nihari recipe

Introduction to Nihari Recipe

Nihari, a stew that has captivated palates for centuries, stands as a testament to the art of patience in cooking. This slow-cooked marvel, often simmering from dusk till dawn, marries tender meat with a bold array of spices. Originating from the Arabic word ‘Nahar,’ meaning ‘day,’ Nihari traditionally graces the breakfast tables as a hearty start. Its preparation is a ritual, a meticulous layering of flavors that beckons a devoted following. The nihari recipe isn’t just a set of instructions; it’s a heritage, each ingredient narrating its own story, contributing to the dish’s soulful allure.

Discover the secrets of the traditional Nihari recipe, a slow-cooked stew that's a feast for the senses. Perfect for culinary explorers.

The Aromatic Journey of Nihari: A Traditional Delight

The making of Nihari marks the beginning of a fragrant voyage. It starts with onions, ginger, and garlic, which you sauté until they reach a golden hue, paving the way for the spices’ grand entrance. Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise come next, weaving their scented notes through the stew. Meanwhile, ground spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric join in, adding complexity and warmth. You then introduce the meat, allowing it to bask in and absorb the rich tapestry of flavors over several hours. As the stew cooks, the spices meld, the meat tenderizes, and the aroma fills the kitchen, promising a dish that is not merely consumed but savored. Nihari, with every spoonful, offers more than sustenance; it provides a connection to tradition, a comforting embrace of spice and history that lingers long after the meal concludes.

History of Nihari

The history of Nihari is as rich and layered as the dish itself. It’s a story that begins in the royal kitchens of the Mughal Empire, where the dish was first concocted as a breakfast item for the Nawabs. The stew, known for its hearty and warming qualities, quickly became a staple, symbolizing not just sustenance but also the opulence of the times. As the recipe traversed through the Indian subcontinent, it evolved, absorbing local flavors and preferences, turning into a culinary mosaic that reflects the diversity of the regions it touched. Understanding Nihari’s origins not only adds depth to its enjoyment but also honors the cultural tapestry from which it emerged.

Tracing the Roots: The Origin of Nihari

The quest to trace Nihari’s roots takes us back to the regal dawn of the Mughal era. Historians often debate its precise birthplace, some citing the royal kitchens of Delhi, while others point to the culinary artisans of Lucknow. What remains undisputed, however, is Nihari’s royal lineage. Initially, it served as a nourishing start to the day for the Islamic nobility, who favored its slow-cooked richness and the energy it provided for the day ahead. The dish’s name, derived from ‘Nihar,’ the Arabic word for ‘morning,’ further cements its status as a breakfast for champions of yore. As the Mughal Empire expanded, so did the fame of Nihari, with each region adding its own signature to the recipe, thus weaving a rich narrative of culinary evolution that continues to this day.

Nihari Recipe


  • Whole Spices: 1/2 piece of a small star anise, 1-2 small bay leaves, 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • Ground Spices: 2-3 whole cloves, 2-3 green cardamom pods, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp paprika powder, 1/2 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/4-1/2 tsp red chili powder or cayenne, 1/4 tsp crushed red chili flakes, 1/4 tsp black pepper powder, 1/8 tsp garlic powder (optional), pinch nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp Homemade Nihari Masala (recipe in post), or sub 1/2 tbsp store-bought
  • Nihari: 1/3 cup canola or other neutral oil, 1 tbsp ghee or butter, 1 large onion, thinly sliced, 5-6 garlic cloves, crushed, 3/4 inch piece ginger, crushed, 1 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 cup durum atta flour, 9 cups water for stovetop, 3 1/2 cups for slow cooker, 1 lb boneless beef shank meat, 2-inch cubed
  • Garnishings: 1 tsp garam masala, crispy fried onions, 1-inch piece ginger, julienned, 1 lemon, cut into wedges, 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped, 1-2 green chili peppers, chopped


  1. Heat oil and ghee in a Dutch oven or pot. Add whole spices and onion, sauté until golden.
  2. Add garlic and ginger, sauté for 30 seconds. Add beef and sauté until it changes color.
  3. Lower heat, add powdered spices and salt, sauté for 20 seconds. Pour in water, stir, and bring to a boil. Then simmer for 6 hours for beef shank meat.
  4. Remove whole spices, cool a cup of Nihari liquid, and whisk into atta to form a slurry. Stir back into the pot to thicken.
  5. Serve hot with garnishings and naan or sheermal.

