A staple Pakistani and North Indian meal, aloo keema or keema aloo is made using ground mince (aka keema) and potatoes. It is usually served with roti or chapati and is delicious with Basmati rice too. It’s also delicious served with a quick kachumber salad or a refreshing yoghurt raita.
What is keema
Keema (also called qeema) means minced or ground meat in English. In the Indian subcontinent any dish that is made with minced meat is also known as keema. Indian and Pakistani restaurants abroad will usually write keema curry or ground mince curry on the menu as a means of explanation. However, in local terminology the dish is just called keema.
The most common ground meat option is ground beef (or beef keema). Other options include ground chicken (known as chicken keema), ground lamb (known as lamb keema), and ground goat (known as mutton keema). Another option that is more common abroad is ground turkey mince (or turkey keema).
Traditionally, ground meat is hand cut (known as haath ka kutta keema) where the butcher finely chops it using a chopping knife. Nowadays, most commercially available ground meat is made using a meat grinder. People still prefer purchasing hand cut mince because it has more texture.
What is aloo keema
Aloo keema (also called keema aloo) is a traditional Pakistani and North Indian dish made using ground mince and potatoes. It is usually made with ground beef, but other ground meat can be used such as goat, lamb, chicken or turkey. It is a dry-ish recipe, but can be prepared to have a little bit of gravy. This ground mince and potato curry is one of those staple meals that is perfect to make for a weekday dinner or when you can't think of what to make. Quick and easy to prepare and comforting to eat.
Making keema aloo is super easy and requires ingredients that are present in any South Asian household.
- Ground Meat / Minced Meat – Traditionally beef mince is used, however, goat / mutton mince, lamb mince, turkey mince or chicken mince can also be used. My personal preference is turkey mince (turkey keema) because it is a healthy option and has more flavor than chicken mince. The brand that I use in Australia is Steggles, and it has a regular mince option as well as a turkey breast mince option.
- Onions - diced or sliced. If you are short on time, it’s possible to use onion paste or fried onions from the supermarket.
- Tomatoes –freshly chopped tomatoes are best. Canned tomatoes can be used. However, make sure you use either whole peeled tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes. Do not use canned diced tomatoes, or canned tomatoes with additional herbs.
- Potatoes – peeled and cut into small cubes.
- Whole spices
- Powdered spices – easily available at Indian and Pakistani grocery stores, or at the supermarket. Adjust quantity of red chili powder based on spice preference.
- Coriander leaves / Cilantro leaves – added as a garnish in the end.
- Green chilies – add whole or sliced lengthways.
- Ginger garlic paste – best to use homemade ginger garlic paste. However, store bought can also be used.
For more information on Pakistani spices and ingredients, check out my guide on how to stock a Pakistani pantry
Here's a step by step guide on how to make aloo keema.
Start off with frying the onions until light golden, and then add whole spices. Fry for a minute, and then add ginger garlic paste followed by ground mince of choice. Saute the mince on medium-high heat till the colour of the mince changes. This step is known as bhunai / bhunofying and is a mix of sauteing and searing.
Add the powdered spices, followed by the tomatoes (either freshly chopped or canned tomatoes). Cook the tomatoes till they soften mashing with a wooden spoon every few minutes. Add the cubed potatoes along with water. Cook the potatoes till they are tender, and then garnish with fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) and green chilies. Serve with roti or basmati rice.
Making this recipe healthy
Most keema recipes are made using beef mince, which has a high fat content. To make aloo keema (or any keema recipe) healthier, use lean beef mince. Or use chicken mince which has a low-fat content. Keep in mind that the fat in the beef mince does add flavor to the dish. To compensate, you can add a pinch more spice, and use fresh ginger and fresh garlic when using a low-fat mince option. I personally prefer to use turkey mince as it has more flavor than chicken mince but is leaner and healthier than beef mince.
Getting rid of the smell
Keema, particularly beef keema can have a strong meaty smell to it which can be off-putting. In Urdu, we call it ‘heek’. Here are some suggestions on how to get rid of this meaty keema smell.
- Get freshly ground premium mince from a good butcher. Some butchers use fatty off-cuts in making mince, and this can result in poor quality smelly mince.
- Use ground mince within 1 – 2 days of purchase. Once the meat is ground, more of its surface is exposed to air. That is why the potential of spoilage in mince is higher compared to other cuts of meat.
- Use a different type of mince which has less fat such as goat, chicken or mince.
- Saute the ground mince on medium-high heat. This step is known as bhuno / bhunofying in Urdu, and it basically means that you brown the mince on a high flame (similar to searing) till the water evaporates, and the color of the mince changes from pink to brown. This will take about 3 – 5 minutes. Once this is done, add the spices and tomatoes.
- Use aromats such as ginger and garlic, as well as whole spices. In this recipe, I use fresh ginger and garlic paste along with whole spices (black peppercorn, cloves and cinnamon stick). They add flavor and aroma to the final dish and also counter the meaty smell.
- Use a large pan when making the keema. A traditional karahi, a wok, or a skillet is great. This helps in the bhuno / bhunofying process ensuring that the meat is quickly browned on all sides.
Note: If the mince has turned either brown or grey on the outside. Or it has a strong rotting smell. That means it’s spoiled. Best to throw it away, and get another packet.
