Popular street food in India, Kheema or Keema is a robust, peppery curry dish made with minced chicken or lamb cooked with onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and earthy spices! Served with lightly toasted ladi pav (bread rolls) laden with butter or ghee on the griddle makes a blissful meal!
This recipe originally published in June 2017 has been updated in Feb 2022 with new photos and video.
Looking for an easy weeknight dinner recipe? This versatile ground chicken curry is just perfect with lots of variations and you can adjust the spice levels to your taste. You can serve it with soft dinner rolls or you can serve it with rice for a gluten-free meal, with cauliflower rice, or enjoy it as a bowl of chili with your favorite toppings for a low-carb meal. There are many creative ways to serve the keema including baking it in puff pastry sheets for delicious samosas.
When Mom visited me back in 2017, Keema Pav was the first dish we made together using the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. It is always a pleasure to see her cook patiently as she waits for the soft sizzle sound of the cumin seeds and a whiff from gently toasting them. Adding turmeric and roasting the spices at each step, filling up the kitchen with wonderful aromas. The earthy flavors from roasted coriander powder and the warmth from the homemade garam masala transported me back to Mom's kitchen in India. Not only was this Keema easy to make but my kids enjoyed it too - a healthy kid-friendly recipe ready in under 30 minutes - win-win!
What is Kheema
Also known as Keema or Queema, Kheema is an Urdu word for minced meat such as chicken, lamb, beef, etc. The word Kheema means ground meat and it also means a spicy curry made with ground chicken or lamb often served with pav which is similar to hamburger buns or potato rolls. Kheema is a popular North Indian dish served in restaurants as well as street-side stalls across India.
- Ground Meat - I like to use lean ground chicken in this recipe but you can use ground lamb, beef, or turkey
- Spices - turmeric, red chili powder, freshly ground coriander, and cumin seeds add earthy flavors with a vibrant orange hue to the curry
- Tomatoes - Fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or tomato puree can be used in this kheema curry
- Ginger and Garlic - I prefer adding fresh homemade ginger and garlic paste in this recipe although store bought ginger garlic paste can be used in a pinch
Best Pav to Serve with Keema
When buying the rolls or buns to serve with Kheema, check the sugar contents on the pack and make sure that it is 2% or less. The sweeter varieties do not pair well with the Kheema curry. Whole foods brand dinner rolls have less sugar and are perfect to serve with this dish.
- Stir in half a cup of green peas to the curry just before pressure cooking
- Add a peeled and diced potato and sauté it with the onions. This will give more thickness and body to the curry
- Do you enjoy spicy curries? Add 1-2 spicy green chilies or a diced jalapeño along with the onions
- Want to add a more complex flavor to the dish? Add a tablespoon of mom's homemade garam masala along with the other spices
- Substitute ground chicken with ground lamb, turkey, or beef and follow the same recipe
Tips to make the best Kheema
- This recipe calls for only half a cup of water as the ground chicken will release some liquids when pressure cooking. Make sure you close the Instant Pot before all of the liquids are evaporated. It is important to degalze the pot if there is any browning from sauteing the onions. Press cancel as you deglaze which will prevent the food from getting dry or sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- This recipe was tested on a 6-QT Instant Pot. The newer Instant Pots sometimes can show burn when pressure cooking curries with less liquids. You may want to add extra 2 tablepsoons of liquids.
- The curry may look watery when you open the lid after pressure cooking. As the curry cools down it will continue to thicken.
- If you like more dry curry, cook on saute mode from the pressure cooking is done. Stirring frequently as the excess liquids evaporates.
Here is a Step by step recipe for Kheema Paav in Instant Pot. A printable recipe with exact ingredients can be found at the end of this post.
- Turn the Instant Pot to sauté mode and heat oil. Add cumin seeds and toast them for 30 seconds. Add turmeric powder, ginger, garlic, and mix well. Add a onions and sauté until they turns soft and translucent. Add tomatoes, red chili powder, garam masala, salt and coriander powder and mix well (photos 1 - 4)
- Add ground chicken and break it with a spatula. Add water and mix well. Close Instant Pot with the pressure valve to sealing. Pressure Cookl(Hi) for 4 minutes followed by Natural Pressure Release. Mix well (photos 5 - 6)
- Open the Instant Pot and give a quick stir. Garnish with cilantro ((photos 7 - 8)
Serve the Kheema with dinner rolls or buns lightly toasted on a griddle with ghee. For a gluten-free meal, you can also serve the keema with jeera rice or steamed basmati rice. Serve as a chili topped with diced red onions, jalapeños, corn, cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a side of jalapeno cornbread for a hearty meal.
Kheema curry is a perfect make-ahead dish. It can be refrigerated for 4 to 5 days and can be frozen for longer shelf life. Thaw the frozen curry overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat on stovetop or microwave until fully heated through.
I always have a pack of ground chicken in my fridge. It comes in handy for busy weeknights to make one-pot meals like the Kheema Pulao, Spicy Buffalo Chili, Chicken Enchilada, or the Masala chicken burgers.
Kheema Pav is my go-to recipe for a relaxed weekend brunch. I often serve it like sloppy joe's on small buns topped with diced red onions and fresh cilantro. I also love to pair this spicy dish with the make-ahead french toast casserole as a sweet treat when hosting a brunch. Everyone loves it!
Also do check out my newest recipe on the blog, my all-time favorite Mumbai Pav Bhaji which can classify as a vegetarian version of the kheema pav.
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Instant Pot Kheema Pav
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon garlic grated
- 1 tablespoon ginger grated
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 2 tomatoes diced
- 2 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander We lightly toasted the coriander seeds and then ground them
- 1 pound ground chicken
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup cilantro chopped for garnish
- 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
- 8 dinner rolls
- Turn Instant Pot to sauté mode and heat oil. Add cumin seeds and toast them for 30 seconds.
- Add turmeric powder, ginger, garlic, onions, and mix well. Cook covered for 2 minutes with a glass lid on.
- Add tomatoes, red chili powder, garam masala, salt and ground coriander . Mix well.
- Add ground chicken and break it with a spatula. Turn the saute mode off. Add water and give a quick stir.
- Quickly close the Instant Pot before the liquids start to evaporate. Turn the pressure valve to sealing. Pressure Cook on for 4 minutes followed by Natural Pressure Release.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with dinner rolls or burger buns lightly toasted with some ghee on a griddle.
- More Veggies - Add half a cup of green peas to the curry just before pressure cooking. Or add a peeled and diced potato and sauté it with the onions, this will also add thickness to the curry.
- Like it Spicy - Add 1 or 2 spicy green chilies or diced jalapeño
- Other ground meats - substitute ground chicken with ground lamb, turkey, or beef and follow the same recipe.
- Thicker curry - add only half of the water before pressure cooking. Alternatively, after the curry is pressure-cooked, cook it on saute mode stirring frequently, and reduce the liquids
- Pav - When buying the rolls or buns to be served with Kheema, check the Sugar contents on the pack. As long as sugar is 2% or less the bread does not taste overly sweet and works well with Indian curries.
- Serving ideas - Serve the Kheema with dinner rolls or buns lightly toasted on a griddle with ghee. Serve with warm pillowy naan, hot parathas, or soft roti. For a gluten-free meal, you can also serve the keema with jeera rice, steamed basmati rice, or cauliflower rice. Serve as a chili topped with diced red onions, jalapeños, corn, cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a side of jalapeno cornbread for a hearty meal.
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