Saturday, October 17, 2009

Recipe for Kubideh: Grilled Ground Meat on Skewers with Middle Eastern Spices

Kubideh:  Grilled Ground Meat on Skewers with Middle Eastern Spices(Updated and added to Recipe Favorites, October 2009.) One of my favorite restaurants in Salt Lake is Cafe Med, a very inexpensive place that features foods from all the Mediterranean countries. On the section of the menu designated "Persian Food" they have a dish called Kubideh that I love to order. It's made of very finely ground beef mixed with onions and spices, including turmeric, and then grilled. The meat is probably ground twice to produce a dense texture similar to Gyro meat. At Cafe Med it's served with Tzatziki sauce, the perfect companion to the slightly-spicy flavor of the meat.

When I first started my blog in 2005, I did some experimenting to try to reproduce this dish at home. I searched on the internet for Kubideh (also spelled Koobideh) and found several recipes. I tried one, and the result was nothing like the dish at Cafe Med. Then I visited a Middle Eastern grocery store in Salt Lake (now gone) where the owner recommended Sadaf Ground Kabob Seasoning. (I forgot to take a new photo of the package, so the one above is from my post in 2005. At least you can see that my photography skills have improved since then!) If you'd like to try making this, you can follow the link above to buy Sadaf Kabob Seasoning from their website, or check my recipe for some new suggestions I found online for seasoning Kubideh.

In the Middle East ground meat kabobs are cooked on blade-type skewers, but what inspired me to cook this again and get some better photos was these wonderful double skewers that I got in California when I was there for BlogHer Food. I was in Healdsburg with my stepsister Bobbi, and we visited Plaza Gourmet, a well-stocked shop where I could have easily spent some serious money. The skewers seem very well made, and hopefully I'll be loving them for years to come.

Next time I might add onions, but I followed the recipe I had scribbled in my notebook back in 2005 and ground together 1 lb. hamburger, 2 T Sadaf Ground Kabob Seasoning, and 1/4 cup water in the food processor. This double grinding of the meat is traditional in Middle Eastern cooking, and keeps the meat on the skewers.

Then the meat needs to be refrigerated for several hours so the flavors can develop. You could even grind the seasoning with the meat in the morning before work, and cook the kabobs when you get home.

When it's time to cook, divide the meat into four pieces, then form each into a long cylinder and push a skewer into it. You want to make them uniformly thick so they'll cook evenly.

Cook the skewered kabobs on a pre-heated grill at medium high heat. Of course I had to rotate them and try for grill marks, but that's not essential. When the first side is well-browned, turn the kabobs carefully, for a total cooking time of about 15-18 minutes. I used an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be at least 160F for ground beef.

Kubideh (Grilled Ground Meat Skewers with Middle Eastern Spices)
(Makes 4 Kubideh kabobs, grilled ground meat skewers like this are also sometimes called Kofta of Kefta.)

1 lb. ground beef (I used ground beef with only 10% fat)
1/2 onion, very finely chopped (optional)
2 T Sadaf Ground Kabob Seasoning (See suggestions below and other ideas after the recipe if you don't have this seasoning.)
1/4 cup water
olive oil, for oiling the grill

(If you don't have Sadaf Ground Kabob Seasoning, the package lists the ingredients as onions, salt, pepper, sumac, parsley, turmeric, and other spices. Most recipes for Kubideh that I found online season the meat with turmeric, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Some recipes add parsley, lemon juice, or bread crumbs to the mixture. See after the recipe for variations of Kubideh from other food bloggers as well as a recipe from a reader named Donna who is married to a man from Iran.)

Put ground beef in food processor fitted with steel blade. Add 2 T Sadaf Kabob Seasoning mixed with 1/4 cup water. Process until finely ground. Put meat into a plastic container with a snap-on lid and refrigerate two hours or as long as all day.

Oil grill grates with a paper towel dipped in olive oil, then preheat gas or charcoal grill to medium high heat. (You can only hold your hand there for a few seconds at that heat.) Form meat into cylinder shaped patties. Put meat on skewers, or you can cook them right on the grill without a skewer. (I had double skewers, which worked well, although Kubideh is cooked on blade type skewers in the Middle East.)

If you'd like criss-cross grill marks, cook kabobs about 4 minutes on first side, then rotate and cook 3-4 minutes more. Carefully turn kabobs and cook the second side, for a total cooking time of about 15-18 minutes. If you have an instant-read meat thermometer, ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160F.

