- What is Chapli Kabab
- Where does Chapli Kabab originate from?
- Ingredients (and substitutes)
- How to make Chapli Kabab
- How to form round kababs
- How to make soft and tender Chapli Kababs
- How to prevent the Chapli Kababs from breaking
- How to serve Chapli Kabab
- Other Frequently Asked Questions
- If you like this, you may also like…
This Chapli Kabab recipe is a very special one for me. It was gifted to me in the form of a handwritten note by my Afghanistani neighbour, a lady who couldn’t speak English but had her son translate all the ingredients, quantities and instructions for me when I asked for her recipe. She laughed and looked to the floor in embarrassment when I thanked her profusely for going through all that effort for me.
It was sadly the only recipe I got from her – she moved away not long after I moved in and to be fair, I didn’t want to put her through all that effort again just to satisfy my hunger for handwritten, authentic recipes. In the 5 short months we were neighbours though, I was blessed with many wonderful and authentic Afghanistani meals I probably won’t ever forget.
I still have her handwritten note hanging up on my fridge – it’s a very heartwarming reminder of the effort she went through. It’s also a reminder that no matter where we’re from, what language we speak and whatever may divide us, we are all in many ways connected by common factors that unite us all – one of which is love for good food.
So, safe to say that this recipe is pretty much as real as it gets – from the hands of my Afghanistani neighbour to my blog, to share with all of you. A Chapli Kabab recipe has been something I’ve been wanting to get up on here for ages, and I’m so happy to be able to finally do so!
What is Chapli Kabab
Chapli Kabab is essentially a spiced patty made from minced meat. It is differentiated from other kababs by the following qualities:
- It’s a lot softer and tender in texture compared to regular kababs. In fact, the best Chapli Kababs have a melt-in-your-mouth kind of tenderness
- Chapli Kababs are pretty big! They’re much larger than the average kabab
- The inclusion of dried pomegranate seeds (anardana) is very characteristic of Chapli Kababs. It gives the kababs a tang and crunch
- Chapli Kababs also contain coarsely ground coriander seeds – it’s something that provides some crunch too much like the pomegranate seeds
Where does Chapli Kabab originate from?
Chapli Kababs hail from the East Afghanistan/Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan. It’s thought that the name ‘Chapli’ originates from the Pashto word chapreekh/chapleet which means flat, referring to the thin and large appearance of Chapli Kebabs.
Ingredients (and substitutes)
When I was assembling the ingredients for the Chapli Kebab, my daughter walked in and asked me if I was making a salad. I told her I’m making kababs, and she responded with ‘OK, you’re making salad kababs’. Lol. What a cool name for Chapli Kababs eh?
Here’s what you’ll need to make Chapli Kababs.
- Minced meat/ground meat – Chapli Kababs are traditionally made with beef, but mutton and lamb also works well if you’re averse to meat. You want to get mince that’s slightly fatty – about 20% fat is great. Also, you want meat that has been passed through the machine to give it a super fine texture. If you feel like your meat is a bit chunky, you can run it through the food processor yourself at home
- Onions – my preference is red onions here, but white will be fine too
- Tomatoes – deseeded and with all the wet insides removed. This is really important, as if the Chapli Kabab batter ends up too wet we may run into trouble with shaping and frying them
- Garlic, ginger, green chillies – all fresh! It makes such a world of a difference
- Wheat flour (atta) or gram flour (besan) – this is one of the two binding elements in the Chapli Kababs. In this recipe, we’ll be roasting them over a dry pan to get some extra deep and toasty flavour
- Eggs – our second binding element. These help get the texture extra tender by way of providing some more fat content to the mixture.
- Dried pomegranate seeds (anardana) – this is a really important element of Chapli Kababs. It adds a bit of zing to the Kababs and give it its characteristic crunch.
- Coriander seeds – this is also a really important element of the Kababs. We will be roasting these over a dry pan and then grinding them into a coarse powder, so it’s still textured and we still get some crunch in
- Cumin seeds – again, we’ll be dry roasting these and grinding them into a textured powder
- Other spices – including salt, red chilli flakes, turmeric, black pepper, bay leaf, carom and dried fenugreek
- Fresh coriander – for aroma, flavour and colour
- Oil or fat, for frying – traditionally, Chapli Kababs are fried in beef tallow. If you have that available to you and would like to go all out, then that’s great! If you don’t, oil is absolutely fine too.
