Chapli kabab is a specialty of Pukhtun Cuisine, the food of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province of Pakistan. These chapli kebabs are also called Peshawari kabab named after Peshawar, the capital city in the same province. You can learn more about chapli kabab here!
The word chapli is derived from chaprikh which means 'to flatten' in the Pashto language. The kebabs are round and flattened minced meat cutlets with coarsely grounded spices and chopped tomatoes. They have also spelled chapli kabab or Chapli kebab. These kababs are widely sold in neighboring Afghanistan and hence also called Afghan chapli kabab.
Honestly, I'm a big fan of chapli kabab and I can eat all of it alone. Spicy mint coriander chutney or tamarind chutney or raita pair well with these kababs. Traditionally, these are served with tandoori naan. But they taste great with rice too like afghani Pulao. They pair as great protein side with daal chawal too.
Below is an image of spices and veggies that go in the kabab marination. Apart from it tomato, cornmeal and egg is also added that is visible in steps image.
- Mince: While mince of other kabab is processed twice for a fine texture. Chapli kabab's mince is processed just once and is like normal coarse mince (keema). It has 20%-30% fat. Additional fat in the mince keeps the kabab moist and soft.
- Spices: These kababs have a strong aroma of various spices. You need basic Indian spices to make chapli kabab. One less common spice is dried pomegranate arils. You can find it easily in Indian stores. If you can't find it, substitute it with mango powder ( AKA amchoor powder). 1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses can also be a good substitute. The pomegranate arils add both tangy flavor and gritty texture to the kabab. Another common but non-staple spice is fennel seeds (AKA sauf), but it is optional.
- butter: These are high-fat kabab, usually, animal fat is added to mince, I didn’t have animal fat in hand so I used, clarified butter which will keep the kabab moist.
- green chilies
Tips and variations
- Ground Meat: you can use ground beef, lamb, or chicken for this recipe. Remember the fattier the better.
- Some people add a scrambled egg in the chapli kabab but I feel it is an extra step with not much taste. You can add scrambled eggs (made with 2 eggs) with tomatoes in the recipe.
- Most commercial dhabas add MSG in chapli kabab for the flavor kick. But I feel the recipe tastes great on its own.
- Chapli kababs are shallow fried in tallow (charbi ka tel), which is hard fat obtained from cows. You can learn more about tallow here. If you do not have tallow then shallow fry in ghee.
FAQ and Trouble Shooting
Lack of fat in mince can make the kabab dry and break. Make sure the mince has 20%-30 fat. The lack of a binding agent can also cause the kabab to break. The usual binding agent for chapli kabab is flour, usually wheat flour or cornmeal. Lastly, if you add tomato in the marination. Tomatoes will release excess moisture and break the kebab while frying. So make sure to add tomatoes just before frying.
If your chapli kabab are breaking while frying, you can try one or both of the two tricks. If the mince mixture is too moist add extra flour to bind it. Or if the mixture is stiff and can absorb little moisture, add few tablespoons of a beaten egg. Do not add whole egg altogether as this will make the mixture too soft and difficult to roll into kabab. So go slow adding just one tablespoon at a time.
Since these are high-fat kabab, they can make a great keto main course. Make sure to reduce or skip onions and tomatoes. Use almond flour instead of cornflour as a binding agent. Also, add extra bone marrow pieces and or in the center of the kabab when you roll it. Some people also add scrambled eggs in the raw mince to mimic fat like the taste.
Chapli kabab is a large and flattened groundmeat petty. It has a crunchy texture due to coarsely grounded spices. Tangy and nutty taste that comes from dried pomegranate aril. It is very more flavorful compared to other kabab.
How to make Chapli kabab?
Overall the kababs are quite easy to make. I know, the making of spice mix is a bit of extra effort but you can make it ahead. And the taste of freshly roasted spices is bursting with flavors.
What makes Chapli kabab so unique is the spice blend. We'll begin by preparing the spice blend. You can prepare this spice blend ahead in fact if you make this kabab often, I suggest double or triple the spice mix recipe and store it in the fridge. It'll stay good for up to a year.
- Dry roast whole spices (coriander, cumin, pomegranate, and fennel seeds) in a pan for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Remove the pan from heat and add powdered spices to the hot pan. Stir for few seconds so the powdered spices also yield some fresh aroma. Then transfer the spice mix to a food processor.
- Crushed the spices coarsely. Just 2-3 pulse are enough to break the spices, do not ground into fine powder. Chapli kabab spice mix is ready, you can store it in the pantry for few weeks or in the fridge for months.
- Take mince in a bowl, add onions, clarified butter, chapli kabab spice mix, green chilies, ginger, garlic, and fresh coriander, mix well. Marinate for 30 minutes at least. (Preferably 4-6 hours in the fridge.)
- Before making the kababs, add an egg, tomatoes, and cornmeal. Cornmeal makes the kabab crunchy alternately you can also add wheat flour.
- Do a taste test by frying a small petty of kabab. Adjust spices and salt if required. This step is not necessary but it is always worth the effort to get the perfect taste.
- Now roll out a flat patty (kabab) from mince dough. The size of restaurant-style kabab is very big. We find these smaller and single-serving kababs easier to handle. ( You can embed a slice of tomato instead of adding chopped tomato in each petty, but it is mostly discarded and not eaten.)
- Fry kabab on medium heat for 2 minutes on each side until golden, then turn heat to high and cook further for a few seconds for crispy edges. Serve hot with naan and chutney.
Want more Kabab recipes? Check these!
Chapli Kabab Recipe
- 1½ tablespoon dried pomegranate arils, (anar dana), susbtitute with dried mango powder
- 1½ to 2 tablespoon red chilli flakes, adjust to taste
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- ½ tablespoon fennel seeds, (sauf)
- ½ tablespoon Kashmiri chilli powder, (for color, substitute with paprika)
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder, skip for less spicy
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon black salt, or pink salt or just salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ kg mince, (lamb or beef) 20-30% fat
- 1 cup chopped onion, about 1 large, squeeze excess water (if any) and discard
- 1 cup cornmeal or maizemeal, (makai ka atta)
- 2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
- 2 tablespoon chopped green chilli
- 2 tablespoon butter, (or clarified butter )
- ¾ cup chopped tomato, about 1 tomato
- Ghee or butter to fry, authentically fried in tallow
For Spice Mix
- Roast cumin, coriander, dried pomegranate aril and fennel seed in a pan for 1 minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat.
- Immediately, add ground spices in the hot pan and stir for few second. Transfer spices to a food processor and crushed them lightly to get a coarse powder. Set aside.
For chapli kabab
- In large bowl take mince, spice mix, green chillies, ginger, garlic, onions, fresh corriander and butter, mix well. Marinate for 30 minutes.(Preferably 4-6 hours.)
- Just before frying, add tomato, egg and cormeal. Mix well until mince gets a dough like consistency.Protip: Fry a small petty of kabab and do a taste test. Adjust if needed. (This step is optional.)
- Roll out balls of kabab and flatten with hands.
- Shallow fry kabab in clarified butter or tallow for 2-3 minutes on medium flame until crispy and lighty charred.