Pakistani Beef Kofta Curry (Meatball Curry)
Beef Kofta Curry, or simply kofte, is a classic Pakistani curry made of tender meatballs simmered in a spicy, flavorful sauce. This recipe has all the traditional flavor of old-fashioned kofte but it’s made in an easier, more approachable way.
Pakistani Food vs Indian Food
Sometimes I get asked about the difference between Pakistani & Indian food.
Truth is, cuisine is not national; a man-made border won’t suddenly make you eat differently than your neighbor. There is plenty of overlap.
That said, there are distinct differences by region.
The majority of the food I grew up eating – the kebabs, pulaos, biryanis, and kormas – is Moghul-inspired and more popular in Pakistan and North India. This cuisine also happens to be more mainstream here in the West.
There is much more to the subject, but it’s safe to say that beef – because of cultural and religious reasons – is more commonly eaten in Pakistan. And that’s why I often refer to many of my beef recipes as ‘Pakistani’.
How to make Pakistani Beef Kofta Curry
To make kofta curry, you prepare the meatballs and then set them aside while preparing the curry. Bring the curry to a boil, then lower the heat and add the meatballs. Cover, stirring once in between to ensure even cooking, and allow to simmer until the meatballs are cooked through.
Koftas are traditionally deep-fried before simmering in the curry. In the interest of health and ease, I’ve omitted that step, relying instead on herbs and spices to give it vibrant flavor.
Speaking of spices, this recipe uses a fair amount of them. 50% of the ingredients are either whole or ground spices (yes, I calculated). But the spices are what give this dish so much flavor, not to mention differentiate this meatball curry from the rest of the world’s meatball dishes.
A few tips on making this kofta curry:
- I suggest you use full-fat ground beef instead of lean. The extra fat helps them bind.
- If you rinse your ground beef, or if you feel that your beef is watery, you’ll need to squeeze the excess water out and allow to strain in a colander before using.
- After forming the meatballs, you may cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight or even freeze them if you’d like to finish making the curry later.
- I’ve used beef, but you can easily substitute with ground chicken or lamb. If you feel it’s not holding up as well, try adding more chickpea flour or even breadcrumbs.
- Often, kofta curry is topped with boiled eggs, giving it a layer of hearty flavor. I like to boil them separately so that the curry isn’t infused with the scent of the eggs. Potatoes are another wonderful addition.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of water before reheating on the stove or microwave as the curry thickens after cooling.
FAQs for Pakistani Beef Kofta Curry:
Exactly as written, the recipe delivers tender, moist koftas. However, over mixing, over cooking, or overhandling can result in tough koftas
To double the recipe, simply double the ingredients for the kofta and the curry. If you’re concerned the whole spices might be overpowering, start off with 1.5 times the original amount, then add more to taste.
Add the cubed potatoes toward the last 20-25 minutes (depending on how large they are cut) along with a bit of extra water. Cover and allow to simmer along with the koftas.
More Beef Recipes:
Easiest Instant Pot Beef Curry (Stew/Isto)
Slow Cooker Nihari (Beef Stew) (I also have an Instant Pot version)
Easy Pakistani Haleem (Beef & Lentil Stew) (Instant Pot)
Shami Kabob (Instant Pot and Stovetop)
Seekh Kabob (Ground Beef Skewers)
Keema Matar (Ground Beef & Peas Curry) or Aloo Keema (Ground Beef & Potato Curry)
If you try this recipe, please let me know in the comments below and/or tag me on Instagram so I can see your creations! I love hearing from you!
Pakistani Beef Kofta Curry (Meatball Curry)
For the meatballs
- 1 small onion (120 grams after peeling), roughly chopped
- 1 green chili pepper (such as Serrano or Thai chili), stem removed and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup packed cilantro leaves
- 1 tbsp mint leaves, optional
- 1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
- 1 tsp crushed ginger
- 1 lb ground beef, (preferably full fat)
- 2 tbsp chickpea flour, also called gram flour or besan
- 1 egg, lightly whisked
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp kosher salt
For the curry
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 medium (or 3 small) tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 green chili pepper (such as Serrano or Thai), stem removed and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup neutral oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 green cardamom pods
- 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 inch piece ginger, crushed
- 3 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½-1 tsp red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp paprika powder (regular or smoked), (optional)
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups water
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 1-2 tbsp cilantro leaves
- Combine the onion, green chili pepper, cilantro leaves, and mint leaves (if using) in a food processor. Use the pulse function to chop so that the onions are finely chopped but not blended. You don’t want the onions to break down too much and release water. Then add the rest of the ingredients listed under meatballs (including the meat) and process to combine for about 30 seconds or just until mixed.
- Using a bit of oil to grease your hands, form into meatballs about 1 ½ inch in diameter. It should make around 25 meatballs. Set aside.
- Rinse your food processor. Then use the pulse function again to chop the onion. Remove and set aside. Then chop the tomatoes and green chili pepper. Set aside.
- Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over high heat. Add the oil and whole spices, and allow them to sizzle for a few seconds. Then add the chopped onion and sauté, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes, or until golden. Lower the heat to medium-high. Add the garlic and ginger & sauté another 2 minutes, until the onions have deepened even more in color. Add the tomatoes and green chili pepper mixture, followed by the yogurt, spices and salt. Sauté for 4-5 minutes or until the oil starts to separate from the mixture.
- Add 2 cups water and raise the heat to bring to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, lower the heat to the lowest setting. Once it has stopped boiling, arrange the kofte in a single layer.
- Raise the heat to medium, cover and allow it to cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and gently stir the kofte. Lower the heat to low-medium. Cover and allow it to simmer for another 35 minutes, stirring once in between, until cooked through.
- Sauté to evaporate water to make the kofte to desired consistency. Taste and add salt, if needed. Sprinkle in garam masala and cilantro. Serve hot, with hard-boiled eggs, if desired.