How to make Chapli Kabab
One of most impactful steps of this recipe is to roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and bay leaf. It adds a remarkable aroma and deep, roasted flavour.
To do this, start by heating up a dry pan over a medium heat. Add in the seeds and bay leaf, then stir everything as they toast over the pan. Once the spices begin to release a strong, aromatic fragrance and turn a darker shade of brown, remove them from the pan and crush into a coarse mixture in a coffee grinder or a pestle and mortar. Having the coarse texture of the coriander seeds is very characteristic of Chapli Kababs, so don’t grind them into a powder unless you specifically don’t want that crunchy texture.
Set the powder aside in a large mixing bowl.
Next, in that same pan, add in your wheat flour/gram flour. Begin to toast this too, stirring constantly. This will toast pretty quick! Remove once the flour begins to release a slighty toasty fragrance and turns darker, and place into the same bowl as the spices
Next up, take all your remaining ingredients (aside from the minced meat and oil) and add them into the large mixing bowl too. Mix everything up well. I find mixing all the ingredients like this before adding the minced meat makes it easier to ensure all the ingredients are evenly distributed into the meat withing needing to work into the meat too much.
After this, add in the minced meat. Work the ingredients into the mixed meat with a light hands, working until the
ingredients are evenly incorporated and not overworking the meat.
Form the minced meat mixture into large, flattened kababs. I have some tips further on in the post about how to form the patties. You’ll be able to form them best with wet hands and they don’t need to be a perfect circle unless you want them to be.
To fry the kababs, heat up a pan over a medium heat with enough oil to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Add the kababs into the oil – if you have a regular sized pan you’ll probably only be able to do a maximum of 3-4 kababs without overcrowding the pan. Fry the kababs for 6-8 minutes before flipping it over. Allow the other side to fry for 6-8 minutes too before removing the kababs from the oil.
Repeat this for the entire batch.
How to form round kababs
So you may have actually noticed if you’ve had Chapli Kabab in past from vendors back home, they’re not always round. Even from restaurants here in the UK, I’ve often noticed the kababs are not a geometric round shape like I’d expect of Shami Kababs. So if you’re Chapli Kabab isn’t round, that’s OK – it doesn’t have to be.
But if you still insist on wanting round kababs, here are some tips:
- Firstly, you may find it easier to make the kababs round by hand if they’re smaller. Use a smaller amount of mince meat per kabab
- You can also use a burger shaping tool such as this one
- My preferred method (and the method I used when making the kababs pictured) is to form the kabab on top of a grease paper-lined plate, using damp hands to press down and shape the kabab into a circle. This method allows me a good amount of control over the size, roundness and thickness of the kabab.
- If you don’t want to use grease proof paper, ensuring your hands are damp as you shape the kababs will help tremendously
How to make soft and tender Chapli Kababs
One of the characteristic traits of Chapli Kababs is the soft and tender texture of it. It’s very different to a regular kabab. Here’s what makes that texture:
- Chapli Kababs are a lot fattier than a regular kabab. Not only are they made with meat with a higher fat content, but they mixture also contains egg AND it’s fried in a pretty ample amount of oil. If you find your kababs aren’t quite as soft as you’d like, knowing this information is a good starting point to troubleshoot
- Cook the kababs over a medium heat
- Don’t overcook the kababs – 6-8 minutes on each side is plenty for beef, mutton and lamb
- Additionally, when you’re mixing the ingredients into the minced meat, try not to overwork the meat. Instead, once all the ingredients are evenly incorporated into the minced meat, stop. Overworking the mince will lead to tough kababs.
How to prevent the Chapli Kababs from breaking
- Use a firm hand to tightly pack the meat when you’re forming the patties to ensure they aren’t hollow pockets in the kabab. This can destabilise the kabab and make it break
- Kababs can break if they’re too moist. If you have this problem, try to squeeze out the moisture from the tomatoes and onions before using them. Also, remember youu’ve deseeded and taken all the insides of the tomatoes out before using them
- When you’re purchasing your minced meat from the butchers, make sure you’re picking fine minced meat which has been passed through the machine, not chunky hath ka keema. If you can, ask your butcher to pass the mince meat through the machine twice for extra fine mince meat.
How to serve Chapli Kabab
The most classic, evergreen way to serve Chapli Kababs is with naan, a fresh kachumber salad (diced onions, tomatoes and cucumber) and a side of green chutney – I highly recommend the green chutney in this recipe!
