This Instant Pot Pakistani Beef Curry, or stew, is an easy Pakistani beef recipe in which boneless beef stew meat is cooked alongside onions and whole spices. Also called Isto or Ishtu, this is a deeply flavorful and healthy Instant Pot beef recipe. The best part? It’s a dump-and-go recipe with only 10 minutes of prep work before it starts cooking!
What Is Pakistani Beef Stew?
For the life of me, I could not figure out what to call this recipe. It’s not anything I grew up with, or had ever heard of, until I had the mind-blowing experience of tasting it. My cousin’s mom-in-law, who introduced us to it, calls it Isto, which I believe is ‘stew’ lost in transliteration.
Still, I found the name ‘stew’ unsettling. The meat is not wading in gravy like it would in a stew. I see no vegetables. Sleepless nights, I tell you.
Beef Korma, Bhunna Gosht (Sautéed meat), Beef Masala…It has elements of all these dishes, but it’s not any of them.
Luckily, my Instagram community came to the rescue and told me, yes, indeed, Ishtu (pronounced “Ishtew”) is a recipe in which beef is cooked in lots of onion and whole spices (or khara masala). It’s more like a curry, but I’ll pay homage to the history of South Asian cuisine and also refer to it as a stew.
Ingredients for Pakistani Beef Curry
While this recipe calls for several whole spices, they’re actually the most commonly used spices in Indian and Pakistani cooking and most are readily available at major grocery stores.
Other than the whole spices, this recipe requires simple ingredients like onions, yogurt, garlic and ginger. Almonds are a must to enhance the texture and give it a luxurious, Mughal-inspired finish.
How To Make Pakistani Beef Curry In The Instant Pot
This is the easiest of my Instant Pot recipes. Here’s how to make it:
- Marinate the beef in vinegar & water, then prep and add all of the ingredients listed under Instant Pot (order doesn’t matter). Drain the beef and mix it in.
- Secure the lid, seal, and set the timer to 45 minutes – High or select the Meat/Stew setting. Allow to naturally release for 10-15 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure.
- Meanwhile, prepare the almonds by microwaving them in water, then peeling.
- Sauté until most of the water has evaporated. This part takes a bit of patience but it’s very much worth it. Toward the end, add the crushed ginger and peeled almonds. And you’re done!
What Cut of Beef to Use for Stew
I use pre-cut beef stew meat, the same as the meat for nihari or haleem. Stew meat is essentially boneless beef that comes from the front shoulder (chuck) or rear muscle (round). If the type of stew meat is specified, I look for shoulder, as I’ve found it to be more tender.
For this recipe, you want the stew pieces to be 1-2 inches. If they’re longer, you may need to cut them in half.
How Long Does It Take to Make Pakistani Beef Curry (or Stew) in the Instant Pot?
My Instant Pot sets a timer of 45 minutes on high pressure when I select the Meat/Stew setting. I like to allow it to naturally release for 10-15 minutes to allow the water to stop boiling and the meat to get even more tender.
The longest part of this recipe is sautéing at the end. Apart from that, there’s very little work to be done. An hour and 30 minutes is around the time it’ll take (mostly hands off) to make this. To speed things up, you can also sauté out the excess water over the stovetop.
Tea For Turmeric Tips to make Pakistani Beef Curry in the Instant Pot:
- If you want the onions to be more prominent, thinly slice them. I finely chop them.
- Feel free to adjust the quantities to your taste. The basic rule is:
- more yogurt + onion = more sauté time but also more masala in the end product
- less yogurt + onion = less sauté time but also less masala in the end product
- Because we’re pressure cooking on high, the yogurt will curdle. That’ll resolve itself as you sauté it down.
How to make this Beef Curry on the Stovetop
Though I haven’t tried it myself, this recipe can easily be made over the stovetop. Just add all the ingredients for Instant Pot along with enough water to cover the meat. Then bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to a simmer for 2 1/2 -3 hours or until tender. Sauté out any extra moisture and add the finishing ingredients.
Pakistani Beef Curry Serving Suggestions
More Instant Pot Recipes
Easy Instant Pot Keema (Ground Beef Curry)
Instant Pot Pakistani Chicken Curry
Instant Pot Chicken Pulao (Instant Pot and Stovetop)
Easy Shaami Kebob (Instant Pot and Stovetop)
Instant Pot Nihari (See Slow Cooker version here)
Easy Instant Pot Pakistani Beef Curry (Stew)
- Instant Pot
- 1 lb beef stew meat cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes
- 2 tbsp vinegar
To Pressure Cook:
- 1 large or 2 small onions (~220 g) chopped or sliced
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- 6 garlic cloves (leave whole)
- 8-10 dried button red chili peppers if using regular dried chilies, use less
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp whole cloves
- 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1- inch cinnamon stick
- 2 whole green cardamom pods
- 1-2 whole black cardamom pods
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 – 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt*
After Pressure Cooking:
- 2 tbsp ~15-16 whole raw almonds
- 1- inch ginger crushed
- 1 tbsp cilantro for garnish
- To marinate: In a medium bowl, combine the beef and vinegar and add enough water to cover the meat. Set aside and allow the beef to tenderize.
- Meanwhile, add all ingredients listed under ‘To Pressure Cook’ to the Instant Pot. Drain the beef, then rinse and add to the Instant Pot. Stir to mix. (No need to add water to the Instant Pot.)
- Close and seal the lid, then select the Meat/Stew Pressure Cook setting, with a timer set for 45 minutes on High Pressure. When the timer is up, allow pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the almonds: Place the almonds in a small microwave-safe bowl and add enough water to submerge. Microwave the almonds for 1 minute, then drain the water and rinse in cold water. Peel the skin off the almond and discard.
- Remove lid and Select High Sauté setting. Sauté until most of the moisture has dried up and the curry starts to thicken (~15 minutes). Gradually increase stirring as time goes on to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
- Add the crushed ginger and peeled almonds and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the oil starts to separate from the curry. Taste and adjust salt. Cancel Sauté setting. Garnish with cilantro and serve with naan, roti, or other bread. Discard whole spices as you eat.