Keema aloo is homestyle comfort food. It’s traditionally served with roti or chapati, with a side of pickled onions, a quick and easy kachumber salad or a refreshing yoghurt raita. It can also be served with Basmati rice. You can serve this ground mince and potato curry with naan, with paratha or even slices of bread. In fact - the leftovers make for a super delicious sandwich!
- Use a different type of mince in this recipe. It’s also possible to use a plant-based mince or soya mince as a vegetarian or vegan option.
- Skip the potatoes, and just make keema.
- Use other vegetables such as peas or capsicum / bell peppers to make keema matar (ground mince curry with peas) or keema shimla mirch (ground mince with capsicum / bell peppers) respectively. You can also add peas and potatoes both to make aloo matar keema.
This is a controversial question, and the answer is upto personal choice . The FDA recommend that meat should not be washed due to bacterial contamination. The risk is especially high in the case of chicken and ground mince. However, the idea of not washing meat is unpalatable in a Desi / South Asian household.
I personally do not prefer washing ground mince; however, I only buy from butchers and supermarkets where I can see it is clean and hygienically packaged. Otherwise I will get boneless chicken, and make my own chicken mince using a food processor. In that case, I can wash the larger chicken pieces and don’t need to wash the ground mince afterwards. If you do choose to wash ground mince use a fine mesh strainer, along with gloves to handle the meat. Sanitize the sink and surface areas afterwards.
It is if you have the right equipment. For beef mince, you need a meat grinder. For chicken and turkey mince, you can make mince in a food processor. Just put pieces of chicken (or turkey) in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds till ground into mince. Don't process too much as it will turn pasty.
What to do with leftover aloo keema?
My favorite way to use up leftover aloo keema is in sandwiches. Spread a layer of keema on a slice of bread, mash the potatoes on top and then add ketchup, sriracha sauce or cheese. Top with another bread slice. Butter on both sides, and then toast in a sandwich press, sandwich maker, or on a frying pan till golden brown. It’s also possible to use the keema in wraps or in pita bread.
Yes, you can. I use freezer safe plastic containers or freezer bags to freeze the keema. To re-heat, tip the frozen keema into a medium sized pan. Similar to how you would take out ice cubes from an ice-cube tray. Add ½ cup water, and heat till it comes to a boil. Turn heat to simmer, and cook for a few minutes till warmed through.
Keep in mind that potatoes can get mushy when frozen. Make the keema as per the recipe, and then add par-boiled potatoes when warming it up.
Looking for more Pakistani & Indian curry / salan recipes for your weekly dinner inspiration. Check out the following:
- Ginger Chicken, Pakistani style
- Murghi ka Salan (Chicken curry with Onions and Tomatoes)
- Karahi Chicken
- Aloo Gosht (Mutton Curry with Potatoes) – Stovetop & Pressure Cooker method
- Traditional Chicken Qorma
- The simplest Pakistani Chicken Salan
- Murghi ka Salan (Chicken Curry)
Would love it if you could try out and rate the recipe, and let me know how it was in the comments below!
Pakistani Aloo Keema
- 3 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 4 - 6 black peppercorns
- 1 -2 cardamom pods
For the aloo keema (ground mince and potato curry)
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 2 (~200g) medium onions finely chopped
- ½ kg ground mince / keema see note 1
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste can be substituted with freshly minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste can be substituted with freshly minced garlic
- 2 teaspoon coriander powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder haldi
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- 2 (~220) medium tomatoes, chopped see note 2
- 2 - 4 medium potatoes, halved or quartered see note 3
- ½ cup water
- 2-3 green chilies for garnish
- ½ cup coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish
- Heat oil in a pan. Add chopped onions and fry till light golden.
- Add all the whole spices (sabit garam masala) and fry for a minute till they splutter.
- Add ground mince of choice along with ginger & garlic paste. Cook on medium – high heat for a few minutes till color changes.
- Add the dry spices (coriander powder, salt, turmeric and red chili powder). Keep stirring for 2-3 minutes to let the spices cook.
- Turn heat to low – medium and add tomatoes (either freshly chopped or canned whole tomatoes - see note 2). Let them cook for 10 – 15 minutes till soft and water dries. Canned tomatoes will be soft in about 5 - 7 minutes.
- Add the potatoes with ½ cup water. Half cover with a lid, and cook the ground mince curry till potatoes are tender. This process will take about 15 - 20 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.
- Once the mince is cooked, and the potatoes are tender take the ground mince curry (aloo keema) off the heat. Garnish with green chilies and fresh coriander leaves (cilantro).
- Serve hot with roti and onions and kachumer salad.
- Traditionally beef mince is used to make aloo keema as the fattiness of the beef mince adds flavour and texture to the dish. However, goat / mutton mince, lamb mince, turkey mince or chicken mince can also be used. My personal preference is turkey mince (turkey keema) because it is a healthier option than beef, however, has more flavor than chicken mince. The brand that I use in Australia is Steggles, and it has a regular mince option as well as a turkey breast mince option.
- Freshly chopped tomatoes are best to make this recipe. However, canned tomatoes can also be used. Make sure you use either whole peeled tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes. Do not use canned diced tomatoes, or canned tomatoes with additional herbs. If using canned tomatoes, reduce the tomato cooking time by around 5 - 7 minutes.
- Potatoes can be halved or quartered. Smaller is generally better because they cook and become tender quickly versus larger potatoes that take a longer time.