Kabob Koobideh (Persian Grilled Kebabs)

Kabob Koobideh (Persian Grilled Kebabs) on a platter with an onion salad

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Resting Time: 60 mins
Total: 90 mins
Servings: 4 Servings
Yield: 4 Skewers
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
347 Calories
23g Fat
3g Carbs
31g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 347
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 29%
Saturated Fat 9g 46%
Cholesterol 109mg 36%
Sodium 766mg 33%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 31g
Vitamin C 2mg 8%
Calcium 40mg 3%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 482mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

However you spell or pronounce them, kebabs take pride of place in Persian cuisine. They are small pieces of seasoned whole or ground beef, lamb, or chicken that are generally skewered and grilled. Mention “Ka-bob” (the Farsi pronunciation) to an Iranian, and deep and sentimental memories and associations are inevitably evoked. Kebabs are prepared and served throughout the cities, whether at posh establishments, local food carts, or grand bazaars. The sights, sounds, and aromas of kebabs being grilled are all so familiar, and kebab houses are often referenced as landmarks when giving directions.

There are many reasons why kebabs are so tasty: the addition of spices, lengthy marination with grated onions, and grilling over hot charcoal, to name a few. Also, using simple but good quality ingredients and creative techniques are critical to creating the proper texture and flavor profile.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of making kabob koobideh properly is the kneading technique. In fact, "koobideh" is a Farsi word referencing the act of pounding or smashing. This is where you must forget everything you have been told about making hamburgers, which is to not over-mix and compress the ground meat. When it comes to kabob koobideh, the meat and other ingredients must be kneaded for up to 10 minutes to create a highly homogeneous and somewhat sticky paste that properly sticks to the skewer and holds its shape while grilling.

Kabob koobideh is generally grilled with tomatoes, green peppers, onions, or other vegetables. The traditional grilling method is to suspend the kebabs directly over hot glowing charcoals without a grill grate, to prevent the meat from sticking to the grate and falling off the skewers. Traditionally, kabob koobideh is served with heaping amounts of steamed basmati rice. Butter and a single egg yolk are mixed right into the steaming hot rice to create a rich and creamy texture. Finally, the rice is topped with tangy and brilliantly-colored sumac. This, along with pieces of flatbread, fresh herbs and raw onions, makes for a delicious meal.

Kabob Koobideh (Persian Grilled Kabobs)/Tester Image

"Mixing pureed onions with ground beef results in wonderfully savory skewers. I used long, wide metal skewers. They worked great keeping the meat in place and were long enough to suspend across the rim of my grill. I closed the lid after each turn to keep the heat inside. They were done after 7 minutes." —Danielle Centoni

A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For The Meat Skewers

  • 1 medium yellow onion

  • 1 pound 85% lean ground beef

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For The Basting Liquid

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon reserved onion juice

  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Meat

  1. Gather the meat skewer ingredients.

    Kabob Koobideh (Persian Grilled Kebabs) ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Place the onion in a food processor and process, scraping down the bowl occasionally, until completely pureed and juicy.  

    Onion puree in a food processor

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Remove from the food processor to a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl, and press until almost all the juices have been removed. Reserve the onion juice.

    Strained onions in a sieve and onion mixture in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Place the onion puree in a medium bowl. Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper.

    Onion puree, ground beef, salt, and pepper in a glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Knead the mixture by hand for up to 10 minutes to create a smooth paste-like consistency. This is a very important step to make sure the meat proteins have been properly bound and to ensure the meat paste will stay on the skewers.

    Ground beef mixture in a glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for 60 minutes for proper marination and resting.

    Prepare a medium-high (450°F) charcoal or gas grill fire. If using a gas grill, be sure to start the coals about 30 minutes before grilling the kababs. If using a gas grill, make sure to have the grill turned on for 15 minutes prior to grilling.

    Ground beef mixture in a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Make the Kabobs

  1. Gather the basting ingredients and prepared meat mixture.

    Kabobs basting ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Divide the prepared meat mixture into 4 equal round pieces.