Other Frequently Asked Questions
My kababs are burning/darkening more than I’d like them to. How can I fix this?
You may notice Chapli Kababs are darker than other kababs – this is due to their high fat content. Fat burns quickly and becomes dark, which is why the kabab is dark too. So some level of darkness is natural in these kababs. If you find that they are darkening more than you’d like them, try to reduce the heat when you’re frying the kabab as it could be the pan or oil has become overheated. If the oil/pan is smoking, that’s definitely a sign it’s become overheated. If this happens, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down before returning it to the heat.
My kabab mixture is too moist, how do I fix it?
If you’re kabab mixture has become too moist (likely due to the onion/tomatoes releasing excess moisture, you can soak it up by adding breadcrumbs or a mashed potato. This will soak up the excess moisture. You may need to readjust the salt and spice if you need to add A LOT of breadcrumbs/potato.
I want to try this recipe but it’s too fatty for my liking. How can I make it healthier?
I hear ya. Sometimes you want the full blown real deal without the calorie overload. I got ya. To make this recipe healthier, you can certainly trim back on the oil you fry the kababs in to whatever you’re comfortable with – this will help tone down the fat content. Additionally, if you don’t want fatty minced meat, you can also reduce the amount of fat there too. These changes will have a consequence on how soft and tender the kabab is, but the flavour will all still be there.
Can I make Chapli Kababs with chicken?
Yep, absolutely! I’d recommend you make it with chicken thigh, and to be honest you won’t really need to make any additional changes to the recipe. Cook time will likely be reduced to 3-5 minutes per side. Bear in the mind, the kababs will have a much lighter colouring to it than the ones pictures due to the lower fat content of chicken.
What’s the best way to store and reheat Chapli Kabab?
Once you have fried the Chapli Kababs, if you’d like to store them to consume within the next few days, once they have cooled completely, wrap them in foil and place in an airtight container or bag in the fridge.
To reheat, you can microwave them for a 1-2 minutes or reheat them in an oven for 4-5 minutes.
How can I freeze Chapli Kabab?
I prefer to freeze Chapli Kababs that have been fried already, as opposed to the raw patties. This is because when the Chapli Kabab mixture defrosts, it has a tendency to become limp and soggy due to the vegetables releasing some of their moisture. To avoid this, I tend to just freeze cooked kababs.
To freeze cooked Chapli Kababs, first freeze them on a tray or plate lined with greaseproof paper. If you don’t have enough space on the tray for a single layer, use another sheet of greaseproof paper to cover the first layer and place the rest of the kababs on top. Once these have frozen solid, you can transfer the kababs into a container or ziploc bag. Doing this will prevent the kababs from sticking to each other.
Cooked Chapli Kababs will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If you like this, you may also like…
- 6 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 3 bay leaf, whole
- 6 tbsp wheat flour or gram flour (atta or besan)
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, all the seeds and insides removed, finely diced
- 8 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced
- 4 chopped green chillies
- 3 tbsp dried pomegranate seeds (anardana)
- 2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tsp black pepper (ideally coarsely ground)
- 0.5 tsp turmeric
- 0.25 tsp carom seeds (ajwain)
- 3 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 tbsp dried fenugreek (kasoori methi) OR 2 tbsp fresh fenugreek, chopped
- 1 handful of coriander, chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1kg minced meat (see notes for more information about what kind of meat)
- Oil or beef tallow, for frying
- Gently preheat a dry pan over a medium to high heat, then add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and bay leaf. Stir this gently in the pan, allowing the seeds to toast. Once the spices become fragrant and toasted, remove from the heat and grind coarsely in a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. Ideally, you want to the spices to keep some texture. Set aside in a large mixing bowl
- In the same pan, add the wheat flour/gram flour and toast this too, stirring constantly, until it too become fragrant and the colour darkens slightly. Remove from the heat and add to the large mixing bowl
- Add in all the ingredients to the large mixing bowl except for the minced meat and oil. Mix everything together well.
- Add the minced meat to the mixing bowl. Incorporate everything together well - you may find your hands do a better job of this than a spoon.
- Form the minced meat mixture into large patties. See the post for tips on how to form these.
- When ready to fry, heat up enough oil in a frying pan to form a small layer. Add the kababs and fry them over a medium heat, flipping after 6-8 minutes.
Your kababs are ready! Serve alongside some naan, a salad and chutney!