering if there any other adjustments I need to make?
Planning to make this next week, hopefully, dependent on being able to gather all the ingredients under present circumstances.
The blog post i took the idea from was introducing readers to national dishes but no recipe. I found your recipe seems closest to the spirit of the post and it sounds delicious anyway so worth a try :}
One thing it said is that it could be made with a mixture of meats which I haven't really attempted before and wanted to run it past you and gather your thoughts on if you don't mind.
Hi! I have to say I have never ever heard of this being made with a mixture of meats before. Do keep me posted on how it turns out!
I have ground corriander and ginger powder. Can you tell me the measurements to use those instead in the masala?
Hi Shumaila! I'd use 1tbsp coriander powder and 1 tsp ginger powder! Hope that helps!
Paul Mainwaring says
Already identified two ingredients I have never heard of and am very unlikely to be able to find....so what is the point....
Hi Paul! These ingredients are all available at South Asian stores but yes Nihari is definitely a dish with complex spices! Spice mixes for Nihari are super convenient and may be a better fit!
Best Nihari recipe I have tried!
Mary I cannot adequately explain how very very very happy that makes me!!!!
Atiya Raja says
What kind of bones arw we supposed to use? I want to be sure I ask my butcher for the right ones.
Wasalam Atiya!!! So any bones with marrow work, but my mother always says anything with joints is best!
Atiya Raja says
Thank you so much! Also, can I make this in an IP? Would the steps be the same?
Hi Atiya! I've got IP instructions in the post too, but yes you can - the only issue becomes that with the 6 quart you may not have enough space to sear the beef properly so just watch out for that!
Thanks so much for the recipie. It was great. I took the risk and made it without the shaan box masala which has many bad ingredients. I reduced the oil and chilli. Thanks again for this great recipie.
Yay!!!! SO SO happy to hear that!!! I know what you mean about feeling like you're taking a risk, but it's totally worth that homemade taste! THANK YOU!
Ben Moore says
I can't wait to try this; I'm trying to learn how to make curries without spice packets. Instead of piece of mace, I can only get hold of ground mace. How much would you recommend I use? Thanks!
Hi Ben! I am so excited for you try it. If you use ground mace just use 1 tsp!
Hi Paul, I actually googled “peepli” and turns out it’s “long pepper”, which I had previously been told it’s essential in nihari and I ordered it from eBay for less than £3!
That's awesome to know ebay has it!
Hi - I am planning on making this for an Eid party where many in the crowd will be new to Pakistani food/spicy food. Is this a spicy dish? How would you recommend lowering the spice intensity so that it works for a non-ethnic crowd?
Hi Alefiyah! I am SO sorry I missed this and am seeing it now. So this one is not as spicy as the packet ones, but you can reduce red chilli powder by 30% and still be good. Sorry about the delay and hope this helps for the future
farah awan says
Defrosted meat, but I didn't have a mix packet. Briefly panicked. Went to Google for a recipe. Saw yours. The rest was history! Sarah you always deliver the best! Thank you!
Sarah Mir says
YAY! Glad I was able to help!
Hira Javaid says
Sarah! You are absolutely brilliant! MashaAllah tabarakAllah!! Each one of your recipes that I have tried has been so on point, Alhumdulillah! I made this Nihari yesterday for a dawat and you won’t believe how much EVERYONE LOVED it!! Jazakillah and please keep doing the great work. Your recipes are so well written and really love the stories behind them. Allah bless you ❤️
Sarah Mir says
Hira!!! YAY!!!! It made me so happy to hear this and thank you so much for trusting my recipes!