    Ground beef balls on a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Using the reserved onion juice, dampen your hands as necessary and place one portion of meat mixture against the flat edge of one wide metal skewer.

    Ground beef on the flat edge of one wide metal skewer over a baking sheet

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Stretch and squeeze the meat mixture carefully along both sides of the skewer until you have a 6- to 7-inch long kebab, about 1/4 inch thick on each side. Make sure to thoroughly squeeze the meat mixture around the skewer to ensure you have a solid piece of kebab that is firmly attached to the skewer.

    Ground beef wrapped around a metal skewer over a baking sheet

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Using your thumb and index finger gently press into the kebab to create uniform indentations that are about 1-inch apart. This step creates a traditional design as well as further ensures the meat mixture is firmly pressed into the skewers. Repeat with the 3 remaining pieces of meat.

    Ground beef mixture wrapped around metal skewers over a baking sheet

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Combine the butter, onion juice, lemon, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter has melted. Set aside.

    Butter, onion juice, lemon, and salt mixture in a saucepan on a burner

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Suspend the skewers over the charcoal and grill the kebabs until they are visibly darkened and seared while still remaining moist on the inside, flipping them every 30 seconds, 5 to 8 minutes total.

    This quick flipping ensures that both sides of the meat begin cooking immediately and evenly in order for the meat to stay on the skewer. Do not overcook the kebabs.

    Kabobs on skewers cooking over a grill

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  8. Brush the kebabs with the basting liquid on both sides shortly before removing them from the grill. Place the skewers on a serving platter and serve immediately.

    Kabob Koobideh (Persian Grilled Kebabs) on metal skewers on a platter

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

    Tips

    • It is always best to use fresh and not previously frozen ground meat that is 85% lean. This ratio of meat to fat creates the optimal texture for the meat paste to adhere to the skewer while still remaining moist and allowing the excess fat to drip away during the grilling process. 
    • To make kabob koobideh over charcoal or on a gas grill it is necessary to use one-inch flat wide skewers. If these are not available, you will have to use the stovetop or oven methods below. 
    • Kabob koobideh is traditionally grilled directly over charcoal without any direct contact with the grill grates. If using a charcoal grill, simply remove the grill grate so that the skewers can be suspended over the charcoals with the ends resting on the edge of the grill.
    • Gas grills will also do the trick with a slight modification. Place a couple of bricks or square metal pipes on opposite sides of the grill to create a ledge to rest the skewers on. The bricks or pipes need to be at least 1.5 inches tall to make sure that the meat on the skewers will not touch the grill grate. 
    • One of the most important steps in cooking kabob koobideh is the attention to the rotation process. Once the skewers have been placed on the grill, they will need to be rotated within 30 seconds. This quick rotation step ensures that the meat begins to cook evenly on both sides and prevents the meat from falling off the skewers. Once each side has been grilled for 30 seconds, continue to grill the kebabs for about 4 minutes on each side.



    Make Ahead Tip

    The kebab meat mixture can be made ahead and shaped around the skewer a few hours in advance.  Be sure to store the kebab skewers over a sheet pan or a baking tray in the fridge so that the skewers don’t make contact with the bottom of the pan. 



    Recipe Variations

    • Kabob koobideh can be made with beef, lamb, or equal portions of both to create a rich flavor profile. A sprinkling of sumac or finely chopped parsley can be mixed in to add additional flavors.  
    • Alternatively, kebabs can be cooked on a stovetop grill pan or in the oven. First, form the kebabs into 1 inch thick and 6 inch long pieces.  
    • For the stovetop grill, cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on each side until you see visible grill marks and searing. 
    • For the oven method, place the kebabs on broiler pans and place directly under the broiler and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.



    Storing Leftover Kebabs


    Leftover kebabs are best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They can be reheated on the stovetop or in the oven by adding a splash of water, covering, and heating until fully warmed.