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Spiced Beef Kebabs

One of my most vivid memories of going to college in Bombay was heading out with my friends late at night to eat kebabs. Once or twice a week, we’d drive to the south side of the city and enjoy a feast of hot, succulent pieces of seasoned beef, chicken, or lamb, served with thin flatbreads and fresh chutney.

Shami kebabs are usually made with ground lamb or beef, dried herbs, and chickpea flour for the binding agent; they don’t require skewers and are cooked in large flat-bottomed woks. This recipe is inspired by the shami kebabs. Serve them with pickled red onions, hot green chutney, or raita.

The Approach

When making kebabs (or even burgers, for that matter), I often prefer dried herbs because they contain very little to no water and are more potent in flavor than their fresh counterparts. Here the coriander enhances the heat of the chile peppers.

Reprinted from Season by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books

Nik Sharma Beef Kebabs

Courtesy of Nik Sharma
 1 lb ground beef (15% fat)
 1 cup finely diced onion
 1 large egg, lightly beaten
 ½ cup chickpea flour
 2 Thai chiles, seeded, if desired, and minced
 2 garlic cloves, minced
 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
 1 tsp cayenne pepper
 1 tsp coriander seeds, coarsely ground
 1 tsp dried mint
 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
 ½ tsp dried sage
 ½ tsp dried dill
 ½ tsp fine sea salt
 ½ cup neutral-tasting vegetable oil
 2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
 Red Onions with Coriander (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, mix the beef, onion, egg, chickpea flour, chiles, garlic, ginger, lime juice, cayenne, coriander, mint, cinnamon, sage, dill, and salt. Divide into fourteen equal parts and shape into 1-in. [2.5 cm] disks.


Heat about 2 tbsp of the oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the kebabs in batches, adding more oil as needed, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Transfer the kebabs to a serving plate, garnish with the cilantro, and serve with the pickled red onions.

Red Onions with Coriander

To Make the Red Onions with Coriander: This is my go-to pickle when I make kebabs, providing contrast in hot, spicy dishes. Put 1 cup thinly sliced red onion and 1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro leaves in a clean canning jar with a tight-fitting lit.


In a small, dry cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet, toast 1 teaspoon coriander seeds over medium-high heat, until fragrant, swirling the seeds occasionally so they toast evenly, 30 to 45 seconds. Toss the seeds into the jar with the onions. Add 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Seal the jar and shake a few times. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.