Koftay ka salan is a popular Indian and Pakistani dish made with meatballs cooked in a tangy tomato yoghurt curry. After trying several different methods of making Kofta curry I am so happy to finally have a recipe to share. And guess what? we make these Koftas without eggs, breadcrumbs, or frying!
You all know how much we love meatballs here like the classic Spaghetti meatballs, Lebanese Daoud basha or the simple Persian kofte polow. While these recipes call for searing or frying the meatballs, I figured we prefer this salan without frying the meatballs. Don't fear that the koftas will break. Trust me, you will love this.
Though not my home cuisine, I have had my share of Kofta curry or "salan" from my Pakistani and Indian Urdu-speaking family friends. This used to be served during Ramadan This recipe is the best and the closest to the taste I remember relishing with plain white rice and or tandoori naan.
Urdu-speaking people use the word 'koftay' to refer to meatballs made from ground beef, lamb, or chicken or even vegetables mixed with spices, onions, and herbs. And the word 'salan' refers to a curry that is thinner than korma and often includes tomatoes. The image here only represents the whole spices and roasted chana dal used in this kofta curry recipe.
- Ground meat: I love using ground beef and a few times I have used minced mutton or ground lamb.
- Produce: You will need red onion, green chillies, mint leaves, coriander leaves, ginger, garlic and tomatoes.
- Oil: Any neutral cooking oil plus some ghee. I have used 2 tablespoon sunflower oil and 2 tablespoon ghee. The recipe calls for almost ¼ cup of oil and I know it is a lot. But trust me, you need that to cook this curry to the deliciousness it promises to deliver.
- Whole spices: You will need cumin seeds, mace (optional), black cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf. If you don't have all of these, at least use cumin seeds, pepper, cloves and cinnamon.
- Ground spices: You will need my Pakistani/North Indian garam masala, chilli flakes, red chilli, Kashmiri red chilli, coriander, and turmeric.
- Roasted chickpea flour: This is aka roasted gram flour or roasted besan. There is a difference between besan and roasted besan and for this recipe, you have to use roasted besan flour. If you are a south-Indian like me, you will have a jar of Pottukadalai lying around! Take some and pound to powder using a mortar and pestle to use in this recipe.
- Water: For this recipe, you can go up to 1 cup of water but I would start with less and add the rest at the end if required. The "salan" or curry needs to be runny but not too thin.
- Full-fat yoghurt: Whenever I made a yoghurt-based gravy, the first thing I do is measure out the yoghurt, whisk and keep it on the counter. This way, it will reach room temp by the time you need it in the cooking process. Helps prevent heavily curdled curry.
See the recipe card below for exact quantities.
Before heading to how to make kofta curry, let me share how not to make them with a few lessons I learnt.
Frying vs not frying
I tried frying the meatballs as most kofta curry recipes suggest, but it failed to give the same flavour as my friend's dish. So, I skip the frying step and add the meatballs directly to the gravy, where they simmer until fully cooked. This way the koftas are infusing the salan with a meaty flavour. And the tastebuds brought back memories of koftay ka salan with rice.
When to add tomato puree?
In the first few attempts, I added the tomato puree before adding yoghurt. This method was good but not a failproof kofta curry recipe. Because I noticed that the yoghurt curdled as soon as it touches the tomato gravy. So, I tried cooking the yoghurt first and then adding the tomato puree. This method gave a smooth textured curry. Whichever method you try, make sure the yoghurt is whisked without lumps and is at room temperature.
Do not use besan flour
Kofta curry recipes call for roasted gram flour but I never needed it. So, I tried using the normal besan flour and it was a terrible idea. Even my meat-loving husband refused to eat the koftay with besan. Never make that mistake. Get roasted besan or make my quick option with pottukadalai (roasted chana dal).
Before you start cooking, please make sure you have all the Kofta Curry ingredients ready in their required state. (refer to the recipe card below for details). This will help you remove stress from cooking and also keep your kitchen tidy.
If you don't have Pakistani or North Indian garam masala, firstly, go and make a batch of it before you start.
I like to use a food processor or a chopper to finely shred the onion, green chillies and fresh herbs together. I then add the rest of the items and process them until well combined. Shape the mixture into 12 to 18 equal-sized koftas. Keep them covered until needed.
To ensure that the meatballs are not crowded or overlapping, you should use a saucepot with a wide bottom. I like to start at medium to high heat and add some oil and ghee. Don't skimp oil and ghee here as we need this to help indicate the cooking stages.
