Indian Recipe | Chicken Shami Kebabs … patties from the past!

“What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?”
Lin Yutang

Here’s a change from cakes, cookies and desserts.  An Indian savoury dish I experimented with a few weeks ago. Got it pretty right! Shami kebabs, as they are referred to in the Indian subcontinent, make for great cocktail snacks if you make small bite sized patties,  and wonderful evening snacks served with lime, sliced onions and a green chutney. Serve them as main course, and you got a quick, delicious meal on the go. I often serve them with parathas with a tossed sliced onion, lime and green chili salad on the side, or in a wrap with a tangy, crunchy bell pepper salad.  They also give an interesting fusion angle to  the much loved hamburger. If you want to cut calories, use olive oil instead of clarified butter, though I think the taste does get enhanced because of the clarified butter or  ghee.

Shami Kebab is a popular Pakistani and Indian kebab, that is composed of small patty minced mutton or beef, ground chickpeas and spices. Shami kebabs are an extremely popular snack in Pakistan and India. They are often garnished with lemon juice and/or sliced raw onions, and are usually eaten with chutney made from mint or coriander.

Some are of the opinion that these kebabs were introduced to South Asia during the Mughal era by Muslim emigrants from the Middle East. They had employed cooks from all over the Muslim world to serve in the royal kitchens.  The Shami Kebab are also popular in Afghanistan and Azerbaijan. Another source states that the word Sham is evening in Hindi and Urdu and Sham-e-Awadh, evening in Lucknow of yore since the time of Nawab regime. The Awadh region has its own distinct Nawabi style cuisine, with various kinds of biryanis, kebabs and breads. Kebabs are also of different types – Kakori Kebabs, Galawati Kebabs, Shami Kebabs, Boti Kababs, Patili-ke-Kababs, Ghutwa Kababs and Seekh Kababs are among the known varieties.

My mother hails from Lucknow { Lucknow is in Uttar Pradesh, the state where the beautiful Taj Mahal is found } popularly known as the City of Nawabs, which is the erstwhile home ground of Awadhi cuisine. Our childhood was filled with kormas, biryanis and kebabs. Pizzas were a royal treat, and pasta was unheard of. Indian cuisine  from across the country showed up at our table, yet most often it was the lamb curry or the kebab in many different avatars, all  made from memory. In the good old days,  goat meat was the popular choice. As times change and chicken gains preference over red meat, in our home at least, it seemed a fine time to experiment. Quick consultations  with the mother led me to try a chicken kebab variation on an old lamb shami kebab recipe of hers.

The recipe is simple and straightforward, the processor is your friend here and does all the dirty work. A tip : I find that fresh garam masala holds the key to good taste, and even though it might mean a little extra work, it is well worth the effort! Every home in India has a different  garam masala recipe, and it is entirely adaptable to taste. Don’t hesitate if you are missing an ingredient or two. Whole spices, fresh roasted to release their warming aromas, are the way to go! Another tip : If you are short on time and don’t want to add the chopped onions and fresh coriander to the cooked mince, smoke the cooked mince with a bit of smoldering coal, placed over a piece of foil on the cooked mince. Pour a few drops of clarified butter {or melted butter} to increase the smoke, and seal container quickly to trap the smoke in. Leave to stand for about 30 minutes, shut tight, and enjoy wonderful smoked kebabs!

The kebabs turned out great and therefore had to be shared. For those who make lamb kebabs often, this is a leaner version. For those who haven’t had a go at shammi kebabs, the time couldn’t be better. There is just one trick – to balance the amount of water and the cooking time, and make sure you dry all the liquid before grinding the cooked mince. Find what amount of cooking time works for you best. I now make about 40 kebabs from a kilo of mince and freeze it in flat patties between parchment paper. The freezer has never been more tempting than this.

Chicken Shami Kebabs
Minced chicken 500gms {from thigh tenders}
5-6 cloves garlic
1″ piece ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chana dal, washed and soaked overnight in fridge
1 portion fresh garam masala {recipe follows}
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup water {adjust if required}
2 tsps clarified butter, ghee

