Nihari Recipe

Updated: May 4, 2024, By Swasthi, Comments, Jump to Recipe

This classic Nihari recipe is so easy to make and so delicious. Tender mutton is cooked in a rich and savory gravy for a one-pot hearty and flavor-packed meal. Served with naan or any rustic bread, it is a comfort food at its best. It is a popular meat stew originated in the city of Lucknow, North India. Traditionally bone-in meat is slow cooked with onions and a special, unique spice blend known as Nihari Masala.


About Nihari

It is believed, the name “Nihari” originated from the Arabic term “Nahar” meaning “morning”. As the name says, it was eaten as a morning meal during the Mughal period. This super delicious spicy slow cooked dish is said to be nourishing and warming, during the cold days. Fast forward to today, we know it – as one of India’s most popular meat dishes. It’s popularity has spread all over the Indian sub-continent and you will find plenty of variations.

In this post I share, the recipe to make the best Nihari along with the special masala. It is loosely adapted from Chef. Ranveer Brar.

About this Recipe

This is one of those rare Indian dishes that requires very little preparation and minimal effort. But it takes time, because we slow-cook the meat on a stovetop. However the cook time is easily customizable to your preference. To cut-down the time, you may cook this on a medium heat instead of low heat, or use a pressure cooker or a instant pot.

But I love slow-cooking this for deeper flavors. This recipe uses a long-list of ingredients and it is from here you get those fabulous flavors. Some of the ingredients may not be easily available outside India, so you may leave them out or use a close substitute if possible.

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Indian Nihari

How to make Nihari (Stepwise Photos)

This recipe uses ½ kg (1.1 lbs.) bone-in mutton (goat or lamb) and it serves 4. You can double or triple the recipe if you want.

Make the Masala

1. Here are the spices and other ingredients required. If you want to keep some of the spices whole, read my pro-tips below.

  • 2 to 3 bay leaves (1 gram) 
  • 1½ tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 black cardamom (1 gram) 
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (3 grams, more if you want) 
  • 6 cloves (or 8 very small)
  • 3 inches Ceylon cinnamon piece (2 grams, use 1 inch piece if using cassia)
  • 8 green cardamom (½ teaspoon, 1 gram)
  • 1 strand mace (use half of whole mace for stronger flavor)
  • ½ teaspoon all-spice (kabab chini)
  • ¾ inch long pepper (pipali)
  • ¾ teaspoon shahi jeera (Indian caraway, 2 grams)
  • ¾ teaspoon fennel seeds (2 grams)
  • ¾ gram stone flower (1 portion) 
  • 1 small star anise (1 gram) 
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1½ tablespoons organic dried rose petals (1½ grams or use 1 tsp rose water at the finishing stage) 
  • ½ inch dried galangal (not pictured, sub with ⅓ tsp ground ginger but different flavor)
  • 5 to 6 vetiver roots/khus (not pictured)
spices to make nihari masala

2. Add all the above spices except rose petals to a heavy bottom pan. If you want you may open up the cardamoms, use both the shell and the seeds. Toast on a low heat for 3 to 5 mins, until aromatic & really crunchy. Transfer to a wide plate to cool down.

roasting spices

3. Add rose petals and toast just until slightly hot. Turn off.

roasting rose petals

4. Add all the ingredients to a grinder jar.

whole spices in a grinder

5. Make a fine powder. Reserve 2 tablespoons aside and add the rose petals to the grinder. Grind this as well. Keep them covered separately. You can make this ahead and store for 3 months in the refrigerator.

ready to use nihari masala

Make the Stew

6. To make the stew, you need the following

  • 1½ teaspoon sea salt (divided, adjust as needed)
  • 1½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (adjust to heat preference, more if you want)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ cup ghee or oil (mustard oil if you want, I use ghee)
  • 2 cups onions sliced thin (250 grams)
  • ¾ tablespoon ginger grated/paste
  • ¾ tablespoon garlic pressed/grate/paste
ingredients to make lamb nihari

