Lamb Korma

Use only full fat plain yogurt for this recipe. Low fat or non-fat may separate.

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8


  • 8 whole cloves (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves)
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns (or 4 teaspoons ground pepper)
  • 5 green cardamom pods (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds (or 3 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cumin seeds (1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin)
  • 5 Tbsp of light sesame oil or canola oil
  • 3 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 heaping Tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 heaping teaspoon paprika
  • 1 stick of cinnamon, ground, or 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 4 very big, very ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks OR 1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, cut in quarters
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups full fat plain yogurt (can use Greek style)
  • Salt


1 Grind and crush the spices: Using a mortar and pestle, grind the cloves until fine. Add the peppercorns and grind them roughly. Add the cardamom pods and crush them with the cloves and peppercorns.


2 Cook the onions, add spices: Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large, thick-bottomed pot with a lid. Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the turmeric to the onions, and stir to coat. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika and cinnamon. Stir in the ground cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns. Add the crushed garlic and the grated ginger. Cook for 2 minutes.

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3 Add the tomatoes (with their juices) to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 4 minutes.

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4 Add the lamb pieces to the pot, stir to coat with the spices, onions and tomatoes, and let cook for 4 minutes.


5 Stir in the water and yogurt and mix well. Add salt to taste. Cover the pot, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to a very low simmer. Cook very gently for 2 hours or more, stirring every 15 minutes or so. The stew should cook at a bare simmer until the lamb is very tender.

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Serve with basmati rice and/or flatbread.

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  • Alan

    I add a teaspoon of curry to the recipe and thicken slightly with a roux

  • Shelley Young

    This recipe was delicious. Thank you for all the recipes you’ve put together!

  • Asma

    Hi there! Thanks for the recipe. I’m going to be making this in a few days. Can I use ground spices, instead? If so, how much of each spice (cloves, cardamom, black pepper, etc) should I use? I will also be doubling the recipe. Thank you so much!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Asma, great question! I’ve added approximate ground spice equivalents to the ingredient list. You’ll need to double if you are doubling the recipe.

      • Asma

        Wonderful! Thank you so much for your prompt response :) Noshe-jaan, as we say in Farsi! Bon apetit!

  • Helen Ackerman

    This tasted very good, but the sauce curdled. I used full fat yogurt. Can you suggest what I may have done wrong, and how I can stop it happening again. Thank you.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Helen, maybe the full fat yogurt still doesn’t have enough fat? I would try stirring in some heavy whipping cream. Make sure when you bring it to a simmer that it is a very low simmer.

  • Jarrett

    Firstly, this is excellent – I halved it. I’d recommend using closer to full spice than half if you are doing what I did.

    Do you think this recipe could use sugar, Elise? Even 1 tbsp? I feel like it’s lacking a little richness or sweetness.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Jarrett, if you sprinkle a little sugar on it and you think that improves the taste for you, go ahead!

  • Rachel

    Hi Elise, quick question – do you think it could be frozen, or would the yoghurt not survive?
    Thanks so much for this – and many other – recipes!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Rachel, great question! I don’t know the answer. I haven’t tried freezing this recipe. But if you do, please let us know how it turns out for you.

  • Said

    I naturally am a lamb korma person, the number one dish for me in any authentic Indian restaurant. And I avoid making it for myself because I worry I’d mess it up. I tried this recipe out and the flavors are all there, yumm, my first attempt to cook any Indian dish ever. The only thing is that the consistency is not the same as what I am used to, but I guess it is to do with the amount of water added? I followed all the measurements as recommended though.

  • Michael

    This looks good enough to replace my monthly chili adventure. One thing I might change since it works so well on the chili is to toast at least least the cumin and coriander in a pan and then pass those through a pepper grinder. Makes for wonderfully intense and smoky flavors.

  • Jason

    This recipe is excellent. I reduced the water a little, added a can of coconut milk instead of yogurt and cooked it in a slow cooker overnight. It was absolutely delicious.

  • Jim Gauntt

    So I made this and loved the scents of the spices working. Ran into a little problem when I taste tested near the end. It was not very flavorful and very sour. Should have tasted the yogurt before adding it. The brand I bought was quite sour (not bad just a sour taste) and the result in the sauce was “inedible sour”. Added more cinnamon, a lot, added more cardamom and coriander, then added sweeteners; first a little sugar. When that did not touch it, we went for the big guns and added some molasses to balance the sour. There was no “molasses” flavor, but it took that extra sweetener to make this work because I did not taste the yogurt brand I bought.