-Prep Time:- 30 minutes | Cooking Time:- 7 hours | Total Time:- 7 hours 30 minutes | Kcal:- 437 | Servings:- Multiple

Essential Ingredients for Authentic Nihari Flavor

Creating Nihari is a flavorful journey. The meat, often beef shank or lamb, is central for its tenderness and spice absorption. The spice mix, crucial for its identity, typically blends garam masala, cumin, coriander, and the signature Nihari masala. This special mix may include fennel seeds, nutmeg, mace, and dried ginger. Flour or wheat thickens the stew, creating Nihari’s signature velvety texture. Fresh ginger, garlic, and green chilies add zest, while garnishes like coriander, ginger slices, and lemon wedges offer brightness. Each ingredient contributes to Nihari’s rich, comforting, and exotic taste.

Preparation of Nihari

The preparation of Nihari is a culinary ritual that unfolds over hours, a testament to the art of slow cooking. It’s a process that demands patience and precision, inviting chefs and home cooks alike to engage in an age-old practice that culminates in a dish of extraordinary depth and flavor. The methodical layering of spices, the careful tending to the simmering pot, and the gradual melding of flavors are all part of the meditative experience of cooking traditional Nihari. This step-by-step guide is designed to lead you through the journey, ensuring that each stage of the cooking process is approached with respect for the tradition it upholds.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cooking Traditional Nihari

To begin cooking traditional Nihari, one must first gather the essential spices and prepare the meat. The process starts the night before, marinating the meat with ginger-garlic paste and a portion of the Nihari spice blend, allowing these flavors to penetrate deeply. On the day of cooking, you’ll heat a generous amount of ghee or oil in a large pot, adding the marinated meat to sear and lock in the flavors. Once browned, you’ll pour in enough water to cover the meat and bring it to a boil, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface.

Next, you’ll add the remaining Nihari spices, stirring them into the broth, and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. This is where the magic happens, as the meat cooks slowly, becoming remarkably tender over the course of 6-8 hours. During the last hour, you’ll incorporate a mixture of flour and water to thicken the stew, adjusting the seasoning with salt and additional spices to taste.

As the Nihari nears completion, you’ll prepare the final garnishes—freshly chopped coriander, ginger strips, and green chilies—setting them aside to adorn each serving with a burst of fresh flavor. The Nihari is traditionally left to rest, allowing the flavors to mature and intensify, before it’s served steaming hot, often with a side of freshly baked naan or steamed rice. This step-by-step guide not only instructs on the technicalities of cooking Nihari but also invites you to partake in a culinary tradition that has been savored for generations

Mastering the Art of Nihari: Tips from the Experts

When it comes to Nihari, every detail counts, and expert chefs have a trove of advice to ensure perfection. One key tip is to use the best quality meat you can find, as the slow cooking process will highlight the meat’s flavor and texture. Experts recommend using meat with bones, as the marrow adds richness to the broth. Another tip is to be generous with the ghee or oil; it carries the flavors of the spices and creates a silky, luxurious gravy.

Discover the secrets of the traditional Nihari recipe, a slow-cooked stew that's a feast for the senses. Perfect for culinary explorers.

Patience is crucial when cooking Nihari. It’s a dish that cannot be rushed. The slow simmering is what allows the meat to become tender and the spices to infuse their full flavor into the stew. Chefs advise against cutting corners with cooking time—Nihari cooked for an adequate period will always surpass a hurried one.

Balancing spices is another critical aspect. While the Nihari masala is the star, it’s important not to overpower the dish with too much heat or any one spice. The goal is a harmonious blend where no single flavor dominates. Lastly, experts suggest letting the Nihari sit for a few hours after cooking, as resting allows the flavors to deepen and meld together even further. Serve it the next day, and you’ll notice an even more remarkable taste, as time works its magic on this traditional stew.