7. Pour ghee or oil to a deep pot. (If using mustard oil, let it smoke up first and then reduce the heat.) Add onions and saute until light golden. Add the mutton and saute on medium for 6 to 7 mins.

sautéing onions in ghee

8. Add the meat and saute on medium for 6 to 7 mins.

Sauteing mutton

9. Stir in the ginger garlic and saute for 1 minute until the raw smell goes away.

saute ginger garlic

10. Turn down the heat. Add turmeric, red chili, 1 tsp salt and half of the nihari masala (2 tbsps reserved).

ground spices

11. Stir and cook for a minute.

sauteing mutton

12. Pour 5 to 6 cups hot water (not boiling) and give a good stir. Bring to a gentle boil. Start with less 5 cups and add more as you cook, only if required (1 cup more).

adding hot water

13. Cover and simmer on a low heat, until the meat is tender and fully cooked. The time taken depends on the heat level. It takes about 1 hour 45 mins if you cook on a medium heat. If you cook on a low heat it takes about 2 hours 45 mins. Timing can vary depending on the meat, your cookware and your source of heat. So keep an eye around 1 hour 45 mins.

simmering the stew

14. Meanwhile, get the following ingredients ready:

  • ½ to ¾ cup plain yogurt /curd (optional, may omit but adds flavor)
  • ¼ cup wheat flour
  • Rest of the nihari masala (with rose petals)
  • 1 cup water
prepare the slurry

15, Stir together the flour, nihari masala and yogurt. Pour water little by little in batches and make a lump-free slurry. Avoid pouring all the water at one time, it can make lumps.

prepared wheat flour slurry in a bowl

16. This is how mine was looking after 2 hours, muton was fully tender. (FYI – I used 6 cups water to cook meat and 1 cup to make slurry. Total 7 cups + yogurt.)

simmered mutton with masala

A lot of people remove the meat and keep aside before adding the slurry. If you want you may do that to avoid overcooking (depends on your meat & preference). I prefer to leave it in & it won’t get mushy.

17. Stir in the wheat flour slurry and mix well. Bring it to a boil and cover again. Simmer for 30 minutes.

pouring slurry

18. It is ready when you see traces of fats over the gravy & it turns slightly thick yet of pouring consistency. It will thicken further upon cooling. If you feel it is runny, cook uncovered on a medium flame to evaporate the liquid a little. Taste test and add salt.

simmering mutton with wheat flour slurry

19. Cover and rest for a while. Garnish with ginger juliennes (1 inch), handful of chopped coriander leaves and 2 sliced green chilies. If you want you may heat 1 tablespoon ghee or butter and pour it over the Nihari. I did not use any because it already had a layer of ghee & fats.

garnishing nihari with ginger coriander and chili

This dish is best served hot or at least warm with a squeeze of lemon. Serve with Tandoori Roti, Butter Naan or any breads of choice. This Onion Salad, Kachumber or Cucumber Salad go well on the side.

Nihari Recipe

Pro Tips

  • Some Lucknowi foods like biryani and nihari, are flavored with high amounts of mace. However if you are new to the cuisine you may feel it to be too strong. So start with 1 to 2 strands as mentioned in the recipe. But I use 1 full mace for stronger flavor.
  • We don’t like too many whole spices in this dish so I prefer to grind all of them. If you want you may keep some of them in the whole form and add to the tempering. Spices like bay leaf, black cardamom, half of the green cardamoms and star anise may be kept whole.
  • The spices may look like a lot but since this is cooked for long time, the flavors tone down considerably.
  • I have not used galangal and ground ginger is not a substitute but you may use it if you prefer.
  • The spices make 4.5 tbsps of nihari masala and I have used up fully. If you prefer less spices due to diet restrictions, cut down to 3 tbsps.
  • Be cautious with the use of long pepper, too much can leave an aftertaste and side effects.

