Pakistani Seekh Kebab Recipe (Ground Beef Skewers)
A simple, uncomplicated Seekh Kebab recipe made with ingredients you likely have on hand. This recipe includes tips on how to make flavorful, tender kebabs that don’t break or fall off the skewers. Includes pan-frying, baking, and air-frying instructions.
“Great recipe – it reminded me of the kebabs I used to enjoy on the streets of Calcutta and Bangalore.”Douglas
A few years ago, I published a baked-only version of Seekh Kebab. Since then I’ve discovered – 1. There’s a way to make them even more tender and flavorful, and 2. I much prefer them pan-fried rather than baked.
Recently, after making Seekh Kebab from Dishoom’s cookbook, I realized I liked several aspects of their recipe more than my old recipe. So, I blended theirs with mine to create this better, updated version of Seekh Kebab.
What are Seekh Kebab?
The word ‘seekh’ means skewers and ‘kebab’ means meat cooked over a charcoal fire. So Seekh Kebab means skewered meat sausages cooked over a charcoal fire.
Seekh Kebab are typically flavored with onions, garlic, ginger, green chili peppers, herbs, and spices. Pakistani Seekh kebabs are often made with ground beef, while Indian-style are usually made with ground lamb or ground chicken.
Ingredients you need to make Seekh Kebab
Here are the 12 ingredients you need to make Seekh Kebab:
- Whole coriander & cumin seeds – My old recipe used raw, untoasted spices, which left noticeable raw spice taste in the final kebab. I took a tip from Dishoom and toasted the coriander and cumin before adding them, which added depth and removed the raw spice taste. You can use any other whole spices you’d like here too, such as 1-2 cloves, a pinch carom seeds (ajwain), or a long pepper (peepli).
- Onion – I use yellow but red onion also works great.
- Green chili peppers such as Thai chili – A generous amount of green chili peppers are a key element of seekh kebab. The amount in the recipe makes them medium-spicy, so feel free to adjust.
- Cilantro & mint leaves – Substitute mint leaves with more cilantro leaves if you don’t have any on hand.
- Ground beef (20% fat – not lean) – This will help your kebabs stay tender and moist. If you only have lean meat, try adding a tablespoon of butter or an extra 1/2 tsp papaya paste to compensate. See FAQ if using any other type of meat.
- Salt & pepper – Adequate salt is important for getting the restaurant-style taste. I’ve shared my preferred quantities of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt or Morton’s sea salt.
- Garlic & ginger – Again, generously used in restaurants so I’ve increased the quantity.
- Red chili flakes – For added flavor and slight heat. Feel free to omit if you’d rather skip.
- Garam masala – This recipe has been tested with my homemade garam masala. If using store-bought, you may need to use less salt.
- Papaya paste – The reason I’ve made Papaya Paste an optional ingredient is because it’s undoubtedly hard to find. Otherwise, it works like a charm to tenderize the kebab. I use a very small quantity because adding too much makes them too tender while diluting the flavor of the kebab.
- Neutral oil – For pan-frying. You can also use butter for brushing if baking or air-frying.
How to Make Seekh Kebab
- Toast & grind the spices. Toasting deepens the flavor while removing the raw taste of the spices. This is especially important if you’re baking the kebabs.
- Pulse to chop the onion, cilantro, mint, and green chili. Squeeze out the excess moisture and add to the ground beef.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the ground beef and mix to combine.
- Mix/knead the dough vigorously until you can see the stringy texture of the meat. I like to use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer to do this.
- Shape the kebab. See instructions and video on how to do this.
- Cook! Grill, pan-fry, air-fry, or bake.
Best Cooking Method for Seekh Kebab (In Order)
- Over an open fire. Traditional and next-level, but impractical for most of us.
- Charcoal or Gas Grill – This is another reason restaurants have a leg up. Seekh Kebabs are ideal for grilling.
- Pan-Fry – This is how I normally make them. It splatters, yes, but it’s worth the extra cleanup.
- Air-Fry – If done right, I find Seekh Kebab are better air-fried than baked.
- Bake – Most convenient (preferred by 61% of my email list) but you’ll lose moisture and browning.
How to make Seekh Kebab tender
Many restaurants add quite a bit of fat to make their seekh kebab so flavorful and tender. One restaurant owner recently shared that they use 50% fat, 50% ground beef.
Since most of us aren’t comfortable using that at home, we have to use some type of tenderizer to achieve a similar level of tenderness. A quick poll on Instagram and I found people use everything from cheese to potatoes to add tenderness. A team member told me she tried my recipe with Papaya paste with great results, and I found it to work perfectly.
How to keep Seekh Kebabs from falling off skewer or breaking
- Ensure that the ingredients such as the beef and onion mixture are as dry as possible. Squeeze out any moisture from the onions and drain out any moisture from the ground beef (pat dry with a paper towel if needed).
