Best Turkish Kebabs

Kebabs Are More Than Just Meat on Sticks

Are you a fan of shish kebab? Turkish cuisine is known not only for introducing the world to shish kebab but for a variety of delicious grilled meats and kebabs.

In Turkish cuisine, "şiş" (SHEESH') refers to the metal skewer and "kebap" means "roasted meat dish." Chunks of marinated lamb or beef are placed on the skewers, usually without vegetables, and turned over a coal fire until they're done. Some of the world's best and and most flavorful kebabs come from Turkey's southeastern provinces, and you can make many of these dishes at home.

  • 01 of 07

    Beef Shish Kebab

    Dasha Petrenko -

    For a classic kebab that's easy to make, you can't go wrong with beef shish kebabs. This recipe calls for the meat to be marinated overnight and cooked on a charcoal grill. If you'd like grilled vegetables with your kebabs, grill them on separate skewers.

  • 02 of 07

    Adana Kebab (Ground Lamb Kebab)

    Adana Kebab
     Anita Schecter

    Adana kebab (ah-DAH'-nah keh-BOB'-uh) is the signature dish named after one of Turkey's most famous kebab cities, Adana. This dish is made with ground beef or lamb kneaded together with onion, garlic, and Turkish spices, then packed by hand around large, flat metal skewers.

    When the kebabs are placed on the grill, the fat drips from the meat causing it to bind together. It forms a long, hollow tube of cooked meat once the skewer is removed. Adana is usually served with grilled vegetables like hot green chili peppers, onions, and tomatoes, and a hearty bulgur and vegetable pilaf.

  • 03 of 07

    Urfa Kebab


    Another popular kebab is the cousin of Adana kebab. Named after the city of Urfa, Urfa kebab is prepared in nearly the same fashion as Adana minus some of the spice. Urfa has a mild flavor seasoned with onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, and sweet paprika kneaded into the meat. It becomes tender and juicy letting the flavor of the meat shine through.

  • 04 of 07

    Döner Kebab

    DigiPub / Getty Images

    Döner kebab (done-EYR' keh-BOB'-uh), or turning kebab, is a popular Turkish street food from which the Greek gyro and Arabic shawarma are derived. In Turkey, the meat is leaner and is served much browner and crisper.

    Shavings of turning kebab are usually eaten plain over a bed of rice or wrapped in a soft tortilla made from durum wheat flour called durum (doo-ROOM'). This kebab originated not in the deep southeast, but in Bursa, a city just south of Istanbul and the first capital of the Ottoman Empire.

    Turning kebab was hung horizontally and cooked over coals similar to the way it's done further East. One day, İskender Efendi, who lived in Bursa sometime back in the 1800s, decided to invent a special grill to roast meats vertically. This new invention allowed the meat to be rotated and shaved off simultaneously. Thus, the modern turning kebab was born.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Iskender Kebab

    Iskender Kebabı
    Tim Gerard Barker/Getty Images

    Iskender kebab (iss-ken-DEYR' keh-BOB'-uh), another popular kebab dish from Bursa, is named after Iskender Efendi himself. Crispy shavings of döner are laid upon a loaf of tender, flat pide bread, similar to pita, that's been cut into small squares.

    The entire dish is doused with melted butter, creamy yogurt, and a tangy tomato sauce. Authentic Iskender kebab is still served in Bursa, as well as across Turkey in a chain of restaurants named after Iskender Efendi.

  • 06 of 07

    Alinazik Kebab

    Ali Nazik Kebab
    David Berkowitz/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    Coming in a close second to Iskender kebab in terms of popularity is Polite Ali kebab, better known as alinazik kebab (ah-KEE'-nah-ZEEK' keh-BOB'-uh). This succulent classic is a combination of grilled lamb served over a bed of warm, fire-roasted eggplant mixed with plain yogurt.

    If you're an eggplant lover, this dish is for you. The smoky flavor of the roasted eggplant really enhances the taste of the grilled lamb.

  • 07 of 07

    Chicken Kebab


    Tavuk (tah-VOOK') or taouk shish kebab is made with either breast meat or dark meat chicken marinated with spices and grilled on skewers. It's a simple dish that's sure to please everyone. A spicier version is coated with seasoned red pepper paste.