    In addition to knowing your yogurt and buying something that is balanced in taste, I would also suggest blending your water and yogurt together and not adding it when the mixture is too hot (lower than boiling/simmering) which could lead to separation of the yogurt even if full fat. Warming the yogurt with the room temp water should help.

    Also watch how much turmeric you add as it can wreak havoc with your taste buds if too much and you are not used to it as a primary spice

  • Jamie

    Well I didn’t make the recipe (yet) but I went straight to the library and checked out the book, and loved it! Then I went to the internet and bought the book so I could have the recipes on my cookbook shelf. Najaf Masari is a wonderful storyteller and recipe-teller. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  • Fritz

    Great post, just had to make it immediately. I used all spices as specified, but instead of using stove top, I tossed all into slow cooker as inspired by recent Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork recipe (thanks for that one as well!) for 6 hours with “simmer” setting. I was a bit doubtful about cooking something in dairy product for such a long time, but it came out great.

  • Kaye

    Made this today. Big hit with the family. Just enough spice to add a warmth to the mouth. Made it just like the recipe said. Will make it again for friends and family when they visit.

  • Jim Gauntt

    I love the comments (even those of critique) and especially the last one. This one makes it very clear that all recipes are local. One man’s korma is another woman’s qorma and how one arrives at the “best” is a matter of whose taste buds and history are judging. Rarely do we make a recipe as suggested. Rather we use our local flavor needs and knowledge to enjoy the process and then, ultimately, the food.

  • Soma

    First, thanks for mentioning the book. sounds intriguing and I want to read it, esp. the way it describes the recipe.

    I was reading the comments above. All I can say is the term “Korma/Quorma” is translated in diff. ways in different regions of the subcontinent. Even in India, different states make korma in different ways. The recipe of Korma from the northern regions of India is very different from that in the south. So there is no one single “traditional” recipe. This looks fantastic and if I had to do it, I would use goat meat :) as I do not like the gamey flavor of lamb.

    Thanks for adding the link to my post Elise. Much appreciate it.

  • Paula

    Can I use pork to make this?

  • Virginia

    Wish you were my friend. I’d love to have somebody audition books for me. (Well, I guess you just did that.) Your recipe looks wonderful. I have easy access to ground lamb, so I think I’ll make meatballs and use those. Maybe I’ll even try beef if there is no lamb around. I find all the comments quite enriching as well.

  • Donna Schilling

    On the Lamb Korma…I have a question please.
    Do you use the entire cardamom pod, outer shell/covering and all?
    I always thought it was like a brittle woody covering that would not ‘break down’ but rather end up like hard straw in a dish. I have always opened the pods, taken out the little seeds and thrown the shell away.
    OH LORD, have I been wasting my time all these years?!?
    Do they cook up tender after a bit of time, say an hour?
    I have other dishes where cardamom pods are required, so I would love to know.

    Also, I can’t eat lamb. Is there a protein substitute.
    Many Thanks!

    • Elise Bauer

      Some recipes call for just the cardamom seeds, some for the whole pods. When a recipe calls for the whole pod, then use the whole pod. I grind the whole pod in a mortar and pestle until it’s pretty well broken up. I think if you were baking with cardamom, you would only want the seeds, because the pods would end up a little tough. But in this case, the stew cooks for at least 2 hours, in liquid, and you’ve already crushed and ground the pods.

      As for protein substitutes, both chicken and beef have been recommended.

  • Maria

    Love the recipe, will try this with chicken since I rarely cook lamb. Thanks for the book tips, sounds like a great read! I especially love how author instructs you to read a book while you wait for dish to finish, nice way to spend an afternoon.

  • george

    Looks wonderful could
    this recipe work with beef

  • Amy

    Hi Elise! This looks wonderful!

    I was wondering – if I use ground cardamom how much would I use? I just bought a big batch of ground cardamom and tumeric and I am dying to use them. :) Thanks for all the great recipes over the years.

