Aloo Keema Bun- Sloppy Joes (Yousefs)

Aloo keema

I cannot take credit for the Sloppy Yousefs witty title, my friend MAR suggested it- many thanks to him.

My Nani Ami used to make a humble ‘meat and potatoes’ dish- fragranced with notes of spicy ginger and black cardamom, it was cooked slowly, over a low flame.

It wasn’t like that posh ‘meat and potatoes’ dish you have at Sassafraz– that perfectly scarlet-from-the-inside beef tenderloin you eat alongside a rectangular tower of a crispy, butter-slicked potato galette.

The dish in which you glide your knife through the galette, sweep it through that glob of Dijon mustard and then impale a slice of beef on your fork, before washing it all down with a deep, earthy Malbec.

No, this dish, aloo keema, was better than any medium-rare steak served alongside a potato galette.

It was a humble preparation of mince meat with soft, butter-like potatoes served in my grandmother’s home during lunch time, eaten with feather-light chapatis prepared by my Nani Ami’s ‘sous chef’, Irfan.

Irfan would prepare each chapati with his bare hands over a gas flame, till it swelled up like an inflated balloon, and then transfer each one onto a linen-lined serving plate.

When you tore into it, the steam would escape, burning your fingers.

Aloo keema

I loved scooping up aloo keema with a chapati and dipping it into the cool yogurt Nani Ami prepared every night- tart, creamy and thick.

As we ate, Nani Ami would pass around a plate of finger-thin cucumbers and moolis; Pakistani radishes, dusted with crunchy salt flakes to cleanse the palate between each bite. 

When she wasn’t looking, my little hands stealthily reached for that verboten jar of lime pickle, but in vain.

I had to settle for the minimally spiced cucumber and mooli.

In the end, platters of fruit with individual butter knives would be brought to table, laden with sindhri mango, chausa mango, the Anwar Ratole mango, and my favorite, the parrot green langra– egg-yolk yellow from the inside.

With the ceiling fan lazily slicing through the air above us, it was a typical summer meal at my grandparents’ home before the bamboo shutters came down and we all had a siesta, sheltered in our home from the scorching 40C Lahore heat.

Aloo keema

The next morning, the aloo keema was perfect for sandwiching between a bun, slathered with a spicy garlic-chili sauce- an Aloo Keema Bun, just like an American Sloppy Joe.

Aloo keema is neatly encased in these little sliders- spicy meat, carbs and more carbs- a delicious bite to have with that bottle of Chimay.

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Aloo Keema Bun- Sloppy Joes (Yousefs) in the Pakistan Manner

Yield: 4
Author: Shayma Saadat


  • 1 lb mince beef (I would recommend you buy medium-lean and not 99% lean)
  • 1/2 in thick piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 a medium-large onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce/stewed or crushed tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp chili pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • 2 medium potatoes diced into 1/2 in
  • 2 cups water, divided into two portions
  • Finely chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and stems) or herb of your choice for garnishing
  • 12 slider buns, split and warmed in the oven


  • In a heavy-bottomed pot, add meat, ginger, garlic, onion, tomato sauce, salt, chili pepper, turmeric, black cardamom pod and 250ml (1 cup) water. Stir, cover and leave to cook on a low-medium flame for one hour.
  • Stir/check every 20 minutes to make sure the meat is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • After an hour you will note that the liquid would have reduced significantly and the oil has floated to the top of the meat. Skim this oil off with a spoon.
  • Turn the heat to medium-high / high. Stir the meat rigorously for 10 minutes (in Urdu, this procedure is called 'bhun-na') till the liquid has completely evaporated and the meat turns darker. The onions and garlic cloves will be completely soft and incorporated into the mince meat by this point. Be careful not to let the mince meat stick to the bottom of the pan, if it does, lower the heat.
  • After ten minutes of stirring, add 250ml (approx 1 cup) of water and potatoes and reduce heat to medium.
  • Cover and allow potatoes to cook for 15-20 minutes. Check potatoes for doneness after 10 minutes by inserting a knife. When potatoes are done, remove lid, turn heat to medium-high and allow liquid to evaporate.
  • Mix in fresh chopped coriander or desired herb.
  • Spoon approximately 2tbsp of mince meat onto bun, add your favourite condiment and eat immediately.
  • Alternatively, enjoy with basmati rice, chapati, naan or even a baguette when that's all you have in the house.

