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Nihari

Enjoy slow-simmered Pakistani beef nihari for a hearty and filling meal you can scoop up with fresh naan. The succulent beef shanks are spices with a homemade nihari masala, and like soothing beef paya soup, the Pakistani beef stew is a cozy meal, perfect for the cooler winter months. And once you’ve made this recipe, try mutton nihari next.

Beef nihari on a plate.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • The authentic beef nihari recipe is my go-to for serving guests and special occasions like Eid.
  • Prepare the easy one-pot meal on the stovetop or Instant Pot.
  • It’s a straightforward homestyle recipe, so there is no need for extra steps. 
  • This simple version of the classic dish doesn’t skip on flavor – it’s delicious and one of my favorite meals!

What is Nihari?

Nihari, the national dish of Pakistan, is a perfect comfort dish for any dawat or gathering. The festive beef shank stew consists of tender beef tempered with sautéed garlic, ginger, and freshly ground whole spices. The word ‘nihari’ comes from the Arabic word ‘nahaar,’ which means early morning – referring to the time of day the meal is served most often in homes. 

A Brief History of Nihari

Nihari originated in India during the Mughal era. The meal was traditionally prepared by slow-cooking the beef shank overnight with warm spices so the dish would be ready to serve after morning prayer.

As the Mughal empire spread, recipes for nihari traveled too. It became popular in places like Hyderabad, Lahore, and other parts of present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Today, it remains a hallmark of Mughlai and Pakistani cuisine.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Nihari masala on a plate.
  • Beef: Beef shanks stew or pressure cook until it is fall-off-the-bone tender. Set aside enough cooking time for the collagen and tissues to break down and incorporate with the broth. And what is nihari without marrow bones? The shank portion of the beef containing bone marrow adds gelatin and fat to make the stew savory and delicious. Some versions, like paya nihari, use trotters to make the stew.
  • Garnish: Fresh toppings are a must-have part of the meal, whether at home or in a restaurant. Enjoy the flavorful meal with caramelized onions, fresh ginger, chopped green chiles, and lemon or lime wedges.
Toppings for nihari on a plate.

Additions and Substitutions

  • Replace beef shanks with beef or mutton trotters to make paya nihari. Nalli nihari is another favorite, using beef, lamb, or goat shank.
  • Include raw or powdered mango to make aam ki nihari. 

How to Make Beef Nihari

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Warm the ghee in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they caramelize and brown, for about 20-25 minutes. 

Remove half of the onions using a slotted spoon and set them aside. Then, stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.

Onions and garlic cooking in ghee.

Step 2: Stir in the coriander powder, ginger powder, red chili powder, ground cumin, turmeric powder, ground fennel, and salt. 

Nahari masala cooking in pot with onions and garlic.

Step 3: Rinse the beef shank under water. Increase to medium-high heat and nestle the shanks into the pot.

Fry for 5 minutes until the color changes. Then, add 4-6 cups of water (or enough water to cover the beef).

Beef shanks nestled into the pot.

Step 4: Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 4 hours.

Cooked nihari in a pot.
Beef nihari on a plate.

Expert Tips

  • Set aside at least four hours to slow-cook the beef on the stovetop; the lengthy cooking time is essential for the beef shank meat to soften and become tender.
  • Fry the beef shank before braising it with the nihari masala.
  • This recipe is gluten-free out of personal preference, but if you enjoy a thicker authentic nihari, toast 1 cup of atta flour (whole wheat flour or Durum flour) in a skillet. You can also use chickpea flour (besan). Combine the toasted flour mixture with 1 cup of warm water and slowly add it to the pot after the meat finishes cooking to thicken the masala, giving it a signature brown color. Be careful not to add it all at once. Instead, add a little at a time until you get the consistency you prefer. 

If you enjoy this meal, try one of these Pakistani recipes!  

Beef nihari on a plate.

Serving Suggestions

Enjoy the hearty beef stew any time of the day, specifically for breakfast, but let your heart decide. And whatever time of day you choose, bread like naan, sheermal, paratha, or chapati is a popular choice to serve with the stew. Sometimes, our family likes to splurge and eat it with carrot halwa or another tasty dessert for special occasions. 

Plating plays a role in the nihari experience. Arrange the beef shanks in a shallow bowl and spoon the masala around it. Drizzle the oil (tari) over the top and garnish with the reserved onions, fresh ginger, cilantro, and green chilies.

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store the leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze: Let the dish cool and transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. It will freeze for 3-4 months.
  • Thaw: Defrost the beef in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat: Warm the leftovers on the stovetop or microwave, and enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is nalli nihari?

Nalli nihari refers to bones with marrow that stew with the beef or lamb shanks. The bones provide a richness that deeply flavors the broth. After hours of cooking you can suck the marrow out of the bones like my family often does or push it out once it’s cooked and incorporate it into the masala.

What cut of meat do you use for nihari?

Make traditional nihari, a staple in Pakistani cuisine, with bone-in beef shank, mutton, chicken, or lamb. Another prominent feature is the nalli or marrow bones that richly flavor the stew.