- Blend or knead the meat mixture. Here’s why:
- In the book, The Food Lab, Kenji Alt Lopez explains how blending or kneading the meat in sausages helps bind the meat proteins. I also noticed the cookbook, Dishoom, used this same method of kneading the meat in their Seekh Kebab. I then realized Kenji Alt Lopez had already published a Seekh Kebab recipe with this method, which sealed it for me. After experimenting, I noticed a clear difference that blending or kneading the meat makes. The kebabs go from crumbly to well-binded, giving it a better texture.
- Lastly, refrigerate the beef and allow it to rest before shaping so that it becomes colder and easier to handle.
You can use chopsticks, straws, or bamboo sticks to help give them the traditional shape. If using a thinner skewer, try to make the kebabs more hollow by pressing the skewer toward your hand while rotating.
Yes! Without any changes, you can replace beef with lamb. Since ground chicken can be more wet, try adding chickpea flour to absorb any excess moisture.
Like Shami Kebab, Seekh Kebabs are perfect for freezing. Shape and freeze on a tray to prevent them from sticking to each other. Then transfer to an airtight bag or container and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw them in the fridge and cook as instructed.
What to Serve With Seekh Kebab
Cilantro & Mint Raita (or Dahi Pudina Chutney) is the most ideal accompaniment for these kebabs. Its cool creaminess contrasts with the intense, meaty flavor of the kebab. Cucumber Raita or crunchy vegetables add some crunch. Naan and rice pair perfectly to complete the meal.
If you get a chance to try this recipe, I’d love to hear from you! Simply leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. Thank you!
Pakistani Seekh Kebab (Ground Beef Skewers)
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 small to medium (~75-85 g) yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 4 small (5 g) green chili peppers such as Thai Chili, sliced
- 1/4 cup (~8 g) cilantro leaves
- 2 tbsp (~2 g) mint leaves
- 1 lb (454 g) ground beef (20% fat – not lean), or sub ground meat of choice
- 2 tsp Kosher salt (I used Diamond Crystal – use less if using Morton's), or 1 1/2 tsp sea salt/table salt
- 1 tbsp (6 garlic cloves) crushed garlic
- 3/4 tbsp crushed ginger
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp papaya paste, optional – for tender kebabs
- neutral oil (for searing), as needed
- Kebab Skewers, chopsticks, straws, or other makeshift skewer
- Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Toast, stirring and shaking the skillet often,for 2-3 minutes. The seeds will deepen in color and become highly aromatic. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, and grind to a powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- Strain and pat out any excess moisture from the ground beef and place into a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. The kebab mixture should be as dry as possible to prevent any breaking.
- Add the onion, cilantro, mint, and green chili peppers to a food processor. Using the pulse function, finely chop (but not blend) them to a coarse mixture (~17 pulses). You may need to pause and scrape down the sides in between. Remove the onion mixture, squeeze out the excess moisture between your hands, and add to the beef.
- Add the salt, garlic, ginger, black pepper, red chili flakes, garam masala, toasted & ground cumin & coriander, and papaya paste (if using). Mix well.
- Using gloved hands (do not use bare hands or the green chili may sting), knead for 3-4 minutes, until you begin to see a lacy, stringy texture (resha) of the meat. (Alternatively, you can use the paddle attachment of a food processor and knead on medium speed for 2 minutes.) The mixture should be homogenous instead of crumbly.
- Cover the bowl and set aside for 30 minutes, or refrigerate up to overnight.
- To test a piece for taste, heat a small pan over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of neutral oil and place a piece of the beef mixture on the pan to cook, turning over as needed. Taste and adjust salt and seasoning if desired.
- Using oiled hands, take around 1/4 cup of themeat and form into a hearty round shape. Run the kebab skewers through the meat and use your hands to form a sausage-like shape around the skewer. It should come to 5-6 inches long. (See FAQ on how to freeze.)
- Heat a large, nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium or medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, place the kebabs on the pan, making sure not to crowd them. Use tongs to turn the kebabs frequently, making sure all sides are browned evenly. Cook for 6-7 minutes in total. If you have a meat thermometer, it should read at least 160 °F. Transfer the kebabs to a large plate lined with a paper towel.
- Place the kebabs in a single layer leaving room on both sides. Cook at 400 °F for 4-5 min. Then turn and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until browned and cooked through.
- Preheat the oven to 430°F/220°C. Place one rack in the middle of the oven, and the other rack at top so that your sheet pan can be as close as possible to the heat source/broiler. Place the kebabs on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Brush with oil or butter, if desired. Bake in the middle rack for 8-10 minutes, turning them over midway. Transfer the pan to the top rack.
- Turn your broiler on High (550°F/287°C). Broil for 2 minutes. Then turn and broil for another 1-2 minutes. (See Note)
- Serve immediately with cilantro mint raita/chutney, crunchy vegetables, and lemon wedges.