When the oil is warm (place your palm above the pot and if it is warm, it is ready). Add the whole spices and let them swell for a few seconds only.
Next, add the prepared onion paste and sauté until golden. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.
Now, add the ginger garlic paste and sauté until it smells nice and is no longer raw.
Reduce the heat to low to medium and add the ground spices with a splash of water and cook until the oil separates. As soon as you see a film of oil around the edges and top, it is time for the next step.
On low heat, add the whisked room-temperature yoghurt in small batches. I like to do it in two or three batches each time stirring into the masala until no traces of yoghurt remain.
Continue to whisk the gravy with the back of the ladle until boils and the oil surfaces. This may take anywhere between 5 to 8 minutes.
Next, stir in the prepared tomato puree with a dash of salt and cook for 5 minutes or until you start seeing... you guessed it – the oil!
Now, just stir in ¾ to 1 cup of water and bring to a light boil. This is to ensure that the gravy is warm when you place the koftas so they don't crack.
Place the koftas in a single layer in the pan (hence the need for a wide-bottomed pan). Turn the heat to medium and bring it to a boil. At this stage, refrain from stirring the koftas.
Now, put the lid on and let the meatballs cook for 10 minutes. Stir only when they are no longer looking raw. This will ensure you don’t break the koftas before they got a chance to set. At any point from here, if you want more curry, add only boiled water.
Open and stir the kofta curry and taste and adjust the salt. Ensure full cooking of the meatballs by turning the heat to low, covering the pan, and cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Lastly, open and stir in freshly chopped green chillies and coriander leaves. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes and then switch it off. Serve Koftay ka salan immediately with rice, roti, naan, paratha, etc.
Hint: If you have guests or neighbours' kids and want more koftay than in the curry, add some boiled eggs to the pot in the last few minutes of cooking!
- black cardamom: This imparts a flavour hard to substitute, but in its absence, you may use more cloves and cinnamon.
- ground meat: I have not tried it but I am sure you can use ground chicken too.
- ginger garlic paste: You can use ginger garlic paste as I did. If you don't have them, use fresh ginger root and garlic pods of equal weight and process using a dash of oil.
- tomatoes: I have used a fresh ripe tomato that I peeled and pureed. You can use premade tomato puree instead.
- roasted gram flour: Do not use besan. For the best alternative, use roasted chana dal (Pottukadali) that has been ground to a powder.
- kashmiri red chilli powder: We add this mainly for the colour, as it is a less spicy version. You can skip or use paprika.
- As this is a homely food recipe, there are no restrictions on what can or can't be added. Some families add potatoes or boiled eggs along with the koftay. The only major difference I noticed is that some kofta curry recipes are made without tomatoes.
- Traditionally, roasted gram flour is used to make the kofta meatballs, but nowadays it is common to use breadcrumbs and eggs, which is also acceptable. You do you! An Indian kitchen will always have some form of roasted chana dal and it does impart a flavour that egg and breadcrumbs cannot bring.
- Bonus idea: I would love to sneak some kind of grated vegetable into the koftas. I am looking at grated zucchini or bottle gourd.
- food processor or mixie grinder - to process the koftay mixture
- thick-bottomed wide saucepot - to prepare the salan (avoid cast iron)
- wooden ladle
You can store leftover Koftay ka Salan in a container and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. To reheat, take it out and place it on the counter until it reaches room temperature. Reheat in microwave or stovetop on low until warm.
When boiling yoghurt-based curries, they may curdle, but if done correctly, you will not find large white specks. To prevent the yoghurt from curdling to large specks, make sure to:
- use room temperature, whisked full-fat yoghurt
- add only after you reduce the heat to low
- add little a time like tempering the yoghurt
- continue stirring or whisking the curry until the yoghurt is combined with the masala
Even if your Salan or curry is curdled, the dish is safe to eat and will still be tasty.
Unlike Italian meatballs, Indian meatballs are processed in a processor to make them finer and use roasted gram flour as a binding agent. To prevent the koftas from breaking, make sure the meatballs hold shape and have no cracks while you shape the meatballs. If the koftas don’t hold shape when shaping, add more roasted gram flour or breadcrumbs if you must.
Though the egg is a common binding agent used in most meatball recipes along with breadcrumbs, not all kofta recipes call for eggs. Instead, Kofta recipes use binding agents like soaked chana dal or roasted gram flour.