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  1. You’re back – and how! These sliders look incredible, if I fly over the pond will you make me some? Aloo keema sounds delicious and like the polar opposite of the mince and potatoes in pre-Jamie Britain (and now served ironically at Dean Street Townhouse). Beautifully written, as always x

  2. oh my goodness, you described my summers in pakistan, visiting my nani’s house to a T. Seriously. I could smell and taste everything as our nani made it, including those delicious pakistani mooli.
    And the mangos… oh the mangos. I’d give anything to taste a good pakistani mango again.
    The recipe looks amazing, I’ll definitely be making it at home. Thanks for reminding me of some of my favorite times back home.

  3. Yumm I want some!! A friend tends to feel acidic stomach with beef, I’d add mint leaves to garnish to cool down! Otherwise Cilantro is heavenly too!!
    Beautiful writing, took me all the way to your childhood!!

  4. What a beautiful story you can make with bread,meat and potatoes. I love to hear from you. The feeling is always near “goose skin”…

  5. S, I love my kheema aloo sandwiched in buns slathered with ketchup and sriracha! What a beautiful walk down the memory lane, I can vividly imagine all that you describe, not only because I have similar memories but because you write so well my friend. xo

  6. And here I though sloppy joes were strictly an American thing….silly me. These sound SO much more interesting that the traditional yankee version.

  7. I remember going to my Nani Ammi’s home and just devouring anything she would cook for us! Love the idea of aloo keema sliders!

  8. Guess what! Right now as I’m writing this comment, I’m also helping Ami cook ‘Aloo Qeema’ & Arvi Gosht. 🙂
    Whoa! Aloo Qeema burgers what a twist on leftovers. I usually spiceup the leftover aloo qeema with, corriander seed, chopped green chillies (with seeds), cumin & carraway & make either aloo qeema, cheese & onion sandwiches in a sandwich cratfer (you’ve got to try aloo qeema toasted sandwiches ;)) or a paratha. Another use is to stirfry the leftover salan with cabbage, bellpeppers, green chillies, onions & peas & add macaroni cover with grated cheese & jalapenos & bake till the cheese has melted & got a subtle golden hue. Scrumptious & comforting.

  9. @Katy I would adore for you to visit. Thank you, as always. x s

    @Snippets of Thyme Thank you so much. The food one’s grandmother prepare is always the best. I miss that.

    @K-Line Thank you so much.

    @Javi Thank you so much for your kind message, it warms my heart to know that my post reminded someone of their childhood in Pakistan.

    @Bahareh Thank you- and you are right, mint would add a ‘cooling effect’- the recipe says you can use any herb to your liking, because I know lots of people do not like cilantro/coriander as much as us Pakistanis do 🙂 x s

    @Paula There is so much we can do with meat and potatoes- one of my favourite combinations. Thank you so much for visiting my blog.

    @Kulsum Gracious as always, my friend x s

    @Oui, Chef I do like to borrow a li’l somethin’ from the Americans 😉

    @Sara No one can make Nani Ami-style of food- I am sure you miss yours as much as I miss mine x s

    @Umair All lovely suggestions, thank you so much. I love the idea of aloo keema in flying saucers (sandwich maker).

  10. I think that the presentation of your food needs more work, it does not come as appetizing at the reading sounds! I know you are still a beginner and i wish you all the luck in this endeavor.

  11. @Noura My blog policy is to publish all comments, therefore I am publishing your mean-spirited comment. I am all for constructive criticism; no one is perfect- however, your comment was just plain mean- fulfilling no purpose. This blog is in the public sphere, but it is my personal blog, next time I will not publish your comment unless there is something productive you have to say.

    There are several beautiful blogs out there- if mine doesn’t appeal to you, no one is forcing you to read it.

  12. Lovely memories that, as always, bring viivd pictures to mind. The food sounds winderful to me, I love the long slow cooking of the mince with all the spices, almost like ragu-like in tenderness by the sounds of things. It’s making me want to go away and do something similar with short ribs instead of the mince…

  13. First of all how cute is it that you named them sloppy Yousefs!

    These sliders look amazing – the photos make me want to pick up one and eat one (or all of them) right away.