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

Nihari Recipe

Nihari Recipe

5 from 8 votes
This slow cooked delicious stew goes by the name Nihari and is a popular dish from Lucknow, a North Indian city. Serve it with naan, tandoori roti, kulcha, sheermal or any artisan breads.
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For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time2 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

To make the Masala

  • 2 to 3 (1 gram) bay leaves
  • tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) black pepper (more if you want)
  • 3 inches (2 grams) Ceylon cinnamon piece (use 1 inch piece if using cassia)
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 (1 gram) black cardamom
  • 8 (1 gram) green cardamom
  • ¾ teaspoon (2 grams) shahi jeera (Indian caraway)
  • ¾ teaspoon (2 grams) fennel seeds
  • 1 (1 gram) small star anise
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 strands mace (use half mace for a stronger flavor)
  • ½ teaspoon all-spice (kabab chini)
  • ¾ inch long pepper (pippali)
  • ¾ gram (1 portion) stone flower (see photos in the post, omit if you don't have)
  • 1½ tablespoons (1½ grams) organic dried rose petals (or use 1 tsp rose water at the garnishing stage)
  • ½ inch dried galangal (optional, sub with ground ginger, but different flavor)
  • 5 to 6 vetiver roots/khus (optional)

To make Nihari

  • ½ kg (1.1 lbs.) bone-in mutton (goat or lamb)
  • ¼ cup ghee or mustard oil (read notes)
  • 2 cups (250 grams) onions sliced thin
  • ¾ tablespoon ginger grated/paste
  • ¾ tablespoon garlic pressed/grate/paste
  • teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (adjust to heat preference, more if you want)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • teaspoon sea salt (divided, adjust as needed)
  • ¼ cup wheat flour /atta
  • 5 to 6 cups hot water (adjust according to your meat, + 1 cup cold water)
  • ½ to ¾ cup yogurt /curd

To Garnish

  • 1 inch ginger julienned
  • ¼ cup coriander leaves /cilantro fine chopped
  • 2 green chilies sliced
  • 1 large lemon


Make the Masala

  • Add all the whole spices except rose petals to a pan. Toast them on a low heat for 3 to 5 mins, until aromatic & crunchy. Transfer to a plate to cool down. Add rose petals and toast just until slightly hot.
  • Add the whole spices to a grinder jar and make a fine powder. Reserve 2 tablespoons of this powder in a small bowl. Add the rose petals and grind to a fine powder. Keep covered until required.

How to Make Nihari

  • Pour oil to a deep pot and saute onions until light golden. Add the mutton and saute on medium for 6 to 7 mins.
  • Stir in the ginger garlic and saute for 1 minute until the raw smell goes away. Turn down the heat, add turmeric, red chili, salt and half of the nihari masala.
  • Pour hot water (not boiling) and give a good stir. Bring to a gentle boil and cover. Simmer on a low heat, until the meat is tender and falls off the bone easily. The time taken depends on the heat level. (about 1 hour 45 mins on a medium heat or 2 hours 45 mins on low heat)
  • Add flour, rest of the nihari masala, yogurt, half of the water to a small bowl. Mix well to make a smooth slurry, adding more water. Pour this gently into the nihari, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
  • Bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 mins, until thick, yet of pouring consistency or traces of fats are visible over the nihari. If it is runny, cook on a high heat uncovered to evaporate little liquid.
  • Taste test and add salt. Garnish with chopped chilies, ginger juliennes and chopped coriander.
  • Squeeze in some lemon juice and serve with Tandoori roti, Naan or any rustic or soft breads.


  • If using mustard oil, let it smoke up first. Reduce the heat and carry on with cooking.
  • The cook time and water quantity may vary depending on the kind of meat, cookware and source of heat. Add water with caution. 
  • I use totally 7 cups water + yogurt.
  • Avoid using chicken in this recipe.

Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.

For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.


NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Nihari Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 292 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Fat 16g25%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 69mg23%
Sodium 975mg42%
Potassium 459mg13%
Carbohydrates 26g9%
Fiber 8g33%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 15g30%
Vitamin A 293IU6%
Vitamin C 8mg10%
Calcium 184mg18%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Nihari Recipe

About Swasthi

I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me

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Hello again Swasthi,
Sorry for so many enquiries, all at once.
I notice your advice about using Mustard oil. I have seen many Indian recipes which call for Mustard oil but all I can find locally is labelled “for external use only”, despite being in the food aisle in the shop.
Is this the same oil as used in India? Those that I have seen do seem genuinely Indian but I don’t understand the “for external use only” label.
I hope that you can help me with this enigma.


Thankyou very very much Swasthi. I’m happy to tell you that I should have some Long Pepper, along with other herbs and spices delivered in the coming days. I can’t wait to make this Nihari recipe. It’s not something I’ve heard of before. I will use Raw Mango for the souring agent, again something I’ve not used before.
As for the Mustard oil, I’ll give it a miss as you mention Erucic Acid. Is that the same as Uric acid? My right little toe is suffering the effects of it as I type!
My preferred fats are Ghee and/or Sunflower oil when cooking Indian food. Yorkshire Puddings however, MUST be Beef dripping. (Rendered Beef fat as it roasts) lol.
I’ll give you a Yorkshire Pudding batter recipe and I’d love to hear how you transform it with spices!

Once again, I’d like to thank you for your advice. It means a lot to me.


Thanks for the info re Uric acid. I’m happy to say I now have Long Pepper in my spice repertoire. I also have Zedory root, or White Turmeric too.

Hello Swasthi,
I really want to make this recipe as authentically as possible. I have most spices at home and have found a source for Long Pepper and
Ground Galangal but, unsurprisingly not for Stoneflower or Vetiver roots. Would a little Lemongrass be an acceptable substitute for the Vetver?

I have been looking through a cookbook by my favourite British Chef (Rick Stein) when he toured India. He uses Stoneflower and recommends Cinnamon as a substitute. Would that be appropriate in your opinion?
I’ll use the Galangal, as I like the flavour although I will say that I have never had it in an Indian recipe.

Thank you Swasthi, I will leave it out. I have enquired with company that provided the Long Pepper and although they don’t stock Stoneflower they are happy to try and source some for me.

Hi Swasthi, I’ve just ordered Stoneflower and Vetiver roots. Due here on Thursday.
So looking forward to this.

5 stars
Really overjoyed with the recipe once I had all the masala ingredients together.
So glad I could get them all for a truly authentic dish.

5 stars
Amazing Nihari di. I made the masala 2 days ago with half the amount of mace you mentioned in the tips and can’t believe it was just like the Lucknowi nihari we order from a Awadh restaurant. I am so surprised I managed to make this delicious dish. Thank you for posting.

5 stars
This is the first recipe I have made from your website and my nihari was a super hit. My husband couldn’t believe it was homecooked. I carefully read and understood all your tips and notes before trying out. I had to leave out a lot of ingredients like kabab chini, pipali, stone flower, galangal and rose because I didn’t have them. But next time I will try out with all the ingredients if possible. Thank you for being an amazing recipe instructor.

Super dish. Well presented.

5 stars
Super dish. Well presented

5 stars
Amazing recipe. Thank you for sharing

Your website is my go to for any Indian recipe. I have been trying out your recipes since 4 years and thank you for all the hard work you do. Bookmarking this for future reference!

Hello Tom,
I only discovered the delights of this site 4 months ago and it is FIRMLY my number one site for Indian recipes. Swasthi is an angel!
I regularly say that her recipes are worth 10 stars!

5 stars
This looks fantastic! I know how to make Delhi nihari but I use ready packed nihari masala. Will give this a try and I am sure like all your other recipes this is going to taste delicious. Thank you for sharing