Shami kebab are tender patties made with beef and chana dal (yellow split peas), and then dipped in eggs and pan-fried. These kebabs are kid-friendly, naturally gluten-free, and so wholesome! This easy recipe makes a large batch to enjoy some now, and freeze the rest for later!

A white plate with Shami Kebab alongside a bowl of raita, lemon wedge and garnished with mint leaves.

“This recipe turned out so yummy the first time that I have kids requesting it again and again!”

Kinjal

Shami Kebab

If you’re Pakistani, it’s likely your mom/relative/aunty has a shami kebab freezer stash waiting for the next unexpected guest, hungry child, or lazy evening to strike.

It’s a somewhat prevalent practice, and with good reason. It means when life gets busy, there will be shami kebabs within arm’s reach. Silky, wholesome, deeply flavorful kebabs ready to be thawed, pan-fried and served to a someone who’ll likely be grateful for them.

Shami kebab are not only freezer friendly – as in no detectable change in texture, quality, or taste – they’re also incredibly versatile. Have them with your afternoon chai, as a side to make any dinner menu more abundant, or, my favorite, in a shami kebab sandwich drizzled with ketchup or hot and sour sauce.

shami kebab in hand

How to make Shami Kebab

Shami Kebab are one of those kitchen endeavors that look a lot more intimidating than they actually are. Here’s a walk-through:

Step 1: Grind the whole spices to make a shami kabab masala. If you don’t have a spice/coffee grinder, you may also use a mortar and pestle, though this will be more tedious.
Step 2: Add the beef, lentils, onion, and spices to the Instant Pot or stovetop along with water. Cook. Sauté out extra moisture.
Step 3: Pulse to chop up an onion, a green chili pepper, and herbs in a food processor. Remove those and add the beef and lentil mixture. Process until smooth.
Step 4: Crack in an egg, mix everything and form into patties. Pan-fry.
Step 5: Awe at how simple it was to actually make these treasures all along.

shami kebab with raita

The History Behind Shami Kabab

Shami kebabs were actually brought to South Asia by the Syrians. In Urdu, the word “Sham” refers to ‘Syria’. Eventually, they were picked up and popularized in Mughlai cuisine.

To learn more about the origins and culture of Shami Kebab, check out this beautifully written piece by my friend Maryam, founder of the Saveur-award winning blog Pakistan Eats.

shami kebab on fork

Shami Kebab Q&A

Can these be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated before pan-frying?

Yes! You can keep the mixture (either shaped or as-is) covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Can shami kabab be baked?

Yes, I was surprised that they bake pretty well! Line baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease the top. Dip the kebab in the egg mixture as you normally would, and then bake them at 450°F for 12-15 minutes, turning midway.

Can shami be air-fried?

Yes. Preheat the air-fryer to 400°F. Spray the bottom of the air fryer with cooking spray. Place the egg-washed kababs on the greased tray and air fry at 400°F for 6-7 minutes on each side.

How do you freeze shami kabab?

As you shape the kebabs, place them on a tray and freeze 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Then carefully remove from the tray and transfer them to an airtight container or zipper storage bag.

How do you thaw them after freezing?

I simply leave them out at room temperature. If I’m in a hurry (which is often), I’ll microwave them for some seconds before I pan-fry. If you’re afraid they’ll break, you can also skip thawing and pan-fry straight from frozen. Coat in egg and cook for an extra 1-2 minutes per side.

Can you use other meat besides ground beef?

Yes! I have tried using chicken tenders and loved the results. If you’re using a meat with less fat (like chicken breast), you may need to mix in an extra egg to help bind the mixture. See below on using beef chunks instead of ground.

Stacking Shami Kebab with a bowl of raita in the background.

Using Beef Stew Meat vs Ground Meat

Shami Kabab purists will, rightly so, insist that beef chunks should be used instead of ground beef. This lends them the traditional, silky texture with ‘resha’, as is often said in Urdu. I grew up with the ground beef version and that’s what I typically use. I hope to try it with beef ‘boti’ sometime and I’ll update you when I do.

The main difference will be an increase in cooking time (typically 45 min in the Instant Pot) and water quantity. You may also have to run the beef stew pieces in the food processor first, similar to haleem.

Update: I tried this recipe with beef stew meat (beef boti). While they were easier to dry, with this ratio, I found them to be a bit ‘meatier’ in taste for my liking. If you’d like to use it, it’s a 100% doable with this recipe. I plan to try again and give updated instructions & possibly a tweaked beef boti/chana dal ratio if using beef stew pieces.

More Tips and Notes

  1. The key to good shami kebab is to get the mixture dry enough so that the kabobs don’t have excess water and can retain their shape. If you feel the mixture is too wet, try sautéing longer, or, as a last resort, adding breadcrumbs, though I don’t think you’ll need them.
  2. This recipe requires the chana dal (yellow split peas) to be soaked for at least 1 hour. Soaking longer (up to overnight) is even better, but I’ve found that however long you soak, a few bits of lentils are bound to remain in tact.
shami kebab on a plate

How to Serve

When it comes to serving, Shami Kabab are incredibly versatile. Here are a few ideas:

  • Serve alone with hot and sour sauce, ketchup, or chutney of choice. (Preferably along with chai!)
  • Use as a patty for burgers (aka ‘bun kebab’) or sandwiches.
  • Serve as side along with pulao or naan along with chutney or raita.

