I am obsessed with keema curry. Why? Because you can do so many things with it. Perfect for meat lovers or vegetarians: using ground meat, poultry, mushrooms, or tofu.
Indian bolognese, sloppy joes, chili, tacos, or pizza, are just a few ways to use this intensely flavorful dish. If you would like some other Indian beef recipes, see my Kerala-style beef curry and a Goan Red Beef Curry.
Keema makes a good weeknight meal with some rice and naan, and you don't need any time for marination. If you are looking for a good vegetarian recipe, see Meera Sodha's vegetarian keema in The Guardian.
While the word keema simply means ground or minced meat, when you see a traditional keema recipe, it refers to a curry with ground meat. Of North Indian Mughal origin, today keema is popular throughout India, with each region putting its stamp on it. The variations of deliciousness are endless, as are the spices and flavoring combinations.
Enjoy this quick, weeknight "gotta get dinner on the table quick" solution. My beef keema curry recipe is a beautiful combination of Julie Sahni's Indian Keema with Ginger, Madhur Jaffrey's Kheema, and Asma Khan's Keema Paneer Pulao.
Why is keema so popular?
- Layered with vibrant Indian flavors
- Versatile and can solve your dinner dilemma
- It freezes well for a rainy day
- It is inexpensive
- Easily made vegetarian or vegan using firm tofu or mushrooms
- A perfect way to add excitement to a weekday meal
Your protein: Ground lamb, beef, turkey, chicken, mushrooms, or tofu all make a great keema. I have found that it is even better when I have a mix of meats. I made my last keema with what I had on hand: one pound of ground turkey, some mild Italian sausage, and pork, and it was especially flavorful.
Spices: Besides the Indian pantry basics of Kashmiri chili powder and cardamom, this recipe uses spices that you probably already have in your cupboard. Ground cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and coriander all come together to make this beautifully spiced curry.
Substitution note: Instead of all these spices (except Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne) you can substitute 2 teaspoons of Madras curry powder or garam masala.
Aromatics: Minced, browned onions provide a sweet flavor base, and the ever-popular duos of ginger and garlic add their unique flavors.
Tomato: Tomato paste is my new favorite form of this vegetable because it is already cooked down and it saves me cooking time. You call also use tomato sauce or purée.
Final flourishes: A couple of teaspoons of the juice of lemon or lime brightens up the whole affair. Some chopped cilantro or mints adds freshness and color. I often top this curry with a dollop of yogurt of feta crumbles.
Aloo & Matar Keema Curry
The advantage of adding vegetables is the additional texture and nutrition they bring. It also not only makes the dish more economical, but you will also have a delicious one-pot dinner.
The most common vegetables used in keema are potatoes (aloo) and peas (matar). I include instructions in the recipe card on when and how to use these vegetables.
- Aloo or potatoes: Peeled potatoes are cubed and added after the ground meat and cooked until tender. The beauty of potatoes, besides adding to the comfort quotient, is that they absorb all the spices. You will need to add extra salt to flavor the keema properly.
- Matar or peas: Peas add a sweet pop of flavor and frozen peas are perfect here. Defrost them and stir in at the very end so they retain their color and texture.
- Cauliflower (keema gobi): Cauliflower is another addition as its mildness soaks up the spices beautifully.
- Firm tofu and other veggies: Firm tofu crumbles make a good meat substitute. Mushrooms and small cubes of carrots also work well.
How to Make Beef Keema
Keema recipes often begin with a few whole spices—a stick of cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, or cardamom—but since I wanted to streamline this dish I've used ground spices instead.
In a skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add in the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the onion is golden brown.
Add the ginger garlic paste and minced green chili. Stir frequently for one minute or until the paste no longer smells raw.
Onions cooked to a golden brown
Ginger garlic paste and chilies added
Sprinkle in the ground spices and Kashmiri chili powder. Stir for another minute.
Ground spices added
Spice cooked with the aromatics
Add the ground beef to the pan and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Break up the meat with the back of a spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Mix the tomato paste with 1/4 cup of water and stir into the meat.
Ground beef cooked through
Beef keema curry ready to be served
Turn the heat up to high and add potatoes now if using. When the sauce is boiling, cover and turn the heat to low, or the setting that allows for a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
Taste for enough acid, heat, and salt and garnish the beef keema curry as you wish with cilantro, mint, fried curry leaves, feta crumbles, or a dollop of yogurt.
Tips and Tricks
- The advantage of using tomato paste is that it is already cooked down, thus saving you time. If you prefer using tomato purée or fresh tomatoes, add 1 cup of tomato after the spices are bloomed. Cook the mixture until the sauce thickens, and the oil begins to separate. About 8 to 10 minutes.
- Many keema recipes use considerably more oil than I call for. Certainly use more if you wish, but I find adding a splash of water if the onion or spices stick to the bottom of the skillet works well. And you save a few calories in the bargain.
- Be patient:
- Allow the onions to caramelize into a nice golden brown, as you are building flavor.
- Cook the keema low and slow until the fat separates and the sauce is silky.
- The curry is even better the next day!
Frequently Asked Questions
No, but I recommend a good quality protein since there aren't many other ingredients to hide behind. More flavorful meat stands up well to the spices. If you are using ground chicken or turkey—preferably not breast meat—you may want a bit more spice as they are quite bland.
I suggest you make my recipe once and then tinker with your favorite flavors. Instead of tomato, use coconut milk, or yogurt. Especially with lamb, consider swapping the tomato with orange juice.
