This lamb korma is an easy classic Indian dish made with aromatic spices and a creamy cashew based sauce.
The lamb is marinated in yogurt (we’re using a dairy-free coconut yogurt in this recipe) that results in tender pieces of meat that practically melt in your mouth.
Serve with white rice and you’ll be transported to your favorite Indian restaurant!
*This post is in partnership with the American Lamb Board. All content and opinions are my own.*
My dad grew up in Calcutta, India.
I’ve told the story a few times before on here so I won’t go into detail again but it did result in us going out for Indian food every month or so growing up.
I loved every course of those meals from the mango lassi to start to the puffy poori bread appetizer, my korma dinner and then the star of the meal, the orange or mango kulfi for dessert.
Most kids grow up liking chicken fingers and french fries for their meals out. I was not that kid.
When it came to picking the main course, it was always a toss up between the tandoori my mom seemed to prefer, the curry my had often got and the korma.
But for me, the korma always won out. There’s just something about the cashew based sauce and it’s creaminess that consistently won me over.
Up until recently, I hadn’t made korma at home. But when you wipe dairy from your diet yet still crave creamy, comforting sauces, cashews tend to make an appearance.
And it was while making a cashew cream sauce for pasta recently when the idea to make lamb korma at home popped into my head.
I had a huge boneless leg of lamb in my freezer that needed to be used (the remainder of which I ended up braising) and next thing I knew it was thawing in the fridge and I was researching how to make the perfect lamb korma.
I think I had written korma off knowing it was typically marinated in yogurt (like I do with these yogurt Indian steak kebabs) to tenderize the meat since I don’t eat dairy any more.
But then I figured why not try it with coconut yogurt and see how that works?
So, let’s get to the ingredients for this dairy-free lamb korma recipe because spoiler alert, it turned out perfectly!
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE LAMB KORMA
Here’s what you’ll need to marinate the lamb:
- American lamb meat – I use leg of lamb in this recipe but shoulder or stew meat can also be used
- plain coconut yogurt
- garam masala
- salt and pepper
For korma, the lamb, yogurt and spices are mixed together in a large bowl until well coated and marinated for at least two hours although overnight is preferable.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the lamb korma:
- raw plain cashews
- boiling water
- ghee (or coconut oil)
- garam masala
- beef/chicken stock
As you can see, there’s not a whole lot to making korma besides the spices. Spices are the mainstay of most Indian cuisine and korma is no different.
It may look like a lot of ingredients but outside of the spices it’s just the lamb, cashews, yogurt garlic and onion!
HOW TO MAKE LAMB KORMA
After the lamb is marinated in the yogurt and spices, bring it to room temperature.
Meanwhile, place the cashews in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 10 minutes to soften the cashews.
Heat the ghee in a large pot or Dutch oven. Once hot, add the onions and cook until they start to caramelize, about 7-10 minutes. This is an important flavor building step in the recipe!
Add the garlic, ginger and remaining spices to the pot and stir until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Transfer the cashews along with the water into a high powered blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.
Add the lamb with all the marinade to the pot with the onion and spice mixture. Pour the cashew cream into the pot along with the stock.
Stir everything until combined and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 1.5 hours stirring the korma every 20 minutes or so.
Korma dishes are all about building flavor and this lower, slower cooking time does exactly that. It’s why I prefer to make this dish on the stovetop versus a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot.
The lamb should be fork tender by the end. Serve with white rice and fresh cilantro for garnish.
USING AMERICAN LAMB FOR THIS KORMA
This lamb korma is a recipe I created in partnership with the American Lamb Board.
As we get back into colder months (ugh), I love the idea of a cozy lamb inspired recipe like this korma.
Having just gotten back from a sheep festival in Idaho earlier this month, one of the things that’s been fresh in my mind is the quality of American lamb.
If you’ve read anything about my stance on eating animal protein you know I prioritize quality. If I can’t procure organic, wild-caught, grass-fed or pastured animals, I just won’t buy or eat the meat.
Something that I love about choosing lamb as a protein, specifically American lamb, is how it’s almost a built in mechanism for guaranteeing a quality animal product.
American lamb is raised on small family owned farms with plenty of access to pasture, a quality that’s important to me in the meat I choose to purchase and eat.
And it’s for this reason that when I’m out at a restaurant, like an Indian restaurant and have a choice of protein to add to my korma, curry or tandoor, I always choose the lamb.
