Easy Nihari (Pakistani Beef Stew) – Stovetop + Slow Cooker

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Here is an easy recipe for Nihari (Pakistani beef stew) that requires 1 pot and less than 30 minutes of initial preparation time. This recipe includes stove instructions and slow cooker for tender meat (or stew) of meat.

Nihari in a bowl with lemons, julienned ginger and cilantro on the side

“Loved this recipe so much! I just made it for my boyfriend for his birthday and he said it was a solid 10/10 lol.”


Five years ago, almost to this day, I published the slow-cooking version of this Nihari recipe. Since then, it has always been one of my most popular recipes. To be honest, I’ve often thought about improving it. (I’m always learning!) But, I dare not touch it as many people have loved it over the years. I updated a couple of things that were way behind –

  1. I’ve shared stove instructions because do we still use slow cookers in 2021? (Psst… For those who have moved on to Instant Pots, here’s my recipe for Instant Pot Nihari.)
  2. I have given the option to use homemade Nihari Massala.

It combines both and I have to say that I like it even more than my original

. What is Nihari?

Top view of Nihari in a bowl with lemons, julienned ginger and cilantro on the sideNihari


a rich spice-flavored slow-cooked meat stew thickened with atta, or Pakistani-style and Indian-style durum wheat flour. Pakistani versions of Nihari are typically made with beef, but Nihari can be made with lamb, goat meat or chicken.

The word “nihari” comes from the Arabic root “nahar,” which means “day” or “morning.” This dish is called Nihari because originally, it was eaten in the morning. History suggests it started in Old Delhi, where it was eaten by Nawabs and Mughal workers to feed them throughout the day.

What is Nalli Nihari?

The word nalli means pipe or tube, which carries the pipe-shaped bones that are used to make nihari. Nalli Nihari is made with beef bones (typically humerus or femur), which contain yellow bone marrow. This gives Nihari a rich, buttery taste. Sometimes bone marrow is removed and added to the Nihari.

This recipe does not require bones, but using meat with bone or bones along with the meat will improve the taste (it is more essential in the Instant Pot version). If you use bones, you would need about 1/3 lb of extra weight on your bones.


from a long list of spices, Nihari requires simple ingredients commonly found in Pakistani cuisine:

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  • Atta – Traditionally, atta flour, which is typically used to make rotis, is added to thicken curry. I highly recommend you use this for an authentic taste.
    • Substitute: All-purpose flour. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve heard from many who have. For added complexity, dry roast in a nonstick skillet for 6-7 minutes over low-medium heat. It will become a deeper golden color.
  • Spices – This recipe calls for Nihari Masala powder bought in store or homemade (recipe below!) along with some other whole and ground spices. As always, if you’re missing one spice (or three!), don’t let that stop you from doing it.

What cut of meat to use for


Nihari is typically made with boneless meat stems, also called beef pimples. Halal grocery stores often label it as Nihari cut. You can also use pre-cut beef stew meat, which is essentially boneless beef that comes from the front shoulder (baboon) or back muscle (round). If the type of stew meat is specified, I look for shoulder, as I found it more tender.

Also, try to find good quality meat. The more veined it is, the better.

Nihari Masala using Nihari

Prefabricated Masala

Because Nihari demands so many spices, I originally created this recipe using 1/2 tablespoon of

pre-made Nihari masala


. Use too much powder (like the whole package as the box suggests) and you’ll end up having Nihari that tastes a little manufactured and looks a lot like your Pakistani neighbor’s Nihari because they used the same powder. Use just a little and it will give your plate an extra boost and good color.

Also, I’ve had a lot of questions about using *only* the spice blend. I’m not above using pre-made spice blends, but I’d rather not use the suggested amounts because it can taste pretty harsh. Also, the flavors are more pronounced when you use fresh spices. Keep in mind that you will need to adjust the salt/spice level depending on the brand and the amount of masala you use.

Homemade Nihari Masala

As always, I prefer to use fresh, homemade spices when I can. It took me a while, but I finally created a Nihari Masala Powder that works with this recipe.