Mix in a minced green chili with your ginger and garlic, leaving the seeds in if you want more heat. Kashmiri ground chili isn't a very hot chili powder, so you could add more or even use a hotter ground red chili.
Be sure to keep your spices in balance, but star anise, black cardamom, black peppercorns, fennel, and kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) are all fair game. Keep in mind what flavors pair well with the protein you are using.
14 Ways to Use It
Keema curry is endlessly customizable and impossible to mess up. It works well as a filling, stuffing, and topping because this keema is intensely flavored. Here are some ideas:
- Stuffed flatbreads: keema roti, or see Whisk Affair's keema naan
- Shepherd's pie (beef); cottage pie (lamb)
- Samosa filling
- Pizza topping
- Breakfast: on toast topped with a fried egg and a crumble of paneer, or feta
- Toasted cheese sandwiches with keema and mint and cilantro chutney
- Dosa filling
- With pasta like Indian spaghetti bolognese
- Indian turkey sloppy Joes
- A topping for a bed of hummus and a dollop of yogurt
- Make keema buns—take a peek at Shashi at Savory Spin's keema bun recipe
- Taco salad
Serving & Storing
A simple and satisfying way to serve keema curry is with a side of rice, flatbread, or tucked into a soft roll. Chopped onion, some fresh herbs, wedges of lime, and fresh chilies are also welcome garnishes.
Like most highly spiced dishes, keema keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. It is even better on Day Two, making it a great make-ahead dish. It also freezes well. I like to take meal-sized portions and pop it into ziplock bags so that I can defrost it for that rainy day when I am out of "what is for dinner" juice.
This recipe is one of the 10 dishes I make over and over!
Here are my favorite ways to use keema
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Please rate by clicking stars ⭐️ on the recipe card and/or let me know in the comments below. Thank you! ~Alonna
Recipe Card 📖
Beef Keema Curry (Indian Ground Beef)
GROUND SPICE MIX—See Notes Below for Quick Subs
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander ~ For a quick substitute see the Notes below
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 pounds ground beef ~ Or see second Note below
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 cup onion ~ Finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon table or sea salt ~ Divided or to taste. Substitutions
- 1/4 cup ginger garlic paste ~ 50/50 ginger & garlic purée or finely minced. Homemade or buy
- 1 to 3 green chilies ~ Indian (finger), Thai, or Serrano chilies. I use 2 teaspoons of finely minced chili for a mild curry.
- 2 teaspoons Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne, to your taste; substitution
- 1/4 cup tomato paste ~ See subs below
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice ~ Or lime juice, apple cider, or malt vinegar. To taste
- 1 cup potato ~ Optional. Peeled and cut into 1/2-cubes
- 1 cup peas ~ Optional, fresh or frozen. See Notes below.
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, mint, fried curry leaves, crumbled feta, minced red onion, or a dollop of yogurt
- Gather your ingredients, mix the Spice Mix together if using, and place a small container of water by your stovetop.
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add in the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the onion is golden brown, stirring frequently. About 8 to 12 minutes.
- Add the ginger garlic paste and minced green chili. Cook for one minute or until the paste no longer smells raw. Stir frequently and add a bit of water if the mixture is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Sprinkle in the ground spices and Kashmiri chili powder. Stir for another minute, adding a tablespoon of water as needed to prevent sticking.
- Add the ground beef and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Break it up with the back of a spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Mix the tomato paste with 1/ 4 cup of water and stir into the meat.
- Turn the heat up to high and add the potatoes now if using. When the sauce is boiling, cover and turn the heat to low, or the setting that allows for a gentle simmer.
- Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or if using potatoes, until they are tender. You are typically looking for a dry curry; simmer for a few more minutes uncovered until the desired consistency. If you are topping rice with the keema or as an Indianish Sloppy Joes, leave some liquid. If stuffing samosa, or topping pizza you will want a fairly dry mixture.
- If using peas: Over low heat stir in fresh or frozen peas and allow them to cook through. This will take just a few minutes.
- Taste for enough acid, heat, and salt. Be sure to season your keema well. I find for my palate that another 1/8 teaspoon of salt and an additional sprinkle of lemon juice does the trick. If your dish tastes flat it needs a tiny bit more of these two ingredients or even a shake of ground red chili.
- Skim any fat that collects on the top if you wish. And if you have time, allow the keema to rest covered, but off the heat, so that the flavors have some time to combine. As with most curries, it will taste even better the next day.
- Garnish the beef keema curry as you wish with the optional ingredients listed above. Serve with a soft bun, flatbread, rice, and a salad. See Storing & Serving Notes above if needed.
- Substitute for the ground spices: Instead of the 5 spices listed under the Ground Spice Mix, stir in 2 teaspoons of Madras curry powder at the same time. Alternatively, skip the ground spice altogether, and add 2 teaspoons of garam masala with the lemon juice in the end.
- Use any ground meat you prefer or go vegetarian using crumbled firm tofu or mushrooms. You may want to add a bit more spicing for ground poultry as it is quite bland.
- Tomatoes: The beauty of tomato paste is that it is already cooked down. However, if you want to use tomato purée, add 1 cup to the sauce after the spices have been bloomed. Cook the tomato mixture down until it thickens and the oil comes to the surface. About 8 to 10 minutes. Then proceed with the recipe.
- Other vegetables: Besides peas and potatoes, you could add carrots, mushrooms, or cauliflower florets.
- Keema curry can be eaten the same day, but like many curries, it is even better the next day.
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