These spiced beef kebabs by blogger and cookbook author Nik Sharma may have a lot of ingredients, but don’t let that put you off. The intense flavors of these spicy beauties, along with the tartness of pickled red onions, are a revelation. Indian cooking at its best.
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
*Do I need to use dried herbs rather than fresh in these kebabs?
When making kebabs, the author of this recipe prefers dried herbs to fresh for mixing into the meat mixture for the simple reason that dried contain very little to no water and, hence, contain a lot more potency in flavor compared to their fresh counterparts.
Spiced Beef Kebabs
- 1 pint (480 ml) canning jar with a tight-fitting lid.
For the pickled red onions (optional)
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
- 1 (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* (see * above)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill* (see * above)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
Make the pickled red onions (optional)
- Pack the onions and cilantro in a clean 1-pint (480 ml) canning jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- In a cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet set over medium-high heat, toast the coriander seeds until fragrant, tilting the skillet to occasionally so they toast evenly, 30 to 60 seconds.
- Tip the seeds into the jar with the onions and cilantro. 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Transfer the kebabs to a platter, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve with the pickled red onions, if desired.
*How To Make Your Own Chickpea FlourIf 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.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Winner, winner, kebab dinner. There is a slow, almost surreptitious building of heat that is quite enjoyable for spice lovers in these spiced meat kebabs.
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 adds a subtle flavor but results 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.
These little beef kebabs are packed with bright flavors, mixing heat and spice with crisp pickled onions. I paired mine with the Pomegranate and Mint Raita from Meera Sodha’s “Made In India,” which was a perfect cooling element for the heat of the chiles. The kebabs almost taste even better the next day, and the combination of the kebabs with the pickled onion and the raita is screaming to be used as a great meal to take to work with some flatbread.
I decided to toast the coriander for the kebabs along with the coriander for the pickled onions in step 2. I ground my own chickpea flour and ended up finding the end result a little crumbly. I think next time I make them I will let the patties rest before frying to allow the chickpea flour to hydrate and leech out some starch, which should help with structure. Additionally, I would recommend cooking the kebabs to temperature and taking them off around “medium” (145°F) rather than cooking by time. I found the 3 minutes per side to be just a little long for my liking as they will overcook quickly.
Originally published January 12, 2021