Friday, April 20, 2012

Haleem - Represents Pakistan's culture (Gluten free :))

Haleem: Threads of beef, a bite of lentils and oats and melody of spices with delicious garnishes. Haleem is a true representation of the subcontinent/Mughal heritage. It is a very well known dish in Lahore, Karachi (Pakistan) and Hyderabad (India).  It has a beautiful golden, dull yellow color, its consistency is very similar to creamy dish of risotto. It’s made with aromatic and hot spices. It is served with crispy fried onions for texture, ginger, lemon juice to cut through the spiced creaminess.

An original recipe of haleem requires 16-20 hours of cook time and if you have had that haleem you are one of the lucky ones. My mum used to start cooking it at night so we can have for lunch for the next day. She would brown the meats with garlic ginger and haleem spices like cloves, cardamom, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Then she would add soaked lentils and wheat and lots of water in the big pot. She would put the heat on very low temperature, cover the pot and would stick wet dough (flour and water) around the edges so no moisture left the pot. Then it would cook all night. I remember once my mum opened the pot in front of me, the meat was off the bones and almost shredded. There used be a light layer of oil and lentils were just melted together. Then my mum would cook it more and add fried onions to the pot.  Imagine waking up to the smell of celebration, the expectation of company, love and happiness. Haleem was made at my parent’s home for Eid, Weddings and Birthdays. My mum always served it with Naan, however I loved eating it on its own. I want to add that my mum is the best cook in the world. I mean it.

I make haleem every month because it makes my husband and me very happyJ. Now my version of haleem cooks in 4 hours. Yes it is still a long time but so worth the work. It is a hearty meal with lots of nutrients and calories (Just go for a walk after). I do use tools like the pressure cooker, hand mixture/chopper and a spice mix etc.
The process of making haleem is very soothing, creative and fulfilling. You begin with a packet of beef, lentils, oats and spices and end up with this beautiful dish which makes everyone very surprised and happyJ.
  •        500 gms beef cubes
  •       1 cup of yellow split chana *
  •          1/2 cup of salmon colored masoor daal*
  •         1/3 cup of Red Mill’s Hot Cereal 
  •          1 tbsp of garlic paste
  •          1 tbsp ginger
  •          2 tbsp of yogurt
  •          A packet of Shan’s Haleem Spice Mix* 
  •          1 ½ cup of sliced onions (2 tbsp for garnish after fried)
  •          2 tbsp julienne ginger (garnish)
  •          2 tbsp chopped cilantro(garnish)
  •          3-4 green chopped chillies(garnish)
  •          2 small limes(garnish)
  •      1 cup of canola/corn oil

  •    Soak the lentils together for at least 2 hours (not the oats)
  •    Boil and cook the lentils in 7 cups of water for an hour on a medium heat.
  •   In a pressure cooker add ½ cup of oil, Sautee the beef with garlic and ginger paste, add ½ pack of spices, sautee for 30 seconds, keep stirring and then add the yogurt.
  •    Stir for 3 min and then add 6 cups of water, let it boil and then close the lid.
  •    Cook it for 15 minutes after the whistle of the pressure cooker sounds.
  •     You don’t need to have pressure cooker, follow the same instruction until adding the water. Your cooking time will increase from 15-30 minutes to 45-60 minutes. Until the meat is cooked.
  •     Add the meat mixture to the cooking lentils. If you think there is too much water, don’t worry that will change with time of cooking.
  •   Get 6 pieces of beef cubes out of pot in a separate bowl. Once they are cooled, shred them with your hands like thin threads.
  •          Let the meat and lentils cook together for half an hour on low medium heat, so it is simmering. Stir occasionally. Let it cool afterwards and mix it with a hand mixture like a soup. You can also use the chopper. Once everything is emulsified, add the shredded meat and simmer  the mixture for another 45 minutes.
  •  Fry onions in the remaining oil on medium heat until they are golden brown. Save 2 tbsp for garnish add the rest of the onions in the simmering pot. You will see the color changing from pale yellow to golden yellow.
  •  In the same oil, heat the rest of the spice packet for 30-45 seconds and add that to the haleem as well.
  •   From here the consistency of the haleem will change from soup-like to creamy thick sauce. Add the oats and cook it for another hour on very low heat.
  •  Now the more you cook, the better it’s going to taste. So if thickens before time, I always add a cup of water and cook it again on low heat. Once you start to the see oil spots while it bubbles, it is ready.
  •  Serve it with, gluten free bread (recipe link), and the garnish of fried onions, green chillies, julienne ginger, chopped cilantro and small limes.

