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Lamb Kheema

Lamb Kheema 4.000

Rey Lopez for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Eat Voraciously Newsletter Dec 8, 2022

This flavorful ground meat stew is full of warm spices. Often made from lamb or goat, kheema can also be made from ground beef – as it is in India’s Muslim communities – or turkey or bison. (A plant-based ground meat substitute would also work here.) The most time-consuming part of making kheema is caramelizing the onions. Starting with finely chopped onions helps them caramelize faster, but the process will still take at least 30 minutes. It’s worth the effort, though, as you’ll be rewarded with an incredible depth of flavor. If you have time, start with whole cumin seeds, toast them, and then grind them into a fine powder; if not, use already ground cumin. Stuff kheema into buns the way you would sloppy joes, as the Mississippi chef Vishwesh Bhatt suggests in his cookbook, “I Am From Here: Stories and Recipes From a Southern Chef,” or serve it over steamed rice. It also makes an excellent samosa or hand pie filling.

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Total time: 1 hour

Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.

Where to Buy: Garam masala and Kashmiri chile powder can be found at well-stocked supermarkets, Indian markets, spice shops or online.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings; makes about 4 cups

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola, or ghee
  • 1 medium yellow onion (9 ounces), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced or finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced or finely grated garlic (from 1 or 2 cloves)
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup plain full-fat yogurt, preferably Greek-style
  • 2 teaspoons ground garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chile powder or hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 pound ground lamb or another ground meat
  • Chopped fresh mint, for garnish
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Cooked white rice, for serving (optional)

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In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onions, and cook, stirring often to prevent sticking, until the onions turn the color of a walnut skin, about 30 minutes. Be patient and do not rush this step, as you want the richness of the caramelized onions to bring a depth of flavor to the meat mixture. If the onions begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a tiny splash of water to loosen them; if they continue to stick, slightly reduce the heat.

Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook until they begin to take on color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the jalapeño and tomato paste and continue to cook until the tomato paste turns several shades darker, about 4 minutes more. Add the yogurt, garam masala, cumin, chile powder, cardamom, salt and turmeric and cook, stirring often, until it forms a fragrant, golden-brown paste, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the ground lamb and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula, until cooked all the way through, about 10 minutes. Garnish with the chopped mint and cilantro and serve family-style, with rice on the side.

Recipe Source

Adapted from “I Am From Here” by Vishwesh Bhatt (Norton, 2022).

Tested by G. Daniela Galarza.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (1 cup kheema): 450

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 35g 54%

Saturated Fat: 13g 65%

Cholesterol: 87mg 29%

Sodium: 384mg 16%

Total Carbohydrates: 10g 3%

Dietary Fiber: 2g 8%

Sugar: 5g

Protein: 23g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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