More Sides & Snacks

Easy Aloo ki Tikki
Pan-Fried Pakora with Green Chutney
Baked Pakistani Seekh Kabab

A white plate with Shami Kebab alongside a bowl of raita, lemon wedge and garnished with mint leaves.
4.93 (27 ratings)

Easy Shami Kebab (Instant Pot and Stovetop)

Shami kebabs are tender patties made with beef and (yellow split peas) along with onion, herbs and spices. This recipe includes Instant Pot and stovetop instructions! Naturally gluten-free!

Ingredients 

Whole Spices

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 inch piece cinnamon stick, broken into a couple pieces
  • 1 small black cardamom
  • 2 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and pod discarded
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp toasted or regular cumin seeds

To Cook

  • 1.5 lb (680 g) ground beef, (preferably full-fat)
  • 1 cup (195 g) chana dal (yellow split peas), washed and soaked for at least 1 hour (up to overnight), then drained
  • 3/4 cup water for Instant Pot or 4 1/2 cups water for stovetop
  • 1 (~210-270 g) medium to large onion, roughly chopped
  • 8-10 garlic cloves, leave whole – will be crushed later
  • 1 1/2 inch (1 1/2 tbsp ) piece ginger, minced or crushed
  • 1 medium bay leaf
  • 1/2-1 Tbsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt , I used Morton's, will need more for Diamond Crystal
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala, optional

To Chop

  • 1 (~80 g) small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 thai or Serrano green chili pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2-1/3 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves

For mixing

  • 1 egg, whisked

For pan-frying or baking

Instructions 

  • Add all of the ingredients listed under ‘Whole Spices’ to a spice grinder and grind until a powder is formed. You may also crush them in a mortar and pestle, though this will be more tedious. This will come to around 2 ½ tbsp ground spices. Set aside.

Instant Pot Instructions

  • In the Instant Pot, add all of the ingredients listed under ‘To Cook’ as well as the freshly ground spices. Mix very well to combine. (No need to add water even though it looks dry.)
  • Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Select the Pressure Cook setting and set the cook time for 20 minutes at high pressure.
  • Let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, and then move the Pressure Release to Venting to release any remaining steam. Open the pot and select the Sauté – High setting.
  • Sauté, stirring often, for 20 minutes, or until all the moisture has evaporated and the mixture starts sticking to the bottom. (See Note 1) Press Cancel to turn off the Instant pot and allow to cool. If you have the time, refrigerate overnight and they'll be even easier to shape. Remove the bay leaf.

Stovetop Instructions

  • In a medium, lightweight Dutch oven or pot, add all of the ingredients listed under 'To Cook' along with the freshly ground spices and 4 1/2 cups of water. Mix well to combine. Cover to bring to a boil over high heat. Use a slotted spoon to skim off any scum that rises to the surface. 
  • Place the lid ajar and continue to cook on high heat for 50 minutes to 1 hour (depending on thickness of your pot), stirring occasionally, until the chana dal (yellow split peas) is completely cooked. During the last 15-20 minutes, stir frequently to completely evaporate any moisture. The mixture will start sticking to the bottom of the pan. (See Note 1) Turn off the heat and allow to cool. If you have the time, refrigerate overnight and they'll be even easier to shape. Remove the bay leaf.

After Cooking

  • Combine the onion, green chili pepper, cilantro, and mint in the bowl of a food processor. Use the pulse setting to finely chop (but not blend) this mixture. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add the cooled beef and lentil mixture to the food processor. In batches, process this mixture until as smooth as possible (~1 min). Transfer this mixture to the bowl with the chopped onion mixture. Mix well, then taste and add salt, if desired. Add the whisked egg and mix to combine.
  • Using oiled hands, shape ¼ cup heaped of the mixture into a flat, round patty about 2 3/4 inches in diameter. Continue with the rest of the mixture. You will have around 20 patties. If you wish to freeze them, do so at this point. (See Note 2)
  • Place the egg in a shallow bowl so that you can dip the kababs as you cook. Heat a large skillet, frying pan, or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
  • Dip both sides of each patty into the egg wash. Place 3-5 patties in the pan and allow them to cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, using a spatula to turn them over. Be careful not to crowd them too much or it will be harder to turn them. Reduce heat as necessary.
  • Remove from the pan, and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any extra oil. Repeat until you have finished pan-frying all the patties. Cook any leftover egg in the remaining oil and serve with the patties.

Video

Notes

Note 1: The exact time will vary depending on the water content of your beef. The final mixture should be as dry as possible and begin to look more crumbly.
Note 2 – To freeze: As you shape the kebabs, place them on a tray and freeze 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Then carefully remove from the tray and transfer them to an airtight container or zipper storage bag.
Calories: 149kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 41mg, Sodium: 384mg, Potassium: 138mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 119IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 46mg, Iron: 2mg