Salt to taste


Place the mince with all the ingredients, except the clarified butter / ghee, in a pressure cooker, and cook under pressure, on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes.
Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes, open and dry any remaining liquid on high heat. Discard the bay leaves. Adjust seasoning if required, and grind in a processor, adding the clarified butter / ghee to the cooked mince.
Take walnut sized portions, and make neat, tight patties between the palms of your hands. If you wish to freeze them, do so with parchment paper/wax paper/cling wrap between layers. This way, you can just remove a few from the freezer instead of defrosting the entire lot.
Serve hot with a green chutney, and finely sliced onions tossed in lime juice and salt.
Fresh Garam Masala
6-8 balls whole pepper
4 cloves
2 tsp cumin seeds / zeera
1 stick cinnamon {small}
3-4 green cardamom / chhoti elaichi
2-3 black cardamom / badi elaichi
2 pinches nutmeg, freshly grated
A bit of mace
1 tbsp white poppy seeds / khush khush
Place all ingredients except poppy seeds / khush khush in a heavy bottom saucepan or griddle and roast the whole spices on low heat till fragrant. Add poppy seeds and stir continuously for under a minute. The seeds will begin popping, Remove from heat immediately and cool. Grind and sieve.
Note: Be careful that the whole spices don’t burn, so stir them constantly and don’t leave them unattended. If you don’t have some of the spices, you can still make fairly good garam masala, so don’t fear! The magic comes from the freshly made masala, so do give it a shot.
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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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About me: I am a freelance food writer, recipe developer and photographer. Food is my passion - baking, cooking, developing recipes, making recipes healthier, using fresh seasonal produce and local products, keeping a check on my carbon footprint and being a responsible foodie! I enjoy food styling, food photography, recipe development and product reviews. I express this through my food photographs which I style and the recipes I blog. My strength lies in 'Doing Food From Scratch'; it must taste as good as it looks, and be healthy too. Baking in India, often my biggest challenge is the non-availability of baking ingredients, and this has now become a platform to get creative on. I enjoy cooking immensely as well.


  1. Deeba, Lamb Shaami kababs are my absolute favorite. I haven’t tried them with chicken yet. But yes, my father is not supposed to have red meat any longer due to health concerns, so I had tried shaami kababs with soys granules. They turned out just perfect.
    Mona´s last blog post ..The Hyderabadi Ramadan Food Festival 2010Season II-RoundupMy Profile

  2. Deeba, I’m bookmarking this recipe!!! Love the Shammi Kebabs recipe! My mouth is watering right now! I love your pictures of Luknow…my dream is to visit India one day! :)
    Sara´s last blog post ..Bangladeshi Style Creamy Chicken Korma w- Crispy Shallots- Almonds &amp Golden RaisinsMy Profile

  3. The time is now to try these shami kebabs Deeba:D

  4. Love all these pictures Deeba! These kebabs sound intriguing!
    Amanda´s last blog post ..Savory Chicken with Onion Thyme SauceMy Profile

  5. yepp something different from your regular posts. i love shami kebabs and all things kebab bring fresh childhood memories from back home. those kebabs look well done and your family must have emptied the plates in a jiffy!
    Tamanna´s last blog post ..My Kitchen WishlistMy Profile

  6. Pictures of lucknow is wonderful and the kebabs looks delicious….Treat to eyes Deeba

  7. Delicious post Deeba. A childhood of kormas, biryanis and kebabs is just what I would love. The kebabs look scrumptious.

  8. These look divine Deeba! And hehe you’re right, I did a bit of a double take as I was used to seeing delicious sweets. Now there are delicious savouries! 😀

  9. What a great change from sweets…Lentils are also popular in Poland, I am going to use this recipe…and, as always, great pictures. I hope I will visit India one day.

    BTW, my quite close Polish friends are so fascinated by your country that they even named their daughter India :)
    Magdalena´s last blog post ..Mushroom Season Part 3My Profile

  10. I like the freezer tip – indispensable if you are feeding a crowd. These look so good and the photos of Lucknow are fascinating.
    Sally – My Custard Pie´s last blog post ..Diary of a Christmas cakeMy Profile

  11. Love the various shades of Lucknow. Awadhi cuisine is a royal treat any time.
    Sanjeeta kk´s last blog post ..Garlic Scones…err…Quick BreadMy Profile

  12. Hi Deeba,
    First timer here. Love your food styling techniques.. Food looks scrumptious 😀

  13. I love your savory dishes and want to eat at your house. These are perfect! Yes, I usually use lamb but I will try these. Perfect for a dinner buffet and love the flavors. Yum yum!
    Jamie´s last blog post ..COOKIE FRENZYMy Profile

  14. Krista says:

    I love this dish, Deeba! So simple yet delicious. I’m very excited to try it soon. I love the idea of that zesty pepper salad accompanying it. :-)

  15. Lovely kebabs… will going to try after Diwali. Bookmarked :-)
    Preeti´s last blog post ..Kappa Matar Pattice- Tapioca Green Pease PatticeMy Profile

  16. Am definitely trying these and you have inspired me to take up the challenge of making my own Garam Masala! What a great idea to substitute chicken. Loved the recipe, the history, the smoked tip and the pix. Beautifully done, as always Deeba.

