Rich with beef and redolent of cardamom, fennel, and star anise, cook this Kerala beef curry in the Instant Pot for an exotic and flavorful weeknight dinner.
Instant Pot Beef Curry (Kerala) served up in a bowl.

Soul Satisfyingly Flavorful

So easy and flavorful, this Instant Pot beef curry is perfect for either weeknight or weekend entertaining. While it takes about an hour and 25 minutes, you actively work on it for only 20 to 30 minutes. The most difficult part (not difficult!) is measuring the spices and chopping up the meat. On a weeknight, I sometimes serve this comforting masala over mashed cauliflower, to up the vitamin quotient.

In India, this curry is often served for Sunday lunch paired with dal, rice, roti (flatbread) or appams (a rice flour flatbread). Traditionally made with chilies and ground black pepper for quite a bit of heat, I’ve cut back on both of these ingredients since my tolerance for heat is not great. Please adjust the heat to the level you prefer.

Most Westerners don’t typically think about beef when thinking about Indian food. But there are Indian states that have enthusiastic beef eaters. Kerala, along the southwestern coast, is one of those states, along with seven states in northern India. These include West Bengal, Assam, and Nagaland. However, approximately 80% of Indians are Hindus. Besides often being vegetarian, for Hindus the cow is a sacred symbol of life, and thus beef is not widely eaten in India.

Nadan Instant Pot Beef Curry

Called Nadan after a small group of south Indians, Nadars are historically known for owning large tracts of land, tax collecting, and, more recently, climbing trees to gather coconuts.

This recipe is based on Meena Meenattoor’s Nadan Beef Curry from her delicious blog Meemi’s Kitchen. Rather than use the more common garam masala blend, she uses a specific Kerala version. This garam masala is made from cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and a bit of star anise. There is no ground cumin or coriander, the two spices that usually act as the foundation for garam masala elsewhere in India.

In addition to reducing the chili hit, I prefer nice sized chunks of meat in my masalas. So rather than buying pre-cut stew meat, I buy two and a half pounds of chuck roast and trim it into 2-inch cubes. This leaves me with about two pounds of beef. If you don’t mind the size of stew meat found at your local butcher or grocer, you can skip this step. The big change I made is using the Instant Pot, which streamlines the cooking process without sacrificing the tempting savoriness of this curry.

Happy cooking!

~ Alonna

See the Notes below before you cook.

Instant Pot Beef Curry (Kerala) served up in a bowl.

Instant Pot Beef Curry (Kerala)

Rich with beef and redolent of cardamom, fennel, and star anise, cook this Kerala beef curry in the Instant Pot for an exotic and flavorful weeknight dinner.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: beef, Curry Leaves, dairy free, Freezer Friendly, Instant Pot, Low Carb, make ahead, Non-vegetarian, South Indian
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Instant pot pressure and release time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 5

Ingredients

Kerala Garam Masala

  • 2 pounds beef ~ Cut into 2-inch cubes, or to your preference
  • 14 green cardamom ~ Shelled, or 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 7 whole cloves
  • 1 inch cassia stick ~ Or cinnamon
  • 7 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 whole star anise

Marinade

  • 1 cup onion ~ Finely minced
  • 2 small green Indian chilis ~ Or one Serrano chili, 1-inch slit down each side
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger ~ Finely minced or puréed
  • 5 garlic cloves ~ Finely minced or puréed
  • 1 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or 3/4 teaspoon cayenne; substitutions
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspooon Kerala garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar ~ White or cider vinegar

Masala (Sauce)

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil ~ Or oil of your choice
  • 1/4 cup onion ~ Finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves ~ Approximately 20 leaves
  • 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste ~ Substitute or make
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Substitutions
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Kerala garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seed
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce or purée ~ Or 2 medium tomatoes finely chopped; see Notes

Instructions

Kerala Garam Masala

  • Gather your ingredients.
    Instant Pot Beef Curry (Kerala-style) ingredients all gathered.
  • Peel your cardamom seeds if you are using whole cardamom pods.
  • In a small skillet over medium heat, toast all the garam masala spices for a minute or two, just until fragrant. Cool and grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. You will have enough for 2 batches of beef curry. Store in a dark and cool place in an airtight container.

Marinade

  • Mix all the marinade ingredients together and add your cubed beef. Mix thoroughly to coat the meat and allow it to sit quietly while you make the masala.
    Instant Beef Curry (Kerala) served up with fresh green chilis.

Masala (Sauce)

  • In the Instant Pot on the sauté mode, add the coconut oil, onions, and curry leaves. Stir frequently and cook until the onions about 5 to 8 minutes until they turn golden around the edges.
  • Add the ginger garlic paste. Stir and saute for 1 to 2 minutes until it smells cooked.
  • Add the Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, Kerala masala, and whole fennel seed. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Add a bit of water, if needed, to prevent sticking.
  • Add the tomato sauce or puree and stir to mix well. If you are using fresh tomatoes, you will need to cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato breaks down.
  • Carefully place the marinated meat on top of the tomato mixture. Close the vent and cook on manual high pressure for 35 minutes. Turn to natural release mode for 10 minutes.
    Instant Pot Beef Curry (Kerala) getting ready to be pressure cooked in the Instant Pot.
  • Skim any unwanted fat from the surface of the curry. If the sauce isn't thick enough, turn the Instant Pot to sauté and simmer until it reaches your preferred level of thickness.
    Instant Pot Beef Curry (Kerala)
  • Taste for salt and heat from black pepper and red chili.
    Instant Pot Beef Curry (Kerala) served up in a bowl.

Notes

  • A note about the meat: amb would work here as well. Rather than buy stew meat, which I find to be too small and irregular, I buy 2 1/2 pounds of chuck roast. This accounts for the fat I need to remove, and allows me to cut roughly 2-inch cubes of meat. 
  • I tend to prefer fairly thick sauces. If you would like a fairly thin sauce, add 1/2 to 1 cup of water to the tomato and spice mixture before topping with the marinated beef.
  • Kerala beef curry is traditionally quite spicy. I have halved the Kashmiri chili powder and reduced the ground black pepper from 1 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon. If you like spicy curry, please adjust to your taste. 
  • If you would like decrease the heat from chilis and pepper, add coconut milk and/or cubes of potatoes to the curry before pressure cooking.