Nihari: Demystifying an old tradition

I’ve been married to my muslim husband for close to 15 years. I’ve heard stories about the traditional nihari which is a gravy made from a special cut of beef with large bones. Traditionally this dish is cooked for hours by the women of the family that take turns to stir the meat. The result is a delicious gravy with melt in your mouth meat that is served on special occasions.

I must have heard "why don't you make Nihari" many many times but never tried it for fear of failing. Then last week the inevitable happened. I opened the refrigerator and saw a bag marked "Nihari meat". I then realized that it was time for me to sink or swim. I immediately called my good friend Lubna who translated a recipe from her family cookbook and written in Urdu. For that I am truly grateful. I've amended the recipe to make it easier, if you're brave like I had to be that day, give it a try.

Note: You will find Nihari meat at any Indian or Pakistani muslim stores. The meat is cut in big chunks and contains large pieces of bone. You need these bones for the gravy, you can remove these later.

5 pound nihari meat with bones
2 big onions
salt and chilli powder according to taste
1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste each
1- 1 1/2 cup yogurt
1 tbsp Indian all spice powder (garam masala)
1 tbsp fennel seeds powder (sounf)
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tbsps or less cooking oil

For the garnish
Lemon wedges, julienne of garlic and ginger, chopped chillies and chopped coriander.

Add meat into a pot and add salt, chilli powder, ginger paste, garlic paste, tomato paste, and a little bit of oil. Also add the onions without frying them. Cover and cook for a half hour.

After a half hr, add the fennel powder and the Indian all spice and cook stirring constantly and adding water where required on a low flame for 3- 4 hours. After this add the yoghurt and cook for another half hour. Traditionally, this recipe calls for the addition of more oil and 2 -3 tbsps of roasted flour which I don’t think is necessary so I have left this out.
This dish is always served ungarnished, so you can garnish your Nihari to your taste.

K-Rating: My kids ADORE this. The extreme long cooking time is totally worth it. They love garnishing their individual portions.


  1. I am guessing the "whine" in "whine and dine with me virtually" was intentional?!!

  2. Everything about me in intentional. :)

  3. I tried this and it was fab... I've made Nihari before cheating with the Shaan Nihari masala mix... but this was way better! And as much as I was tempted to use the pressure cooker I didn't. The long hours naturally thicken the gravy hence you can omit the flour. Thanks!
    When you get around to it (which i'm sure you will) please let me know a good Haleem recipe.
    Keep it going!