  17. Helene says:

    I have never tasted Chicken Shami Kebabs. Thanks for sharing. They look yummy. Love all of the pictures :)
    Helene´s last blog post ..Vanilla Cake with Brown Sugar Fudge FrostingMy Profile

  18. mmm, deeba, i adore chicken shami kebabs. and i love all the beautiful photos you have put up- the taj mahal, especially! the kebabs look scrumptious- my Ami is visiting and this is smthg we do together- make shami kebabs. hopefully we wont get lazy and will do it this time round, too. love your version with chicken. delish. x shayma
    shayma´s last blog post ..Aloo Baingan- Potatoes &amp Aubergine – Eggplant in the Pakistani MannerMy Profile

  19. Look absolutely delicious enough to temp me :)
    elra´s last blog post ..Mushroom Monyet Wild Mushroom En CrouteMy Profile

  20. Chicken Shami Kebabs! Wow. I was in the mood for Indian/Pakistani food for a while and now I know what to make! Thank for sharing this. I will make it soon and suprise hubby with it :)

  21. Love that you added the chana dal to these kebabs.
    Your kebabs look wonderful! It is kebab week at Get Grillin’. Cookin’ Canuck & I would love it if you linked up this recipe & any other kebabs you might have :)

  22. Nicolette Peele says:

    Hello! I’ve been following your weblog for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Lubbock Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

  23. Neelima says:

    Hi Deeba,
    Did you miss to mention eggs? Because when I tried your recipe the patties all came apart in the pan.


  24. Hi Deeba, for over 2 years i have been making cakes and other spicy dishes from your site. Today i had Kheem left and sat down on making these kababs!! all looked great and turned out well until i got to fry them. as and when they got fried the started crumbling and so my heart!!! so here is what i did. around 250 gms of kheema i had so i reduced the complete receipe by half- i suspect i dint get the channa dal measurment right (i blame it to my math i could fig out half of 1/4th) and hence i suspect the crumbled kababs. now i want to damage control. can you sugest what i could do now to make sure the remaining ones turn out well? add mashed potato?? or dip it in Egg whites and bread crumb which i think might not help too.. potato? is that the solution.

    • Hi Debi,
      I just made a batch yesterday too. I’m sorry yours crumbled. Either the dal measure was out, or they were not dry enough on roasting. Do you have bhuna chana at home? You can grind some and add a tbsp or two to it. Dried breadcrumbs also help to bind and absorb excess moisture, but I prefer the first option. Or then roast some besan on very low heat till fragrant and add a little at a time.
      Do let me know what works for you! Good luck.

      • First, thankyou for your prompt response. you have always been that way. remeber i had gotten intouch with Focaccia disaster, but later all turned well.

        Is channa the whole version of besan?

        • Of course I remember. Been a long time!! I think besan is made from chana dal, but bhuna chana reminds me of roasted chick peas. Maybe I’m wrong, but the two are different.

  25. Salma says:

    Hi there- You talk about adding coriander and onions in the narrative and then leave it out in the recipe itself. I’m guessing that’s the “hara masala” that my mom adds… hers includes some hari mirch also, I think. Any suggested proportions? Thanks. I can’ t get straight answers from my mother about anything food related. Thanks

    • Sorry Salma, My mind sometimes thinks faster than the recipe I type. Sorry for the omission. I add fresh hara dhania and onions after I’ve minced the cooked kebab mixture {yes, I include hari mirch as well now as my boy can tolerate more chili}. 1 bunch of hara dhania, 1 medium onion {50gm} and 2-3 green chilies, depending on how hot you like your food. I also smoke {dhungaar} the mince sometimes for a flavour variation. Not sure if I’ve updated the recipe, but I also now add the juice of 1 lime to the cooked mince.
      You sound like you make interesting food indeed! Do you blog?

  26. Ha, I wish I had the skill and time, but I guess you could say it’s something I secretly aspire to do at some point. At this stage my only media presence is in a science podcast I host (only half-willingly) as part of my job at a US University. I’ve just discovered your blog in search of shami kabab recipes, and am eager to dig in and explore it more. Are you based in India? I have a feeling I’ll be checking in often…

  27. Thanks A ton for sharing the recipe,,.:) prepared today ,,,:)

  28. I just finished making a batch of Shammi kababs and so wish that I had a look at your blog before starting to cook. Well your blog is an accidental find and its just so visually appealing. thanks for sharing…

    • Thanks for your sweet words. I need to update this recipe with stuff I keep changing! Nice to meet you though, Must check out your Shammi kebabs!

  29. Awesome blog. wish I discovered it before cooking my batch of shammi kebabs yesterday
    Neel´s last blog post ..Mughlai – Shammi KababMy Profile

  30. Yummilicious recipe and pics
    Neel´s last blog post ..Mughlai – Shammi KababMy Profile

  31. I am not a fond of chicken but this one is like different regular chicken. I will surely try this or may be order this.


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