    And aloo keema definitely hits the spot more than any fancy meal. 🙂

  14. Oh yes and I love the “Yousef” too- it was quite subtle took me a bit to get it. And the photography is as stunning as always- yum!

  15. Shayma, your blog never fails to leave me hungry and homesick. My partner asked this morning that I make sloppy joes for ‘game night’ (the rugby is on, apparently?) – but he and our friends will be getting these instead. Thanks for sharing your lovely memories and recipes! x

  16. Shayma, you’ve just described my memories of sitting at my grandmother’s table, especially that huge platter of fruit that appeared at the end of the meal!!! Thank you for that trip down nostalgia lane…

    PS: I’m looking for the perfect homemade naan recipe–if you do have one, please do share it here.

  17. Let them haters hate, sad how insecure some people are! You and your blog are wonderful in every way from the pictures to the immaculate prose and we love your page just the way it is.

    This recipe also reminded me of how my mother used to make halwa toasties for me for school lunch, used to love them so much I would wolf them down well before the break 🙂

    After reading this post, think I’ll be calling mommy dearest to fix these beauties for me 🙂

  18. I love it! I used to make Sloppy Joes with leftover aloo keema (back when I was eating meat – but I still make Sloppy Joes with leftover lentils) and my husband acted like I was crazy. But I’m not the only one! Looks delicious, thanks for sharing 🙂

  19. Watching Asia Cup cricket with these aloo keema patties is a dream come true. You make it sound so easy …so we are going to give it a try. Just cannot resist having platefuls of aloo keema filled buns lying around while the tempo of the match rising to a din! Thanks Shayma for making our culinary life so meaningful with your artsy descriptions and scrumptious outcomes. The photos have a touch of elegance…why the casual paper under the bun?

  20. Ahhh, lovely story, photos, and recipe, as usual. Thanks for giving me inspiration for the next pound of grass-fed beef I buy. Xoxo!

  21. @The Grub Worm Oh yes, this would be so wonderful if made with braised ribs- like a pulled-beef sandwich. Thank you for the kind words, as always.

    @Nadia Thank you- I love your aloo keema recipe, too. Your photographs came out lovely. x s

    @Erum Thank you, Erum, I can’t take the credit for that name- isn’t it genius?

    @Bahareh Thank you so much, lovely. x s

    @Rabia Thank you so much- hope the Sloppy Joes were enjoyed over a game of rubgy.

    @Gagan A comment like that really makes my morning- when you say that it reminds you of meals in your grandmother’s home. Thank you so very much. As for a naan recipe, no, I am sorry, I don’t have one. You could check out Prerna’s lovely blog- Indian Simmer- here is her recipe for naan.

    @Asiya Thank you- yes, this is a kid-friendly dish, too. I guess anything hidden under carbs is appealing to the little ones!

    @Rabya Thank you for the support. Halwa toasties? Those sounds wonderful- what kind of halwa does / did your mum make for you?

    @Carrie And with extra ketchup and maybe some Sriracha, they are just the ticket.

    @ChocolateCookiesandCandies Thank you. I want to learn how to make chapatis, too- when I go to Lahore, our cook always asks me to observe him in the kitchen, but I am just too lazy to do so.

    @Gourmand Sloppy Joes are definitely the sort of thing you want to eat whilst watching a match, washed down with an amber or Trappist ale. Thank you for the lovely words. The piece of paper is there to give it a sort of shabby-chic look 🙂

    @Su-Lin I would recommend two brands- Mitchells, from Pakistan, which you can easily find in Indian / Pakistani grocery stores- or you can also buy Knorr’s version of this sauce. If you cannot find either of the two, you can always mix a little bit of ketchup with Sriracha for that extra kick. x s

    @Bria I made these with grass-fed beef, too- that made them all the more delicious. Happy cooking, dear Bria. x s

  22. Love your description of the phulka:) I always warn my girls when they have the phulka on their plate and they want the puffiest one:D

    ah.. keema! haven’t made it in a long time. such soft beautiful photographs.

  23. well that taste like some Mexican food, very adorable. yummm i can smell the taste of your potatoes.. btw most of your slangs seems to be in local lang. what does Nani Ammi stand for?

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