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A Taste of Afghan Hospitality: Mantu with Madar Jan’s Touch

This recipe for Afghani Mantu isn’t just about delicious dumplings; it’s a journey back to cherished memories. As a child, I would spend afternoons learning from Madar Jan, my friend’s grandmother. A woman of gentle spirit yet formidable strength, she instilled in me a love for Afghan cuisine, particularly the art of making Mantu.

These savoury dumplings, traditionally filled with lamb or beef, are a staple dish in Afghanistan, often served during special gatherings. The recipe I share today carries the essence of Madar Jan’s teachings, a testament to her dedication to creating comfort and joy through food.

From the tender dough to the flavorful meat filling, and the aromatic tomato sauce, each step in this recipe is meticulously described. We’ll also explore the secrets of creating a refreshing yogurt sauce and the perfect finishing touch – a sprinkle of paprika and fresh herbs.

So, embark on this culinary adventure and experience the warmth of Afghan hospitality, all wrapped in a delicious Mantu!

Basic Ingredients for Afghan Mantu 

Meat Filling:

Minced Lamb or Beef: The choice of lamb or beef offers a rich, robust flavour that forms the core of Mantu. Lamb is traditionally preferred for its distinctive taste, but beef provides a hearty alternative.

Onion: Adds sweetness and depth to the meat filling, enhancing the overall savoriness.

Parsley: Introduces a fresh, herbaceous note that balances the richness of the meat.

Green Chili: Infuses a subtle heat, adding complexity to the filling.

Coriander and Cumin Powder: These spices are quintessential in Afghan cuisine, contributing warm, earthy tones.

Black Pepper: Provides a sharp, piquant edge.

Salt: Essential for seasoning and bringing out the flavors of the other ingredients.

Vegetable Oil: Used for cooking the meat, ensuring it’s moist and flavorful.


All-Purpose Flour: The base of the dough, providing structure.

Vegetable Oil: Adds moisture and elasticity to the dough, making it easier to work with.

Salt: Enhances the dough’s flavor.

Water: Hydrates the flour, allowing the dough to come together.

Tomato Sauce:

Tomato Paste: Offers a concentrated tomato flavor, serving as the foundation of the sauce.

Garlic and Onion: Build a savory base for the sauce.

Spices (Turmeric, Coriander, Cumin, Chilli Pepper, Black Pepper): Each adds its unique profile, contributing to the sauce’s complex flavour.

White Vinegar: Introduces acidity, balancing the sauce’s richness.

Split Peas: Provide texture and a nutty flavour to the sauce.

Yogurt Dressing:

Plain Yogurt and Labneh: Create a creamy, tangy base that contrasts and complements the savory dumplings.

Lemon Juice and Zest: Add brightness and zestiness.

Garlic: Introduces a pungent kick.

Dried Dill and Mint: Offer a refreshing herbal note.


Paprika: Adds color and a mild spice.

Coriander or Parsley Leaves: Bring freshness and a visual appeal.

alternative ingredients

Meat Filling: Ground chicken or turkey can be used for a lighter alternative.

Dough: Gluten-free flour can substitute all-purpose flour for those with dietary restrictions.

Yogurt Dressing: Greek yogurt can replace labneh for a similar tangy, creamy texture.

Preparation Tips for Afghani Mantu

Preparing Mantu in advance is a smart strategy when you’re expecting guests, as it allows you to enjoy their company without spending all your time in the kitchen. Here are some tips to streamline the process:

  • Meat Filling Preparation: Prepare the meat filling a day ahead. Cook it according to the recipe, let it cool, and then refrigerate it. This not only saves time but also allows the flavors to meld together better.
  • Dough Preparation: The dough can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Take it out a couple of hours before you plan to assemble the Mantu to bring it to room temperature, making it easier to roll and shape.
  • Assembly: Mantu can be assembled days in advance. Place the filled and shaped dumplings on a tray, cover them with a damp cloth, and then with cling film to prevent them from drying out. Refrigerate until you’re ready to steam them.
  • Sauces: The tomato sauce can be prepared a day in advance. The flavours of the sauce will develop more if they sit overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat the tomato sauce gently before serving.
  • Steaming: Since Mantu needs to be served warm, plan your steaming time so that the dumplings are ready to close to when you intend to serve. Remember, they don’t take long to steam, usually around 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Garnishes: Chop your herbs and prepare any garnishes ahead of time. Store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator to maintain their freshness.
  • Serving Preparation: Set your serving dishes, utensils, and any decorations for the table in advance. Having everything ready to go will make the final serving process smooth and enjoyable.

Serving Tips for Afghani Mantu

  • Serve Mantu hot, drizzled with the yogurt dressing and tomato sauce for maximum flavor.
  • Garnish liberally with herbs and spices for an added flavour boost and visual appeal.

storage tips

  • Store leftover Mantu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • The sauces can be stored separately in the refrigerator and added fresh upon serving.

Afghan Mantu

Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes


Meat Filling:

  • 500 g minced lamb or beef
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • handful parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • vegetable oil


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ¾ cups water, (adjust based on dough consistency)

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ¼ tsp chilli pepper
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • ¼ cup split peas, rinsed and soaked for an hour
  • salt, to taste

Yoghurt Dressing:

  • 1 ½ cups plain yoghurt
  • ½ cup labneh
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • ½ tbsp garlic, minced
  • tsp dried dill
  • tsp dried mint


  • paprika
  • handful coriander or parsley leaves


  • In a stand mixer bowl, combine flour, salt, and oil. Gradually pour in water while mixing until a firm dough forms. Knead for 5-7 minutes. Divide the dough into four portions, roll into a ball, cover with cling film, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  • There are two ways you can prepare the filling.
    Option one: In a medium size bowl, combine the lamb, onion, chilli, parsley, coriander powder, cumin powder, salt and black pepper until fully combined. 
    Alternatively, you can cook the mixture: In a medium-sized pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry the minced lamb until browned—season with coriander powder, cumin powder, paprika, chilli powder, salt, and black pepper. Remove from heat, let the mixture slightly cool, and then mix in the onions and parsley.
  • Parcook the split peas, then incorporate them with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a medium simmer, cooking until the peas are tender, approximately 20-25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent. Add minced garlic and fry until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, vinegar, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli pepper, and black pepper. Add the cooked split peas and a cup of water. Allow it to simmer for an additional 15 minutes until the excess liquid reduces.
  • Roll the dough ball thinly on a floured surface. Slice into 2-inch squares. Spoon the meat mixture onto each square, fold by connecting opposite corners, seal the edges, and fold the sides.
  • Oil the steamer basket base. Arrange dumplings without touching each other. Steam for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Mix yoghurt, labneh, lemon juice, zest, garlic, dill, and mint to prepare the yoghurt mixture in a bowl. Season to taste and set aside.
  • To serve, arrange the steamed mantu on a serving platter.  Pour the tomato and spil pea sauce over the mantu and drizzle the yogurt sauce on top.  Garnish with ground paprika and chopped fresh coriander or parsley.

Did you make this recipe?

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