Beef/ Pakistani Food

Nihari – A Classic Pakistani Dish


Jump to the Nihari Recipe

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, 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. 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.

4 from 21 votes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Pakistani
Keyword: Nihari, Pakistani Recipe, Beef Nihari
  • 2 lb Large chunks of beef/veal - 3 inch pieces
  • 1-2 lb bones
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Ghee/Oil for cooking
  • 1 large onion
Nihari Masala
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1.5 tbsp saunf
  • 1/2 tbsp whole black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 2 1-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 1 piece mace
  • 3 black cardamoms
  • 4-6 green cardamoms
  • 1 piece dried ginger
  • 6 whole red chillies (round)
  • 1 tsp kalonji (optional)
  • lemon wedges
  • sliced green chillies
  • julienned ginger
Nihari Masala
  1. Dry roast all the ingredients in a frying pan (no oil), grind to a powder. Set aside 

Cooking the Nihari
  1. Heat oil in a large pot

  2. Thinly slice your onion, fry till golden brown then spread on paper towels to dry. (we will use these at the end)

  3. 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

  4. Then add your Nihari Masala Mix and 7 cups of water and stir well.

  5. 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.

  6. Once the time is up skim any greyish scum that may rise to the top and discard. 

  7. Crush the onions and mix in, bring the nihari to a boil

  8. If you are serving this another time then set it aside for the nihari to cool.

  9. When ready to eat then dissolve 1/3 cup atta in 1 cup water and whisk briskly as you add it to the nihari

  10. The nihari will thicken as it cooks - 10 to 15 minutes

  11. Adjust consistency per liking (more water or atta+water)

  12. 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. 

Recipe Notes

Nihari recipes have a few unusual ingredients - mace, nutmeg, dried ginger (soonth) - they are worth buying for this use and last forever!

Please note the recipe calls for 2 measuring spoons tbsp of salt, if you want to play it safe please start with 1 and then add the other towards the end with the atta/water mix.

While you can use ghee or oil for true flavour I highly recommend ghee!

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  • Reply
    Paras Iqbal-Khan

    Asa, Iā€™m very new to cooking and have never made nihari before. How much oil or ghee should I use? Jzk

    • Reply

      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!

  • Reply

    Thanks for the recipe! How much of the nihari masala should be used for the recipe?

    • Reply

      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

  • Reply

    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!

    • Reply

      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!

  • Reply

    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. šŸ’•

    • Reply

      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!

    Penny for your thoughts?