If you don't have an outdoor grill, these kabobs can be cooked on a stove-top grill pan with ridges, a George Foreman Grill, or under the broiler with good results.

Serve Kubideh hot, with Tzatziki sauce if desired.

Printer Friendly Recipe

South Beach Suggestions:
Made with lean ground beef, this is a great main dish for any phase of the South Beach Diet, or any type of low-glycemic eating plan. I would serve this with Tzatziki sauce and Middle Eastern Tomato Salad for phase one. For phase two or three, you could add something like Spicy Rice.

A Reader Shares Her Recipe for Kubideh:
After I posted this recipe I heard from a reader named Donna who's married to a man from Iran. She shared her version of this dish, which I have to say, sounds like it would taste wonderful.

1 lb lean (90% or better) ground beef or lamb
1 tsp salt (more if you like)
1 med onion quartered
1 lemon juiced

Put the lemon juice and onion in a food processor or blender. Puree. Add to meat and mix well. Form into patties and grill on skewers or straight on the bbq pit. Also you can bake these on a broiler pan in the oven and have a very nice substitute for the grilled ones.
(Thanks Donna!)

Variations on Kubideh from Other Bloggers:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Kabab Koobideh from Rasa Malaysia
Kabob Kubideh from Attifood (video)
Kabab e-Kubideh from White Trash Barbecue
(I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)
counter customizable free hit
Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

More to Chew On:


  1. Kalyn-this looks delicious! does it say on the packet what's inside so that I at least can TRY to imitate it??

  2. Ilva, it says on the packet: Onions, Salt, Pepper, Sumac, Parsley, Turmeric, and other Spices. I know you can get Sumac from Penzeys (, which I am pretty sure ships to Europe. I don't taste too much salt or pepper. I would say it's mostly Turmeric, onion, parsley, with just a touch of sumac. Lemon juice is sometimes used as a substitute for Sumac too. It was really delicious. I am glad I bought a couple of packets because the store is not too close to my house.

  3. thanks-I'll check t out here, there are quite lot of muslims here so i suppose there must be some food shop for them but Pistoia is not big!

  4. Ya know what might be good, is to skewer a sausage on there first, then wrap the ground meat around it.
    OooOOo, and I'll bet fresh cilantro would be good along with some lemon zest. Yeshir, I'm sure it would.


  5. Biggles, love the idea of putting a sausage on first and then putting the ground meat over it. Of course I love sausage, any kind, any time.

  6. This sounds so good and I know my family will love it, thanks for sharing!

  7. My favorite Indian meal is the malai (cream) Kofta, which is vegetarian. I am unfamiliar with middle eastern variations ~ thanks for enlightening me. Gorgeous and informative post.

  8. Check this out:

    New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij - I have the "old" edition, but I'm sure this is every bit as good. Batmanglij writes very easy to follow instructions and includes beautiful photos and stories, as well. Everything I've cooked comes out looking just like it does in the pictures, and tasting even better.

  9. This is January 20, 08. I just ordered that same kubideh seasoning from Amazon!! It comes in a package of 6 jars of it...I hope I like it! If you Google it, I bet you will find ways to order it.


  10. Libby, don't you just love! I will check it out because I'm out of this now. Thanks!

  11. Hi Kalyn,
    I used the kubideh seasoning that I ordered from Amazon last week. Using 2 tbsp for a pound of ground meat, I think one jar would season about 6 pounds of meat. I used lamb instead of beef. I had a package of it in the freezer so I decided it was time to use it up. Next time I do this with lamb, I am going to add chopped onion and chopped green pepper to the food processor and use less water. I also have some Penzey's dried celery so might fling some of that in too. I like the spices a lot, but felt it needed more for my taste. Maybe it was the lamb that needs more seasoning. Anyway I love this recipe and if you have leftovers like I did, you can make a great Ph 2 or 3 sandwich with them!


  12. I was wondering how the ground meat would hold together on the skewer, and those double skewers are perfect. I'll have to look for them. My parents recently gave me my grandmother's meat grinder. It's a great piece, but it looks like a food processor could do the work in record time.

  13. I just noticed that one of the older comments on this post had the ingredients from the package, so I just added that info to the post.

  14. simple and delicious. I was told that the metal skewers help to conduct heat within the kebab/kubedeh for better cooking. The new food of life which holly mentions is a very nice book. I don't have double skewers but what I have is not round but flat so the meat doesn't fall off.

