Nihari is a deliciously smooth flour based stew with slow cooked mutton and a myriad of spices. This mutton nihari recipe takes ~4 hours to cook but it’s easy to put together. To get the best flavour, the mutton is cooked on very low heat for upto 4 hours.
Traditionally Nihari was cooked all night and then served to the Mughal Kings of Delhi in breakfast after the morning prayers.
From the royal kitchens of the Mughals, the dish has now crossed all borders of region, religion, and course. However, since it takes a long time, almost 5 hour, to cook Nihari, it is mostly reserved for special occasions like Eid dinners and other festivities.
The first time I had nalli nihari was after my marriage when I was exploring the world of non-vegetarian cuisine. I was told it was one of the dishes that has converted many vegetarians. I loved the nihari stew and I could see how between Sikander and daddy the whole 1/2 kg mutton nihari was finished in just one meal. That meant I had to learn how to make nihari.
Which meat is best for Nihari?
In India, nihari is mostly made with mutton or gosht which is goat meat. The shank portion is what is preferred for making Nihari. Nihari can also be made with chicken, lamb, or beef.
I had asked my Pakistani neighbor and she said that both mutton and beef nihari are common preparations in Pakistan.
Just like garam masala, Nihari masala is a mix of whole aromatic spices. The whole spices like cardamom, fennel, cloves, nutmeg, dry ginger etc are roasted and then ground to a powder. The masala mix is best when prepared fresh but you can make it larger quantities and store in an airtight container. The homemade nihari masala keeps well for up to 6 months and can be used for cooking other vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries as well.
Check out my glossary of Indian spices for a list of spices and their names in both Hindi and English.
If you like this recipe, please take a moment to rate it and/or leave your comments at the end of the blog. It will really encourage me to keep exploring, learning and improving. Imagine the chefs in ancient Mughal cuisine who would cook it overnight! Do you know more about the traditions of mutton nihari? I would love to know!
- 1 kg mutton , preferably shank portion (cut into 8-10 pieces)
- 4 tbsp Ghee/ Clarified butter
- 2 medium onions , finely sliced
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- Salt to taste
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 3 tbsp wheat flour
- 3 tbsp nihari masala
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp soonth dry ginger
- 5-6 green cardamoms
- 2 black cardamoms
- 4-5 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 8-10 black peppercorns
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 inch ginger , cut into this strips
- 4-5 stalks fresh coriander leaves
- 1 tbsp lime juice
To make your own Nihari masala from scratch, dry roast all the whole spices for the masala; cool; and grind them to a fine powder.
- Heat Ghee (you can use oil as well but ghee makes it tastier) in a deep bottom stock pot. Once the ghee is hot, add the sliced onions and fry till they start to turn brown.
- Add mutton pieces, ginger paste, garlic paste, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well to coat the mutton in ghee and spices. Sauté for 5 mins.
- Add the nihari masala and 8 cups of water. Mix well, cover and cook on very low heat for about 4 hours until the meat is tender. Keep checking in between. The way to know that the meat is cooked is when it breaks easily with a wooden spoon.
- Dissolve wheat flour in half cup of water such that there are no lumps. Slowly add it to the gravy. Stir to mix it well in the gravy and let it simmer for another 10-15 mins till the gravy thickens.
- Sprinkle some lime juice and garnish with ginger strips and fresh coriander leaves. Serve hot.
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