Walnut Keema (Vegetarian Keema)

Yes, you read that right, this is a recipe for walnut keema. A vegetarian version of the ever popular Punjabi dhaba style gravy keema that’s usually made with mutton or chicken. This recipe was inspired by my Instagram community – who I learned in January are about 60% vegetarian folks. I had no idea!

Learning that so many of those following along on IG are vegetarian, plus my constant attempts at creating complete meals for my vegetarian mom brought about this idea for walnut keema. What my mom usually does is just eat side dishes when meat is the main protein in a non-desi meal, or she’ll have achar and dahi with her roti if keema or meat are on the menu. I’ve been trying to break this ‘martyr mentality’ of hers and encourage her to create vegetarian meals that even the meat eaters in our house can enjoy.

When I saw this idea of walnut meat for tacos floating around the internet I instantly knew I wanted to reenvision it as walnut keema. My husband and son love chicken keema, and I often make extra so we can carry it into keema paranthas the next day, so I had high hopes of walnut keema becoming the meal that both the meat eaters and sole vegetarian in our home would enjoy. And, obviously because I’m here writing this post, it was a hit!

(As an added bonus to the flavour, walnuts are a powerhouse of nutritional benefits.)

So, I’m going to dig into the recipe for walnut keema below, but I also want to remind you to consider walnut ‘meat’ as a protein to include in your diet itself, because it’s something you can use in all sorts of meals – tacos, lasagne, on pizzas, and even over warm salads as a crumble. It’s a very versatile. I’m sharing some notes on how to make the meat below & then we’ll use in the walnut keema recipe!

Tips for making ‘meat’ for walnut keema (and other uses)

  • About two cups of walnuts is a good place to start for a portion size that will feed four. Especially if you are going to add onions, garlic, or cauliflower (as we are in this recipe) to add flavours and texture to the walnut meat.
  • Soak the walnuts in boiling hot water to start. Ideally leave them soaking overnight or up to 16 hours before cooking – it really helps the texture. If you are in a rush, a minimum of two – three hours will work if you keep switching out the water to boiling when it gets cold. To be perfectly honest though, you will get the best texture if you soak it for a longer period of time.
  • When you drain the walnuts, pulse them lightly and slowy in a mixer or food processor, you wont that meaty texture you need for the walnut keema and other dishes if you chop them. But also be careful not to overgrind them.
  • If you preparing a batch of walnut meat to keep in the fridge for a few days, it’s a good idea to add a little oil to keep it from drying out. But ideally, always add some onions or grated cauliflower to the mix if you are storing it, it will keep things hydrated.
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walnut keema, vegetarian keema

Walnut Keema (Vegetarian Keema)


A vegetarian take on popular dhaba style meat keema recipes. This walnut keema is a powerhouse of flavour and nutritional benefits.



2 tbs ghee or butter
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise flower
2 cloves
3 cardamom pods slightly crushed
1 cup of prepared tarka
1/2 cup of dahi/thick plain yogurt
1 cup of grated cauliflower
3 cups of walnut meat – (made from 2 cups of whole walnuts)
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup hot water – as needed.
1 tbs deghi mirch/paprika
1 tbs garam masala
chopped cilantro for garnish


1. Start by soaking your walnuts for a minimum of 4 hours (or overnight if time permits). 

2. Prepare the walnut meat by draining the walnuts, and pulsing them gently in your mixer. Don’t chop them, pulsing will create a more meat like texture. More details in this recipe.

3. Add ghee to a pan on medium high heat and toast the cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, and cloves for 90 seconds, until fragrant.

4. Add your prepared tarka. For this recipe, I like to add extra heat with Kashmiri red chillies to my tarka. Walnuts hold up really well to the spice, however, you can limit it if you prefer. 

5. Once your tarka is heated through. Drop the heat of your stove down to low and add the dahi slowly. Before you add the dahi, whisk it lightly to prevent curdling. 

6. Once the dahi and tarka are combined, add your cauliflower and walnuts. Stir well and cook on medium for 5-7 minutes to soften the cauliflower and walnuts. At this point the mixture may thicken up. Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of boiling hot water to create a slight gravy consistency. Now taste for seasoning and adjust salt if needed. 

7. Add degi mirch garam masala, combine well and cook for another 2 minutes. 

8. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.


*If you are reheating the walnut keema, you may need to add a little hot water to loosen things up. 

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