  •    My mum in-law gave me a tip; to fry the onions on medium heat and add salt, so the water of the onions gets evaporates, leaving the onions extra crispy.
  •  *You can get these products from any South Asian, Indian/Pakistani Stores.
  •    You can use the store fried onions in packets, however they may have flour/wheat in them.
  •    It is a spicy dish, so eat with caution.
  •    You can use home spice mix for the haleem for the same measurement of meat and lentils.
        •  1 tbsp cayenne pepper
        •   1 tsp turmeric
        •    3 tbsp Garam Masala
        •    1/4 tsp black pepper
        •    1 grinded bay leaf
        • 2 grinded curry leaf
        • 1/2 tsp grinded mustard seeds
        • salt for taste (1-2 levelled table spoons of salt
If you have a different recipe for haleem or try this at home, let me know how it turns out.


Once the spices are sauteed for 30 seconds, add yoghurt.

Seperate few pieces of meat for shredded texture that is added later.
Dont worry about haleem being too soup-like. It needs this water to emulsify everything.

Stir if your pan is too wine, to brown everything equally.

when it bubbles by the end there should be small pools of oil , that means your haleem is ready to be eaten.

Garnish-Adds an extra dimension of taste to your delicious haleem


  1. Thanks for this post - I love Haleem and the thought of having to give it up was pretty painful. I am gluten and dairy free - do you have any ideas for a replacement for the yogurt?

  2. Thanks Amina,

    You dont have to add yogurt during cooking of haleem, just take it out. My mom used to add yogurt to melow the spice while sauteeing the meat. You can add water.

  3. As salaamu alaikum. I sometimes use a bit of coconut milk instead of yogurt as I'm also wheat dairy and sugar intolerant, al hamdulillah. This is a lovely recipe Jazaakillahu khairan. Can I use any wheat free grain for this? I'm not sure but I think I can have barley. I don't think we have the brand you use in Ireland.

    1. Salam Aishah
      JAK for coconut milk tip, i think that that would work really well. Any kind of wheat free grain would work as long as it gets cooking time in the haleem. The grain should have a slight bite that adds to the texture of haleem. I have used half cooked rice as well instead of oats.
      Thank you for writing.

  4. JAK! Thank you very much. We used to cook haleem, but we haven't enjoyed in 2+ years since going GF. Now my husband is low sodium which adds another barrier. I decided to investigate for GF substitutes and a homemade spice mixture. You included both! TY! I am excited to try your recipe!

    1. Thank you Sarah,
      Hamdulillah i am glad i could help, please let me know how it came out.

  5. Assalaamu aleikum
    I just found my way here via a Google search for gluten-free haleem (been having cravings, but have been mostly wheat-free for nearly a year). This recipe looks fantastic, I can't wait to try it! Do you think quinoa would work in haleem? JAK

  6. Waslam Huda,

    JAK for your comment. I have not tried qinuoa in haleem however i have eaten it and i believe tha qinuoa texture may not give haleem the hearty texture that other wheat free oats/grains give as qinuoa is a little springy. If you try it please let me know how it turns out .

  7. Assalaamu aleikum
    I tried the haleem tonight... I wimped out of trying quinoa after I noticed a comment about rice here. I only had brown rice, so I soaked and cooked it with the daals. I also added less spice mix than stated in the recipe because we're not desis and can't handle it ;-) The haleem turned out a little runny, maybe it needed to cook for longer? but everyone was too hungry! It went down really well alhamdulillah, so I can add it to my GF repertoire! I'll be back to try more of your recipes in sha Allah.

    1. Salam Huda,
      Sorry for the late reply. I am glad it turned out good. Yea haleem gets better the more simmering time it gets!!
      Thanks for trying the recipe.

  8. Thanks so much for posting this recipe. I recently went gluten free and once thing I would have hated was to stop eating Haleem.