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
I sometimes 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 Kofta Curry
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.
More Beef Recipes:
Aloo Keema (Ground Beef & Potato Curry)
Slow Cooker Nihari (Beef Stew) (I also have an Instant Pot version)
Slow Cooker Haleem (Beef & Lentil Stew)
Instant Pot Shami Kabob
Seekh Kabob (Ground Beef Skewers)
Saucy Mongolian Beef
Keema Matar (Ground Beef & Peas 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 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
- 2 tbsp chickpea flour also called gram flour or besan
- 1 egg lightly whisked
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp each cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, black pepper powder, red chili powder, and 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 stem removed and roughly chopped
- ¼ 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.