What does nihari taste like?

The beef is tender and succulent after slow cooking in a buttery, rich masala. My family’s recipe is mild compared to the popular street food served in restaurants in Karachi and Lahore that my mother-in-law calls tear-inducing. However, the warmly spiced gravy with gentle heat and filling beef creates a satiating comfort meal you’ll love.

What if this dish is too spicy?

Add two tablespoons of butter or yogurt at the end to cut some of the heat. You can also reduce the amount of red chili powder or replace it with Kashmiri chili powder (paprika).

Can I use garam masala?

While many delicious recipes use garam masala, nihari is not one of them. The toasted spice blend will not give you the full-bodied flavor you want. Instead, use the homemade masala in this recipe or purchase a store-bought masala if you don’t feel like collecting all the spices. 

More Homestyle Recipes:

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Beef nihari on a plate.

Easy Authentic Beef Nihari

Tressa Jamil
Enjoy this easy authentic Pakistani nihari recipe made with succulent beef shank and marrow bones spiced with homemade masala.
5 from 14 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 9 Servings
Calories 206 kcal
Ingredients
  
For the Nihari Masala:
For the Nihari:
  • 3 pounds beef shanks, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 4-6 cups water
For the Toppings:
  • 4 – inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 4 green peppers, finely diced
Instructions
 

For the Stovetop:

  • Warm the ghee in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they caramelize and brown, for about 20-25 minutes. Remove half of the onions using a slotted spoon and set them aside. Then, stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
  • Stir in the coriander powder, ginger powder, red chili powder, ground cumin, turmeric powder, ground fennel, and salt. 
  • Rinse the beef shank under water. Increase to medium-high heat and nestle the shanks into the pot. Fry for 5 minutes until the color changes. Then, add 4-6 cups of water (or enough water to cover the beef).
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 4 hours.
  • Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Then, remove the layer of oil, called tari, accumulated at the surface and set it aside for plating.

For the Instant Pot:

  • Warm the ghee in an Instant Pot on saute mode. Add the onions and saute until they caramelize and brown, for about 20-25 minutes. Remove half of the onions using a slotted spoon and set them aside. Then, stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
  • Stir in the coriander powder, ginger powder, red chili powder, ground cumin, turmeric powder, ground fennel, and salt. 
  • Rinse the beef shank under water. Nestle the shanks into the pot and fry for 5 minutes until the color changes. Then, add 4-6 cups of water (or enough water to cover the beef).
  • Bring the pot to a boil on saute mode, then secure the lid and set it to manual high pressure for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Then, remove the layer of oil, called tari, accumulated at the surface and set it aside for plating.
Notes
Expert Tips
  • Set aside at least four hours to slow-cook the beef on the stovetop; the lengthy cooking time is essential for the beef shank meat to soften and become tender.
  • Fry the beef shank before braising it with the nihari masala.
  • This recipe is gluten-free out of personal preference, but if you enjoy a thicker authentic nihari, toast 1 cup of atta flour (whole wheat flour or Durum flour) in a skillet. You can also use chickpea flour (besan). Combine the toasted flour mixture with 1 cup of warm water and slowly add it to the pot after the meat finishes cooking to thicken the masala, giving it a signature brown color. Be careful not to add it all at once. Instead, add a little at a time until you get the consistency you prefer. 
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 206 kcal | Carbohydrates: 6 g | Protein: 10 g | Fat: 16 g | Saturated Fat: 13 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g | Cholesterol: 32 mg | Sodium: 649 mg | Potassium: 116 mg | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin C: 4 mg | Calcium: 73 mg | Iron: 9 mg
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
Recipe Rating




Alessandra

Monday 9th of October 2023

I’m a sucker for homemade masala. This is incredible!

Tressa Jamil

Monday 9th of October 2023

I am so happy you enjoyed it and didn't shy away from making the masala from scratch. Some people see all the spices and get freaked out, but it's so easy to make and flavorful.

Karishma

Monday 9th of October 2023

This looks incredibly comforting and flavorful! I can't wait to make it with my family soon!

Tressa Jamil

Monday 9th of October 2023

You'll have to come back and let me know what you think.

Ethan

Friday 26th of May 2023

Absolutely delicious! The flavors are rich and comforting. A must-try!

Tressa Jamil

Monday 9th of October 2023

I am glad this recipe was a win for you. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and rating!

Sara

Friday 26th of May 2023

Simply divine! A winter favorite.

Tressa Jamil

Monday 9th of October 2023

Yes, we love nihari in the winter. It's definitely one of those filling, stick-to-your-bones kind of meals.

Omar Khan

Wednesday 19th of April 2023

I love this recipe and it is now a regular at our Pakistani home! Even the kids love it. Comes out consistently the same.

Tressa Jamil

Monday 9th of October 2023

Your comment makes me so happy. I love knowing that our family recipe is a meal your family makes regularly; that is the reason I started the blog, to make meals that could bring people together.