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!
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.
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.
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.
Shami Kebab Q&A
Yes! You can keep the mixture (either shaped or as-is) covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 and water quantity. You may also have to run the beef stew pieces in the food processor first, similar to haleem.
More Tips and Notes
- 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, yet still moist so they retain their beautiful texture. 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.
- 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.
More Sides & Snacks
Easy Shami Kabob (Instant Pot and Stovetop)
- 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 cumin seeds or use regular cumin seeds
- 1.5 lb ground beef (680g) (preferably full-fat)
- 1 cup chana dal (yellow split peas) (~200g) washed and soaked for at least 1 hour (up to overnight), then drained
- 1 cup water* for Instant Pot see Notes for stovetop
- 1 medium to large onion (~210g – 270g) roughly chopped
- 8-10 garlic cloves leave whole – will be crushed later
- 1 1/2 inch piece ginger (~1 1/2 tbsp) minced or crushed
- 1 medium bay leaf
- 1/2-1 Tbsp red chili flakes
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp chaat masala optional
- 1 small onion coarsely chopped
- 1 thai or Serrano green chili pepper stems removed and roughly chopped
- 1/2-1/3 cup cilantro leaves
- 2 tbsp mint leaves
- 1 egg whisked
For pan-frying or baking
- neutral oil as needed
- 1-2 eggs whisked
- 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.
- 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 high Sauté setting.
- Sauté, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until all the moisture has evaporated and the mixture starts sticking to the bottom. Turn off the Instant pot and allow the mixture to cool. Remove the bay leaf.
- In a medium 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. Turn the heat off and allow to cool.
- 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 smooth. 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 20-22 patties. If you wish to freeze them, do so at this point.*
- 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.