Best Turkish Kebabs

Kebabs Are More Than Just Meat on Sticks

Are you a fan of shish kebab? Did you know that Turkish cuisine is known not only for introducing the world to shish kebab but for all of its delicious grilled meats and kebabs?

Some of the world's best and spiciest kebabs come from Turkey's southeastern provinces. People travel here from all over the world to sample them firsthand.

  • 01 of 07

    Classic Shish Kebab, or 'Şiş'

    Dasha Petrenko -

    We're all most familiar with the classic shish kebab. In Turkish cuisine, 'şiş' (SHEESH') refers to the metal skewer the meat is laced on. Chunks of marinated lamb or beef are placed on the skewers, usually without vegetables, and turned over a coal fire until they're done.

  • 02 of 07

    Adana Kebab

    Adana Kebab
     Anita Schecter

    Adana kebabı (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 a mixture of ground beef and 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 very spicy. Generous amounts of hot red pepper flakes and paprika are kneaded into the meat mixture giving it a deep red color and fiery flavor. It 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 Kebabı'


    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 the heat. 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 Kebabı

    DigiPub / Getty Images

    Döner kebabı (done-EYR' keh-BOB'-uh), or turning kebab, is a popular Turkish street food from which the Greek gyro and Arabic shawarma were derived. But in Turkey, the meat is leaner, and it's 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, modern turning kebab was born.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Iskender Kebabı

    Iskender Kebabı
    Tim Gerard Barker/Getty Images

    Iskender kebabı (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 kebabı is still served in Bursa, as well as across Turkey in a chain of restaurants named after Iskender Efendi himself.

  • 06 of 07

    'Ali Nazik' Kebabı

    Ali Nazik Kebab
    David Berkowitz/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    Coming in a close second to Iskender kebabi in terms of popularity is Polite Ali kebab, better known as alinazik kebabı (ah-KEE'-nah-ZEEK' keh-BOB'-uh). This succulent classic is a combination of marinated, 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, or 'Tavuk Şiş'


    'Tavuk' (tah-VOOK') or 'piliç' (pee-LEECH') shish kebab is made with either breast meat or dark meat marinated first in milk or plain yoğurt, then in olive oil and spices. A spicier version is coated with seasoned red pepper paste.