How To Make Adana Kebab (Ground Lamb Kebab)

Adana Kebab
Anita Schecter
  • Total: 27 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 12 mins
  • Refrigerate: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 Servings

Kebabs of all kinds are common in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines. This particular version is named after the city of Adana in Turkey, where it is said to have originated, and is traditionally made of minced lamb mounted on a skewer and grilled over charcoal.

Different cities and regions debate over how spicy the Adana kebab should be, but the inclusion of ground lamb as the choice of meat is a constant. Other historical directions include a restriction on the type of lamb that can be used, the type and shape of the knife that is used to grind it, and even the exact dimensions of the skewers that will be used to cook it.

In modern times, however, most people buy lamb already ground at either the butcher shop or the butcher counter of major supermarkets and grocery outlets. And the choice of skewer is usually just whether to opt for metal or wood. But variations in spiciness and additional ingredients such as minced onion and garlic in the kebabs is still up to each cook and varies by personal taste as well as the traditions of regions and countries.

The addition of a little water to the mixture helps the meat to adhere better to the skewers, which can be tricky and might need a bit of practice. Forming the meat into balls first and then threading them onto the skewer can make the task easier. Once threaded, you can use your fingers to press them together and make they are adhering well to the skewer.

The cooked kebabs are often served over warm flatbread to catch the drippings and are accompanied by roasted tomatoes, green or red peppers, sliced onions, and parsley. Less traditional, but equally delicious, would be to serve them over a bed of cooked basmati rice or an herbed couscous.


  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 small onion (peeled and minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (divided)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground sumac (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons water (ice cold)
  • 4 metal skewers or wooden skewers (soaked in water)

Steps to Make It

  1. Combine the ground lamb, minced onion, minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of the ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of the ground sumac, salt, ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, and ice water in a large bowl. Knead the mixture by hand until it turns tacky and starts sticking to the side of the bowl. Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to chill.

  2. Wet your hands and place a quarter of the lamb mixture onto each skewer. Tip: use a 1 ounce scoop to form balls and thread them onto the skewer, then mash them together.

  3. Grill the kebabs, for approximately 12 minutes, until well charred on both sides.

  4. Combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin and sumac and sprinkle over the kebabs while they are cooking.

  5. Serve the kebabs on warm pita or naan bread with sliced red onions, parsley, tomatoes, and diced cucumbers.