5 ratings

Kheema ("Indian Chili") Recipe



Nearly everyone I've made this dish for describes it as “Indian chili,” and true to its comfort food comparison, it’s the very first home-cooked dinner my brother and I would request every time we came home from boarding school.

The spices in the garam masala blend range from the basics (cumin, coriander, peppercorns) to the exotic and unusual (saffron, fennel pollen, asafetida). For the sake of home-cookery, however, I’ve included my own simple garam masala you can make in a coffee grinder. Just be sure to wash it thoroughly before and after. 

Click here for Recipe SWAT Team: Chili. 


For the garam masala:

  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (removed from pod)
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves

For the kheema:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • One 1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground lamb
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala (see above)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 large potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt, to taste
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed and drained
  • 2 cups cooked basmati rice
  • Mint leaves, chopped, for garnish
  • Lime wedges, for garnish
  • Plain yogurt, for garnish


For the garam masala:

Toast spices together in a small, dry pan over high heat for about a minute to release the oils, shaking frequently to prevent burning. Transfer to a small bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes. 

Blend all spices together in a freshly cleaned coffee grinder for 30 seconds, or until you have a fine, powdery consistency. Continue blending to get any small chunks of clove or cinnamon out, as the woody texture of whole spices will not cook down.

For the kheema:

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, then add onions, garlic, ginger and chile and sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Add the lamb and garam masala, stir well to mix in the spices and cook for 3-5 minutes until crumbly and browned most of the way through. Add tomatoes and potatoes and simmer partially covered for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Reduce heat to low, taste for salt, stir in peas to warm through and serve over basmati rice, garnished with chopped mint leaves, a lime wedge and a dollop of plain, whole-milk yogurt.