Spiced Beef Kebabs

These spiced beef kebabs by Nik Sharma may have a lot of ingredients, but don’t let that put you off. The intense flavors of these beauties, along with the tartness of pickled red onions, are a revelation. Indian cooking at its best.

Three small blue plates filled with spicy beef kebabs, red onion, and cilantro

These spiced beef kebabs are intensely reminiscent of Indian street food. Served with a tangy red onion pickle, they’re a wonderful appetizer if you’re in the mood to share or, if you find you simply can’t stop at one, make them more substantial meal with the addition of flatbreads and raita. Either way, everyone will be fighting over the last kebab.–Angie Zoobkoff

Why Use Dried Herbs Rather Than Fresh?

When making kebabs, the author of this recipe prefers dried herbs to fresh for mixing into the meat mixture for the simple reason that they contain very little to no water and, hence, are quite a lot more potent in flavor than their fresh counterparts.

Special Equipment: 1 pint (480 ml) canning jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Spiced Beef Kebabs

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 2 H, 15 M
  • Serves 4 to 8
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Ingredients

  • For the red onions
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • For the beef kebabs
  • 1 pound 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade chickpea flour*
  • 2 Thai chiles, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • One (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves

Directions

  • Make the red onions
  • 1. Pack the onions and cilantro in a clean 1-pint (480 ml) canning jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  • 2. In a cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet set over medium-high heat, toast the coriander seeds until fragrant, swirling the seeds occasionally so they toast evenly, 30 to 60 seconds. Toss the seeds into the jar with the onions. Add the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Seal the jar and shake a few times. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Make the kebabs
  • 3. In a large bowl, mix the beef, onion, egg, chickpea flour, chiles, garlic, ginger, lime juice, cayenne, coriander, mint, cinnamon, sage, dill, and salt. Divide into 14 equal parts and shape them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) patties.
  • 4. In a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, warm about 2 tablespoons oil. Fry the kebabs in batches, adding more oil as needed, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
  • 5. Transfer the kebabs to a platter, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve with the pickled red onions.

*How To Make Your Own Chickpea Flour

  • If you’re unable to find chickpea flour, as some of our home cooks were, simply get your hands on some dried garbanzo beans, blitz them in a clean spice grinder, and sift. You’ll be left with exactly the same thing as what you’d buy.

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Recipe Testers Reviews

Winner, winner, kebab dinner. There is a slow, almost surreptitious building of heat that is quite enjoyable for spice lovers.

My little coastal town is not a bustling metropolis, so I was unable to locate a few ingredients. I used 1/2 Shishito pepper and 1/2 generic red chile in place of the Thai chiles. I was also unable to find chickpea flour so I did a little research and discovered I could buy dried garbanzo beans and blitz them in my spice mill. After sifting, I was l left with beautiful chickpea flour. For less money, too!

If you know you’re making the pickled red onions, I think you can safely halve the amount of onions in the kebabs. The onion-meat ratio seemed high to me, but this is a personal preference. I only used a scant 1/4 cup oil while frying, so I would recommend pouring a few tablespoons in the pan at a time, rather than setting aside 1/2 cup. I used a 10-inch frying pan and was able to cook the 14 patties in 2 batches. The kebabs took 4 minutes to cook on the first side and an additional 3 minutes to finish cooking once flipped.

I knew these spiced beef kebabs would be a little too much for my 7 year old. In addition to the onions, I threw together a little batch of raita, using yogurt, grated cucumber, lemon, ground cumin, coriander, and a little salt and pepper, and this was the perfect cooling agent to help him enjoy his meal. He loved the kebabs. And as for the adults? These little nuggets of joy had their brains spinning back to early childhood, where the id reigned supreme. They were banging their fists on the table, squawking “More, now!”

I was excited to try them a day after making them, but alas, there were no leftovers. Maybe if 2 kebabs were served on flatbread with the onions.

Indian cuisine is a personal favorite of mine and I'm always happy to find new recipes and ideas. These spiced beef kebabs are great for a snack or light meal. I really enjoyed the the freshness of coriander and chili in the kebabs, especially when combined with the red onion pickle and I also had raita as this is my go-to condiment with most Indian snacks.

The chickpea flour added a subtle flavor but do result in slightly drier meatballs. Thus the addition of a condiment or pickle is a must. The red onion pickle provided acidity and created a good balance with the heat from the kebabs. The recipe was easy to follow and quick to prepare. This was a joy to eat and I will definitely be cooking these again.

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