    • Elise Bauer

      Great question Amy. Cardamom has a strong and distinctive taste. You may want to just start with a half teaspoon of ground cardamom (or less) and experiment, add more if you like.

  • Judith

    I’m going to be a food history nerd for a moment here. If this is an ancient Afghani recipe, the tomatoes must be a new addition. Tomatoes were originally from the Americas and were not introduced to the rest of the world until after the Spanish conquest.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Judith, I don’t think anyone is claiming that this recipe is an ancient Afghani recipe. Nor would I claim that a tomato-based pasta sauce was an ancient Italian recipe, or anything with chilies in it an ancient Indian recipe. Potatoes, tomatoes, chilies, are all new world foods, and they’ve become an essential part of many cuisines around the world.

      • Lana

        I don’t think Judith was trying to complain about the authenticity of the recipe. I merely think that she is fascinated by food history and was making an intriguing observation on how tomato had been integrated into the cuisine. Judith – I get you. From one nerd to another, I thank you for your tidbit.

  • Shahida

    The recipe may taste very nice but sorry to say that you do not add Turmeric and Tomatoes to Kormas. This is not authentic Korma but a recipe from Western takeaway!!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hello Shahida, if you read the intro you would see that this recipe comes from Afghanistan. Perhaps the author makes his korma differently than you do.

  • Quick question

    Hi, Elise –

    Would you also recommend browning the lamb in oil, as one might do with beef in a chili?

    • Elise Bauer

      Great question. Once I made a veal stew of my father’s, his recipe didn’t call for browning the meat but I thought it was a good idea and went ahead and browned it. The result was dry! Not at all what it should have been. When I made it again without browning, it was perfect. Lamb is tender like veal. It doesn’t need to be browned in this stew and there is plenty of flavor from the spices.

  • Yasmin

    Elise, pardon me for being critical but your sauce doesn’t look right, and I think it’s because you cooked it for too long.

    My suggestion is to brown the onion, and then add the lamb, and then immediately add the spices and garlic, and then immediately stir to coat the meat. Then cook the lamb slowly until it is tender (you may want to add meat tenderiser to this stage if it is too tough). This may take a while but it’s worth it, believe me.

    Once the lamb is tender, THEN you add the tomatoes, because adding the tomatoes before the lamb is tender will cause the lamb to toughen up and then you will wind up in a situation where your sauce has gone funny because you had to cook the lamb for hours to get it soft again.

    Once the tomatoes are mostly dissolved, add the water and yogurt and then let it simmer until the oil begins to come up to the top of the sauce, which is the maximum amount of time you should cook any grave-based Indian dish, especially korma or curry. Adjust the salt and spices and you are done.

    Source: My mother in law, who has the equivalent of a PhD when it comes to cooking Indian food.

    • Michael

      Hi Yasmin, that is great advice. I just cooked an amazing chili from scratch (same concept as here; toasted cumin/coriander/dried chil, crushed) with bone-in-lamb and slow-cooked for hours. The chili tasted AMAZING at one point but the lamb was not tender, I cooked until it fell off the bone, but the flavor never recovered. I’m going to try that recipe and this the same way. Thanks and thanks to your mother in law!

  • ben

    The ginger-and-garlic combination and the way of treating the spices I learned from Madhur Jaffrey’s books, this is very much in her spirit.

  • Mani

    This looks beautiful. I make lamb almost the same way, I just cook it in pressure cooker, takes around 20 minutes of pressure to have perfectly soft lamb. Saves a whole lot of time too.

  • Michaela @

    Looks delicious and now I’m craving something with those flavors. Conveniently, I also just bought some cardamon pods. I foresee this dish in my future very soon. I don’t know if I’m reading the recipe or not, but I do not see the step of where you add the cardamon pods. Is it ground with the other whole spices and added at that time?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Michaela, oops, I wrote the part about the spices incorrectly, it’s been corrected now, thank you!

  • Tom Hammer

    Oh, rockin’! Thank you for posting…love lamb, love curries and kormas and this looks good. I love that this is a “grind your own spices” and not “add curry powder” recipe. Using fresh spices and letting their oils bloom while cooking the onions in oil/fat makes all the difference in a rich, tasty sauce. What a wonderful reminder that Afghanistan is a cradle of civilization, not just a land under the grip of violent, ideological struggle. Beautiful people, beautiful food.