Grilling, Weeknight dinner
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Kofta Kebab

I was a little harsh about my oldest in that New York Times interview the other day. It’s true that a few years ago he was a starchitarian (all carbs, all the time), but he has branched out. Kofta Kebabs are his new favorite food; he asks me to make them about once a week.
*Will he eat fruit or vegetables willingly? No, not yet. I keep hoping…

Kofta is a Middle Eastern dish of ground meat mixed with onion and spices. (Think Middle Eastern meatloaf.) The Kebab version is popular in Turkey and India, where kofta is wrapped around a long skewer and spices on a skewer. (Meatloaf on a stick!)

This was a tough recipe to get right. I loved the taste, and if I made them into hamburger-style patties, everything worked fine. But wanted to cook them on kebabs – it felt more authentic, and there’s something about food on a skewer that makes it taste better.

But – the ground meat mix wouldn’t hold together. I think it was the frozen ground lamb I was buying at the farmers market. After thawing out, it was always kind of wet. I couldn’t get the resulting kebabs to stick. The moment I let go, they would drop off the skewer onto the counter. I’d re-form them as hamburgers, and they would hold together just enough for cooking.

I switched to fresh ground lamb and the recipe started to work. It also helps to have extra wide skewers, like these 3/8 inch wide skewers from Steven Raichlen.
*That said, it is a little tricky getting the meat to stick on the skewers. I won’t judge you if you take the easy way out and form the kofta into hamburger patties. I do it myself, if I’m in a hurry, and tell the kids they are pitaburgers.

Recipe: Kofta Kebab

Adapted From: Steven Raichlen Planet Barbecue

Cooking time: 10 minutes



  • 1 pound ground lamb (ground lamb shoulder if you can get it)
  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably 80% fat)
  • 1 small onion, grated or finely minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, if you don’t like heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Mix the kofta
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead until completely mixed. Divide the mix into eight egg-shaped portions.

2. Preheat the grill
Prepare the grill for cooking with direct medium heat, then clean with a grill brush. For my Weber summit, I preheat the grill with all burners on high for 15 minutes, then turn the burners down to medium and brush the grate clean.

3. Mold the kofta on the kebabs
While the grill is pre-heating, make the kebabs. Grab a skewer, and hold it with the wide side facing up. Take one of the portions of kofta and wrap it around the bottom of a skewer. Squeezing from the bottom, work the kofta up the skewer until it is an even cylinder, about 1 1/2 inches thick. Then, using your fingers like scissors, dimple the cylinder about every inch or so. (This adds nooks and crannies to the kebab.) Repeat until all the kebabs are formed.

4. Cook the kebabs
Put the kebabs on the grill over the direct medium heat and cook until firm and browned on the bottom, about five minutes. Flip the kebabs and cook the other side until browned, about five more minutes. Remove from the grill – be careful, the skewers are hot. Let rest for ten minutes, then serve.


  • I love to serve this with a yogurt dipping sauce (tzatziki) and pita bread. hummus and baba ghanoush are also good sauces to serve with kofta kebabs.
  • Why 80% fat ground beef, and lamb shoulder? Kebabs are like burgers – they need fat to remain juicy. If you cook with lean meat, the kebabs will come out a little dry and crumbly. (Crumbly is a word, right?)
  • Don’t like lamb, or having a hard time finding it? Go with all beef kebabs. Or, use meatloaf mix – 2/3rds beef and 1/3 pork. I know, not very Middle Eastern, but it still tastes delicious.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:

Beef Kebabs with Tomato, Onion, Lemon and Thyme
Grilled Pork Souvlaki
Zucchini and Summer Squash Kebabs

Adapted from:

Steven Raichlen Planet Barbecue

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Filed under: Grilling, Weeknight dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. Andrew says

    Fantastic recipe that I have made many times. Even better with a little added chopped cilantro in the meat.

  2. Silverstar says

    Kofti for dinner tonight! I love this recipe but, I’ve always done it with very little heat because my kids won’t eat spicy foods. Tonight they get hot dogs and we get Kofti the way it should be. Thanks!!

  3. What your eating there is honest to god Shish Kabob. Been over to the middle east many times as a Marine. Usually the spice blend is similar to what you put in or just use Garam Masala which includes those spices in the blend and a couple others.

    If that was made in the middle east rather then using ground meat it most likely would be finely minced meat. It gives it a different texture. It also would be molded to the shape put in the refrigerator and skewered after chilling. You can also substitute chicken for the beef.

    As a side item 99% of the time simple Basmati rice and grilled whole tomato, grilled onion on the side. If you think about it you can see how western Shish-kebab evolved. We simply leave the meat whole and put the veggies on a skewer.

    All of that would be served with a cucumber sauce and some sort of flat bread.

    You would find all of that on street carts, malls, and even fine dining over there.

    If you mold then refrig you will that the thin commonly found skewers will fit very nicely once there very cold.

  4. I did have Persian kebabs,not long ago, at Maykedah in San Francisco… And they’re on my list of recipes I need to get right. But first I need to duplicate their lamb shanks…

  5. Eek! I should also point out that I did not mean to imply that Iran is part of the Middle East. I should have hit “enter” done a separate paragraph break. Because yeah, Persians are not Middle Easterns, either. 🙂

  6. Actually, making kabobs “patty-style” is NOT an easy way out. It’s just another type of kabob called “chappli kabob” (the joke being that the vendor slaps them flat with his chappals (aka sandals 🙂 One of the best meals of my life was having these kabobs in a grimy roadside stand just outside of Nowshera in NWFP, Pakistan. YUM.

    Also, as the wife of an Indian, I have to politely point out that kabobs aren’t necessarily Middle Eastern, although the Middle East does have their versions. And OH MY GOD, have you ever had the chance to sample some Persian kabobs? Don’t tell my husband, I prefer Persian barg kabobs. Shhhh!

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