Serving Suggestions

Serving Nihari is an art that extends beyond the stew itself to the array of accompaniments that complete the meal. The right side dishes can enhance the flavors of Nihari, adding texture, freshness, and contrast to the rich and hearty main course. A well-rounded Nihari meal pays homage to the balance of flavors, ensuring that each element on the plate has a purpose, whether it’s to cut through the richness, add a crunchy contrast, or provide a cooling counterpoint. This guide to perfect side dishes aims to help you curate a dining experience that elevates your Nihari to a feast for the senses.

Complementing Your Nihari: Perfect Side Dishes

When it comes to serving Nihari, the perfect side dishes are those that complement the deep, spiced flavors of the stew. Freshly baked naan or tandoori roti is almost non-negotiable, providing a soft and warm vessel to scoop up the meat and gravy. For a touch of freshness, a side of thinly sliced red onions, lemon wedges, and green chilies offers a crisp, tangy contrast that cuts through the richness of the dish.

A cooling raita, made with yogurt, cucumber, and mint, can be a soothing accompaniment, balancing the heat and spices of the Nihari. Additionally, a simple salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots dressed in a light vinaigrette can cleanse the palate between bites. For those looking for an extra kick, a spicy shorba (broth) can be served alongside, deepening the flavor profile and adding a layer of heat.

To round off the meal, a sweet element such as kheer (rice pudding) or gulab jamun can provide a delightful contrast to the savory main course. These side dishes not only complement the Nihari but also turn the act of eating into a more dynamic and engaging experience, allowing guests to mix and match flavors to their liking.

Nutritional Information

Nihari, with its rich tapestry of spices and tender meat, is not just a feast for the taste buds but also a dish with a complex nutritional profile. It’s a hearty stew that has sustained people through the centuries, not only as a source of warmth and comfort but also as a means of nourishment. Understanding the nutritional content of Nihari is crucial for those who wish to enjoy this traditional dish while maintaining a balanced diet. This health overview provides insight into the benefits and considerations of incorporating Nihari into your culinary repertoire, ensuring that you can savor every spoonful with awareness and appreciation

Nihari’s Nutritional Profile: A Health Overview

Nihari, when broken down into its nutritional components, presents a rich source of protein, primarily from the slow-cooked meat which is the star of the dish. This protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, making Nihari a filling option that can help sustain energy levels throughout the day. The bone marrow, often used in traditional recipes, contributes not only to the flavor but also offers collagen, which is beneficial for joint health and skin vitality.

However, it’s important to note that Nihari can be high in fat, particularly saturated fat, depending on the cut of meat used and the amount of ghee or oil in the recipe. While these fats contribute to the mouthfeel and taste of the dish, moderation is key for those monitoring their fat intake for health reasons. The spices in Nihari, such as turmeric and cumin, add more than just flavor; they contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, contributing to overall wellness.

In terms of calories, a serving of Nihari can be quite energy-dense, so portion control is advisable for those watching their calorie consumption. Additionally, the dish can be high in sodium, especially if prepared with commercial spice mixes or additional salt. To make a healthier version of Nihari, one could opt for leaner cuts of meat, use less oil, and control the salt content by preparing spice blends at home. By making these adjustments, Nihari can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, providing the body with a variety of nutrients while still indulging in its rich, comforting flavors.


  • What is Nihari made of?
    Nihari is composed of slow-cooked meat, usually beef or lamb shanks, simmered in a spiced broth with a special Nihari spice blend, and often thickened with flour or ground wheat.
  • Which is the best meat for Nihari?
    Beef shank is considered the best meat for Nihari due to its rich flavor and tenderness upon slow cooking. Lamb and goat are also excellent choices.
  • What is the difference between Paya and Nihari?
    Paya is made from the trotters of a cow, goat, or lamb and has a gelatinous gravy, while Nihari uses meaty cuts and features a spicier and more robust gravy.
  • What countries eat Nihari?
    Nihari is traditionally eaten in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and has also become popular in other countries with South Asian diaspora communities.


In conclusion, Nihari is not just a dish but a celebration of South Asian heritage and culinary art. Its slow-cooked richness is a tribute to the patience required in traditional cooking, offering a taste that transcends the ordinary. Through the exploration of its complex preparation and ingredients, we gain insight into its profound cultural roots. For a deeper understanding of Nihari’s history and regional variations, a visit to Wikipedia can extend your knowledge. Whether you’re cooking or tasting, Nihari promises an enriching experience.

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