  15. Oh Kalyn: I cooked a full Lebanese meal yesterday....and starting to post today. Come on over and see...I started posting with dessert but I have a whole menu coming!!! Including kafta and Zatar

  16. Peachkins, I love it. I think it's the turmeric, a spice I don't use much but apparently I really like the flavor of it.

    TW, The double skewers are great. I had some cheap ones once that I loved, but they fell apart. These seem solid. Lucky you having a meat grinder, but the food processor is great for this.

    Sarah, now you're tempting me! I'll have to look at that book. I love this type of food.

    Trish, just checked but will check back when you post the Kafta!

  17. I have some very long flat metal skewers, with wooden handles. The handles don't get hot, but need to rest off the edge of the grill or they'll burn. The skewers came from a Greek market so I think they're used for souvlaki, but they work well for kebabs like these, too.

  18. They look delicious Kalyn! I make some very similar with grated/finely minced onion, cinnamon and turmeric however now I'm keen to try adding a little sumac too next time. xx

  19. Lydia, I want skewers like that (although I guess I don't need them, now that I found these!) I love those blade-type skewers!

    Bron, love the idea of adding just a touch of cinnamon in this too! Seems like it's truly an international dish!

  20. This looks so flavorful and it would taste so good with your delicious tzatziki. I will have to try this the next time I go to Cafe Med.

  21. We had Koftas while visiting Croatia, and loved them. I will have to try this!

  22. Dara, the ones at Cafe Med are so great, and I don't know if you noticed, but they have Sumac on the table there!

    Anonymous, I want to go to Croatia! It seems like such an interesting country. I didn't know they had this dish there, but I'm not that surprised.

  23. That's such a great dish. I always make either meatballs, burgers or tacos with ground beef and this will be a nice change of pace!

    Thanks for posting the recipe!

  24. Kalyn, I am a little traumatized by ground meat on skewers... I tried it twice and ended up with a huge mess, they more or less disintegrated during grilling

    do you have a tip for keeping them in one piece? Do you think it could be linked to the fat content of the meat used?

    I love the "concept", have just been unable to do it right (sigh)

  25. Sally, I think the double grinding of the meat is the most essential thing, combined with the chilling of the meat. You don't mention whether you did that, but if not I'd definitely try it. Also using the double skewers like I have (or the thick blade-type skewers they use in the middle east will definitely help.) If you don't have one of those types of skewers, I might just make a cylinder shape and grill without a skewer.

  26. Thanks....

    I don't think I chilled the meat when I tried it, that could definitely help.

    I have flat skewers, but not the double type. I really want to be able to make these, perfect for dinner on a busy weekday.

    I will try it again!

  27. Sally, I think chilling will definitely make a difference! Let us know how it turns out this time.

  28. I made this the other day for dinner, only I used ground lamb instead of ground beef for the protein. I cooked them in my contact grill and didn't use skewers, but I formed the meat into a kubideh shape. It all turned out fabulous and my husband declares that he has a new favorite dish.

    Thanks for the great recipe! Not only does it taste great and was super easy, but it is carb friendly. It doesn't get better than that.

  29. I am half-Iranian and I grew up kabob-e koobideh. I married an Iranian and kabob is a huge part of our lives! My mother-in-law has been making this wonderful recipe for so long that she can do it with her eyes closed! Flat skewers are generally used, and you purée the onions in a food processor, then drain most of the juice. She also puts the meat in the food processor. I wrote about making kabob with her on my blog.

    If anyone is interested, I have full recipes for kabob-e koobideh , joojeh kabob (chicken), and kabob-e barg (filet kabob) on my website, all made the-old-traditional way: flat skewers over an open flame.


  30. Family Spice, thanks for sharing.

  31. Silly question I suppose but the size of those kabobs seems like you could forgo the skewers as the meat is not so small that it would fall through the grate, right? Been wanting to make these but the skewers were holding me back. Was going to buy the traditional flat skewers as they sell them on amazon but I think I'm just going to make elongated patties and grill them. The skewers were originally used when they cooked over an open fire with no grill.

    1. Bridget very smart; I think they will be fine without skewers.


I'm so happy you're taking the time to comment on Kalyn's Kitchen! I love hearing from people who stop by, especially if you're sharing feedback or asking questions about a recipe I've posted here.

I've recently changed my comment settings so people can comment without signing in, but you will need to check the box to show you're a live person, and comments on older posts won't show up until I publish them. Thanks for understanding!

And if you really like the recipe, Pins, Shares, Tweets, and Yums are always appreciated!

Blogging tips