Kofta balls can be made from a variety of ingredients, but they typically include ground meat (such as beef, lamb or chicken), onions, fresh herbs, and spices. Binding agents like roasted chana dal flour are often added to the mixture to help hold it together. Some variations of kofta also include additional ingredients like cheese, nuts, or vegetables.
Kofta can be made with a variety of meats, including beef, lamb, chicken or a combination of beef and lamb. The choice of meat can vary based on personal preference, regional cuisine, and availability of ingredients.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
A bowl of simple steamed rice would be the best pairing for this salan. But these are my other favourite options to serve with Koftay ka Salan:
Kofta Curry | Koftay Ka Salan
For the koftay:
- 1 medium-sized red onion peeled and quartered
- 2 to 3 green chillies
- 10 to 12 fresh mint leaves
- Fistful Fresh coriander leaves
- 500 grams ground meat beef or lamb
- 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
- 2 tablespoon roasted besan flour (pottukadalai powder)
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon garam masala (Pakistani / North Indian)
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the salan:
- ¼ cup cooking oil (ghee + oil)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- a small piece of mace
- 2 black cardamom
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 7 cloves
- ½ inch cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1½ large red onions ground to paste (approx ½ cup onion paste)
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 2 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
- 2 teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 cup yoghurt whisked and room temperature
- 1 large tomato (peeled and processed) ½ cup tomato puree
- salt to taste
- ¾ to 1 cup water
- 2 to 3 green chillies chopped
- Fistful Fresh coriander leaves chopped
- ½ teaspoon garam masala (Pakistani / North Indian)
- Add the onion, green chillies and fresh herbs into a food processor and pulse a few times until shredded. Next add the ground meat, ground spices, roasted gram flour, and salt. Process until well combined.1 medium-sized red onion, 2 to 3 green chillies, 10 to 12 fresh mint leaves, Fistful Fresh coriander leaves, 500 grams ground meat, 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste, 2 tablespoon roasted besan flour, 1 teaspoon chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt
- Shape the mixture into equal-sized meatballs. Makes roughly 12 to 18 koftas. Keep them covered and refrigerated until needed. You can make this a day ahead.
Prepare the curry:
- Place a wide-bottomed saucepot on medium to high heat and add some oil and ghee. When the oil is warm, add the whole spices and let them swell for a few seconds only. Any longer, the spices may get burnt.¼ cup cooking oil, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, a small piece of mace, 2 black cardamom, ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, 7 cloves, ½ inch cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf
- Next, add the prepared onion paste and sauté until golden. This will take a few minutes.1½ large red onions
- Now, add the ginger garlic paste and sauté until it smells nice and is no longer raw.1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- Reduce the heat to low to medium and add the ground spices with a splash of water and cook until the oil separates. As soon as you see a film of oil around the edges and top, it is time for the next step.2 teaspoon red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder, 2 teaspoon coriander powder, ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- On low heat, add the whisked room-temperature yoghurt in small batches. Do it in two or three batches each time stirring into the masala until no traces of yoghurt remain.1 cup yoghurt
- Turn the heat to medium and continue to whisk with the back of the ladle until the oil surfaces. This may take anywhere between 5 to 8 minutes.
- Next, stir in the prepared tomato puree with a dash of salt and cook for a few minutes or until you start seeing... you guessed it – the oil!1 large tomato, salt to taste
- Now, stir in water and bring to a light boil. This is to ensure that the gravy is warm when you place the koftas so they don't crack.¾ to 1 cup water
Add the meatballs to the curry:
- Place the meatballs in a single layer in the pan and bring to a boil on medium heat. At this stage, refrain from stirring the koftas. Now, cover the pot and cook on low for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the meatballs only when they are no longer looking raw. This will ensure you don’t break the meatballs before it got time to set.
- Open and stir the kofta curry and taste and adjust the salt. Now, reduce the heat to low and again cook covered for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
- Lastly, open and stir in freshly chopped green chillies and coriander leaves. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes and then switch it off. Sprinkle some garam masala and serve immediately with rice, roti, naan, paratha, etc.2 to 3 green chillies, Fistful Fresh coriander leaves, ½ teaspoon garam masala
Recipe adapted from Ruby Ka Kitchen.
If you have tried making this Koftay Ka Salan recipe or any other recipe on But First Chai, then please don't forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! I would be super happy to hear how it turned out for you. And if you happen to take any photos or videos, please share them with me on Instagram @butfirstchaai so I can see and share your feedback!