Nihari Masala: makes ~1 tablespoon, all of which you will use

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  • 2-1 teaspoon of red chili of cashmere powder or paprika, to color
  • 1

  • small pod of black cardamom
  • 1 small mace leaf (1

  • inch) (or piece of mace
  • ) 3/4

  • inch peepli (long pepper
  • ) 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf) 1/4 teaspoon garam masala powder 1/4 teaspoon

  • ginger powder 1/4 teaspoon onion powder 1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds (

  • Shah Zeera) 1/8
  • teaspoon Nigella seeds (Kalonji)
  • To

make this Nihari

Masala powder, combine all these ingredients in a spice grinder and process until a powder forms


How to make Nihari

The key to a great nihari is the intentional depth of taste. Deeply golden onions, fresh spices that infuse the oil, meat that is well stewed. All of this contributes to Nihari’s revered flavor.

  • Step 1: Brown the onions and meat. Deeply brown onions (see video instead of photo for reference) give Nihari flavor, body, and depth. As with most stews, burning the meat to brown is essential, but don’t burn for too long, as it can lead to hard meat.

Golden onions with whole spices in a Dutch oven

Scion of beef scorched with golden onions in a Dutch oven
  • Step 2: Spice flowering. Add spices and let them cook in the hot oil. If you’re worried about them burning, you can always add a splash of water.

<img src="×1092.jpg" alt="Ground spices

added to beef canes

” />

The spices bloomed along with the meat
  • Step 3: Cook. For the stove, let it boil before lowering the heat to a simmer. For the slow cooker, transfer the mixture to a slow cooker, add water and mix to combine.
Water added in preparation for cooking Nihari
  • Step 4: Thicken. If you try to thicken the sauce by adding flour, it will result in lumps. To avoid this, remove some of the nihari liquid (I always found that using water dilutes the flavor) and let it cool. Then stir it in the atta flour. Add this suspension to the nihari while stirring to avoid lumps. Let this cook and thicken.

Atta flour suspension to add to Nihari

Nihari finished in a Dutch oven



get the oil (tari) on top of Nihari

Once a curry is cooked, fats and oil naturally emerge towards the top. Usually, with Nihari, the oil is released once the meat has been cooked and also once the atta is cooked. Since I don’t use as much oil as some traditional recipes, it won’t appear as oily as most Niharis restaurants.

To bring the oil up to the top, let it simmer over low heat over low heat for 5 minutes after you have finished cooking. You can also reserve oil before adding the atta or add a spiced tarka (oil tempering) to give Nihari its distinctive layer of oil on top.

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More tips for making Nihari

  • Nihari meat should be very tender. It is not made once cooked, but when it is practically crushed to the touch.
  • The end result should be like a thick soup or sauce. If it gets too thick, simply add water (preferably boiling) to dilute it. Sauté again to the desired consistency.
  • If you use a slow cooker and the end result is too thin, transfer it to the stove so that it thickens to the desired consistency.
  • Restaurants will often keep the pieces very large (~3-4 inches). Kenji López-Alt points out that large cuts keep the meat more tender. I usually choose smaller-sized cubes because it’s easier to eat and serve than a handful of large chunks.
  • Variation: For more body and a slight flavor, beat 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt to the atta suspension before adding it to the Nihari.
Nihari in a bowl with lemons, julienned ginger and cilantro on the side

How to make gluten-free Nihari After several experiments, I figured out how to make the best

gluten-free version of nihari

. Simply dry roasted brown rice flour or sorghum flour for 3-4 minutes over low-medium heat and use as a substitute for atta flour. Dry roasting enhances the flavor and replicates the earthy flavor of atta. Try it with my gluten-free yeast naan!

What to serve with


to Haleem, Nihari is typically served as a dinner or brunch main course. It is usually served with naan or sheermal, a slightly sweet flatbread.

The garnish is always served together with nihari. Lemon slices, julienne ginger, chopped cilantro, and chopped (tolerable) green chili peppers are essential. They garnish your Nihari while improving the spicy, acidic and crunchy factor.

Nihari seasonings like lemon, ginger and green chili peppers on a plate


Did you try this recipe? If you have a minute, please leave a comment and star rating below and tell me how it was. If you are on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. I really love hearing from you! Thank you!

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