Khichro (Spiced Barley, Lentil and Meat Mash)

Khichro, garnished with crispy fried onions and lemon

Khichro, garnished with crispy fried onions and lemon

So it turns out that Khichro is not that difficult to make, or atleast my mother’s version is not that difficult. My hubby says Khichro is better than its wife, khichri! (lol, you’ll get the joke if you speak Gujrati).

I’m using pearled barley, but often this dish is also made with cracked wheat (dalia). The grains have to be soaked overnight, so it does take some forethought to making this dish. I’ve learnt while making Khichro, if I skimp on the oil, the Khichro turns out lumpy and grainy. Not sticky-smooth like its supposed to be.

Recipe: Khichro

Also known as: Khichra/Khichdo/Kichro/East African Khichro/Haleem

Categories: Main Dishes; lentils, beef

Accompaniments: Pita, Green Salad, Coconut Chutney I/II



  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup split yellow pea (channa daal)
  • 1/4 cup split red lentils (masoor daal)
  • 1/4 cup basmati rice
  • 1 lb beef/mutton, raw weight (boiled in 1/2 tsp garlic paste, 1/4 tsp ginger paste, 1/4 tsp salt) or 1 1/2 cups pre-cooked beef cubes
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter/ghee
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves (laving)
  • 6 whole peppercorns (mari)
  • 3 cardamom pods (elchi)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder (jeera powder)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder (dhanna powder)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp saffron, soaked in 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • salt (to taste), I used a total of 2 tsp, but start with 1 and add according to taste
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, packed
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 large lemon, juiced
  • hot water, as needed (if you have a kettle, fill it and keep hot water ready)

Tools needed:

  • Immersion blender/food processor/blender. I highly recommend using an immersion blender for blending the barley/lentil mixture. If using a blender, let the barley mixture cool for a bit before blending and hold down the blender lid using a towel.


  • Wash the barley, yellow peas, red lentils and rice separately and soak each of the grains and rice overnight in hot water.
Barley (after soaking)

Barley (after soaking)

Red lentils (after soaking)

Red lentils (after soaking)

Split yellow peas (after soaking)

Split yellow peas (after soaking)

  • In a pressure cooker, add the barley and rice. Add hot water, about 3-4 inches above the barley and pressurize till done (about 20-30 minutes). Don’t drain the barley. It will be a thick mixture.
  • Separately, boil the yellow peas and red lentils till done. Drain the water
  • Add the yellow peas and red lentils to the cooked barley and rice. Add some hot water and using an immersion blender/blender/food processor, grind the mixture to a paste. Set aside.
  • For the meat, I’m using boneless beef, boiled in a pressure cooker and drained. Add the meat to a food processor and shred. Alternatively, shred using your hands. Set aside.
Shredded beef

Shredded beef

  • In a food processor/blender, add the fresh tomatoes, cilantro and tomato puree. Blend to a paste. Set aside.
  • Now you have 3 separate mixtures, 1. the barley & lentil paste, 2. shredded beef, and 3. tomato mixture. Keep all the spices ready.
  • In a large pot, with a cover, add the oil and heat on medium high heat.
  • When hot, add the whole spices (cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom pods), let crackle.
Crackle spices

Crackle spices

  • Add the onions and fry till caramelized (till mostly red), don’t burn them. It’s better to err on the side of under-cooked onions.
Carmelizing onions

Carmelizing onions

  • Add the paste of the tomatoes, tomato puree and cilantro.
Cook the tomatoes

Cook the tomatoes

  • Cook till the mixture becomes thick and the oil comes out.
  • Add the garlic paste, ginger paste, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder and salt.
  • Mix and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the shredded beef. Allow the beef to absorb the flavors.
  • Cook the mixture till thick. Taste check since this is the flavor base of the khichro.
Cooking the flavor base

Cook till thickened

  • Add the barley and lentil paste. Mix well. Add about 2 cups of hot water.
  • Add half of the lemon.
  • Add the saffron and water it was soaked in. At this moment the khichro will be light in color. As it cooks the color will darken so don’t panic. Add hot water as needed.
Mix in the barley and lentil paste

Mix in the barley and lentil paste

  • Lower the heat, cover and cook for about an 60-70 minutes, checking and stirring every now and then and to ensure it’s not sticking or burning at the bottom.
  • Heat the butter in the microwave, pour on top of the khichro and sprinkle the garam masala on the butter.
  • Mix and add the remaining lemon juice.
  • You can add hot water till you achieve your desired consistency. If adding any salt, dissolve in hot water before adding it. For some reason, salt doesn’t disperse as well in this dish.
  • Add remaining lemon juice.
Khichro served with crispy fried onions

Khichro served with crispy fried onions

  • Serve with lemon wedges, crispy fried onions (store-bought), red chili chutney, and coconut chutney.



4 responses to “Khichro (Spiced Barley, Lentil and Meat Mash)

  1. My mother used to make this, over 60 years ago! I seem to remember she was up all night cooking this. Thought of trying to cook this but gave up as too complicated.

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