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overhead view of middle eastern lamb stew made with meatballs

Middle Eastern Lamb Stew — Paleo, Keto, Whole30 (Crock Pot or Instant Pot)

Middle Eastern Lamb Stew can be made in your slow cooker or Instant Pot and is great served with a variety of fresh condiments: cucumbers, lime wedges, fresh cilantro or mint and sour cream (with non-dairy version). This recipe is Paleo, Keto, Whole30 and GAPS-friendly.
Course DInner
Cuisine American, middle eastern, Pakistani
Keyword instant pot, keto, lamb, middle eastern, paleo, slow cooker, stew, whole30
Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 776kcal
Author Megan
Cost $12


  • slow cooker OR Instant Pot


Lamb Preparation, called "Nihari"

  • 2 pounds ground lamb rolled into 1"-2" balls, or stew meat (or lamb shoulder, cubed)
  • 2 medium-large yellow onions diced or sliced thinly; or use two green onion bunches for fewer carbs for Keto, diced
  • 3 cups bone broth for slow cooker; only 2 cups bone broth for Instant Pot
  • ½ cup olive oil , duck fat, avocado oil, meat fat or ghee
  • 1 2"-length fresh ginger grated or minced
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic crushed or minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper optional; also great without

Poppy Seed Garam Masala

  • 3 Tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons garam masala buy in bulk from a good spice vendor (a natural foods market with fast turnover to ensure freshness)
  • 1 Tablespoon filtered water


  • 2 cups sour cream (probiotic for GAPS)
  • 2 whole cucumbers peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro washed well and chopped
  • 1 whole lime cut into 6 wedges


Lamb "Nihari"

  • Slow-Cooker/Crockpot — Heat bone broth on high in Crock Pot, allowing time for it to heat while the following step is completed: In a large skillet heat fat, onion and 1 teaspoon sea salt over medium high heat, sautéing until onion is browned and tender, 20 minutes, turning the heat to medium-low after 10 minutes to prevent burning.
    Instant Pot — Use "Sauté" button to heat fat, onion and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Sauté until onion is softened, 10 minutes. Add bone broth to onion mixture.
  • Slow-Cooker/Crockpot with Stew Meat — Remove onion to Crock Pot with slotted spoon, and add meat cubes or meatballs, remaining sea salt and optional cayenne to skillet, browning on all sides, 8 minutes. Cook meat in two batches if it is too crowded. Add ginger and garlic, moving meat around with spices for 2-3 minutes.
    Instant Pot — Add lamb cubes (or meatballs), ginger, garlic, remaining sea salt and optional cayenne.
  • Slow-Cooker/Crockpot — Transfer browned meat (or place meatballs) and spices into crock pot of hot broth. Use spatula and a little of the broth to scrape in any bits from pan. Add Poppy Seed Garam Masala (see recipe below), stirring meat, broth and spices briefly to mix.
    Instant Pot — Add Poppy Seed Garam Masala (see recipe below), stirring meat, broth and spices briefly to mix. (If using meatballs, do not stir.)
  • Slow-Cooker/Crockpot — Turn Crock Pot heat to low and cook 6-8 hours, or up to all day, until meat is very tender. Okay to cook for just 5 hours, if using meatballs.
    Instant Pot — Check that rubber ring is fitted inside Instant Pot lid. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, making sure the steam release valve is sealed. Press the “Stew” setting, and ensure the time reads 35 minutes. (If making meatballs, choose the "Manual" setting and set the time to 7 minutes.) When the Instant Pot is done and beeps, press “Cancel” (or simply allow Instant Pot to slow-release pressure and keep the stew warm, if you're away). Allow Instant Pot to release pressure naturally for 30 minutes. Place a dish towel over steam valve (or use oven mitt), and open it to release any remaining pressure. Remove lid.
  • If your stew is brothier than you want, keep the pot slow simmering.
    Then, for Keto: To slightly thicken, sprinkle ½ teaspoon xanthan gum over the surface and whisk it in well.
    For Paleo: Whisk 2 tablespoons organic tapioca flour/starch with a couple tablespoons of the cooled broth or water and add it back to the pot. Simmer briefly to thicken, stirring.
  • Serve with sour cream, cucumbers, fresh lime wedges and fresh cilantro.

Poppy Seed Garam Masala

  • In a spice grinder combine poppy seeds and water. Puree into a paste.*
  • Transfer paste to a small bowl and add garam masala, stirring to mix.


*If you don't have a spice grinder place poppy seeds, garam masala and 1 cup of the warm broth into high-speed blender. Puree on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.

Optional Additions

You may add other fresh herbs and spices, according to what you have on hand, or what you like: both fresh dill and fresh mint may be used to garnish the finished stew. Red chili flakes may be added to the cooking stew, instead of cayenne. For Paleo and GAPS, whole dried figs may be added to the stew, before it cooks. For Paleo, GAPS and KETO, other veggies (like zucchini, tomatoes or cauliflower) may be added to the stew, before cooking, to create a larger meal.

Other Notes

The slow-cooker version of this recipe will be brothier than the Instant Pot version, because that extra liquid is needed to compensate for the evaporation that can take place with the long, slow cooking time that is unattended. As mentioned above, add lots of extra veggies, if desired.


Calories: 776kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 71g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Cholesterol: 150mg | Sodium: 764mg | Potassium: 483mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 585IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 173mg | Iron: 3mg