By default, that choice increases my chances of getting a quality meat that aligns with the priorities I choose for my diet.
I’ve talked about my taste preference of American lamb versus lamb from other countries but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this aspect of it which is also a huge part of my desire to both eat the meat and help spread the message of how great this product is!
IS KORMA DIFFERENT THAN CURRY?
Oftentimes, a korma dish will be called a curry. As in, we could call this a lamb korma curry recipe.
However, most people associate curry dishes with Thai cuisine where they are coconut milk based and creamy but not as thick as a korma. Like this coconut red curry shrimp as an example.
“Regular” Indian curries (aka those that aren’t kormas) are spiced and flavored more for heat usually using curry pastes that include chiles whereas a korma is spiced for flavor.
You’ll notice in the ingredient list, there are no “spicy hot” spices just things like cardamom, cinnamon, garam masala, etc. These spices are all considered to be aromatic in nature but not spicy.
It’s similar to chicken saag in this regard as that’s another “curry” that’s more aromatic than spicy hot.
The other main difference between korma and curry is that the creamy base of korma is often created by using cashews or other nuts.
This creates a wonderful richness to the dish that other creamy Indian dishes like tikka masala lack.
This is a great guide to dishes at an Indian restaurant for more info!
WHAT IS LAMB KORMA MADE OF?
While this korma recipe uses lamb, korma can be made with other meat. Usually, however, it’s a chicken or lamb dish. Try this chicken korma for a wonderful authentic recipe. When made with lamb, it can sometimes be called “mutton korma”.
Mutton, however, is sheep over the age of 12 months whereas lamb is considered meat from a sheep under 12 months. American lamb is lamb not mutton.
I love these Indian chicken burgers if you’re looking for the wonderful Indian spices in burger form!
Choosing different proteins is the case with most Indian dishes except Rogan josh. That dish is always made with lamb and another favorite of mine when dining out for it’s similar nature to korma.
If you prefer a tomato base and a little bit of heat, Rogan josh may be the dish for you!
IS KORMA A HOT CURRY?
Like I mentioned above, korma differs from “traditional” curries in that it is not a hot dish.
If you like lots flavor and spice but not necessarily “heat”, lamb korma is the perfect Indian dish to select or make yourself.
Korma is a great option for introducing children to Indian cuisine for this reason too.
WHAT DOES THIS LAMB KORMA RECIPE TASTE LIKE?
If the pictures don’t make it evident enough, korma is a lovely creamy dish.
Its texture is decadent and the cashew based sauce is thick, hearty and comforting.
The lamb is what shines through as it’s slow cooked and incredibly tender from marinating in the yogurt. Each bite sort of melts in your mouth.
The cashew sauce is a wonderful combination of savory and sweet aromatics and the bright cilantro garnish complements those flavors wonderfully to pull everything together.
If you enjoy flavors like this but want a touch of heat too, I encourage you to try this sweet and spicy Indian chicken.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH LAMB KORMA
Traditionally, korma or any curry is served with rice or naan.
I’m partial to white basmati rice like you’d get in an Indian restaurant for serving as it does the best job of soaking up all the flavorful korma sauce.
The turmeric rice in this coconut pork dish would also be delicious with this recipe. Cauliflower rice is a good lower carb option for those looking for that.
I also find a garnish of bright fresh cilantro and some lemon wedges to be a wonderful complement to the savory dish.
Since korma is mainly a meat heavy dish, we often do a simple vegetable or salad on the side for serving.
Or, if you prefer crispy vegetables, air fryer okra and its seasonings pairs nicely with this dish as well.
MORE DISHES LIKE THIS TO TRY:
For the lamb marinade:
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 cup plain coconut yogurt *see note
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
To make the korma:
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews unsalted
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 tablespoons ghee *sub coconut oil if desired
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed ginger or freshly minced
- 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cup beef broth/stock
- Place the lamb in a large bowl. Add the yogurt and remaining marinade spices and mix until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours up to overnight.
- Combine the cashews and boiling water in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add the ghee to a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add onions and cook until softened, about 7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and remaining spices to the pot and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Transfer the cashews along with the water into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Add the lamb along with all the marinade into the pot. Pour in the cashew cream sauce and beef broth. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to a low simmer, cover the pot and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so. (**see note)
- Serve with white rice, fresh cilantro and lemon wedges.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.