Nigella Steak
15 Min

Nigella Steak

The prophet Muhammad has been credited with saying, “Black granules are the cure for everything except death,” and it is fair to say that he was referring to nigella. Often scattered on top of breads in the Middle East as a form of blessing, the “blessed seed,” aka kalonji seeds, they are often mistaken for black sesame seeds for their similar appearance but have little else in common with sesame. They have a distinctive warm, smoky, and nutty flavor.

One day while poring over an old book on spices, I learned that nigella was a popular medieval spice in Roman culture. Knowing the Romans ate a lot of meat, I raced home, toasted a few seeds, and ground them. I added them to a marinade for meat, and their nutty, smoky flavor deepened to a state nothing short of miraculous. Ever since, we always include nigella in meat marinades, sometimes as a frontal note, other times as a background flavor.

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Cook Time

15 Minutes + marination time



Step 1
Make a masala by mixing the ground nigella, amchur, black pepper, yogurt, ground cloves, and sea salt. Mix in a few tablespoons of melted ghee or olive oil.
Step 2
Rub the masala onto the rib eye and marinate for a few hours or overnight. Sear or grill the steak.

14-ounce aged rib eye steak

1 tablespoon ground nigella (kalonji)

1 tablespoon amchur (dried mango powder)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon yogurt

Pinch of ground cloves

½ teaspoon sea salt

A few tablespoons of melted ghee or olive oil

Notes & Variations

  • This makes enough masala for two servings of steak.
  • This masala can also be used as a marinade to preserve the meat.
15 Min


Check out two more recipes that feature kalonji below - enjoy!