Persian Ground Meat Kebab (Kebab’e Kubide)


Adapted from Persian Food from the Non-persian Bride, by Reyna Simnegar

What does a “regular” American mother send in a lunchbox to school? Maybe a peanut butter sandwich? Perhaps a tuna sandwich? Well, guess what my mother-in-law sent inside my husband’s lunchbox? Chelo Kebab! (rice with kebab). When I learned about this I thought to myself… “How cruel!  Was it not enough that the poor kid could not speak a word of English? Did she have to also humiliate him in front of the other kids with this crazy ‘fresh-off-the-boat’ concoction?”  Well, after thoroughly investigating the matter, my husband confessed to having been a victim of constant threats at school. That is, constant threats from kids trying to convince him to switch his lunch with them…. I guess what I thought was child abuse ended up being what every kid in the school wanted! Today my kids eat kebabies galore and I have to beg them to use forks and leave a few behind for Baba (Dad, in Farsi)! You can also make kebab with ground turkey…much better for your health! Kebabs are served over chelo (Persian white rice) sprinkled with sumac powder, along with grilled tomatoes, onions, pickles, and Salad Shirazy!


Meat Mixture:
2 pounds ground beef or turkey
1 large onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, pressed or 1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric or 1/2  teaspoon ground saffron
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sumac (optional)l
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes or 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Basting Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oill
1/4  teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm waterl
Pinch of salt


In a large bowl, combine all meat mixture ingredients.

In a second bowl, combine all basting ingredients.

At this point you have 2 choices.

Choice #1: You can grill the kebab, shaping it onto 1/2-inch wide flat metal cooking skewers or by shaping them like Israeli kebabs (flattened ellipses) and placing them directly on the grill.

Choice #2: You can broil the meat in the oven in the shape of flattened ellipses or by pressing the meat into a lasagna pan and cutting it into strips before broiling it.

Directions for Choice #1:
Make balls of meat the size of an orange. Pierce the meat with the skewer and shape firmly around the metal, flattening it to resemble a large flat sausage.

Place 3–inches from flame and grill for about 5 minutes per side, turning constantly to prevent the meat from falling into the flames. When ready, remove from the skewers with a piece of flatbread or a wrap. Baste with basting sauce and serve the meat immediately with white Persian rice (Chelo).

If you don’t have flat metal skewers, you can also shape the meat into flattened torpedoes and cook right over the grill grid for about 5 minutes per side. If you use an instant-read thermometer to check doneness, the temperature should read 140°F. Remove from the grill, baste with basting sauce, and serve immediately.

Directions for Choice #2:
Preheat oven to broil. Spray canola oil over a baking sheet if you want to shape the meat like flattened torpedoes or spray a 9″x13″ lasagna pan if you want to cut it into strips.

Wet your hands and shape meat torpedoes. Make the ellipses about 2″x4″x1″ each; these will shrink dramatically as you broil them. Place the torpedoes side by side on the baking sheet or press all the meat into the 9″x13″ pan and, using a sharp knife, cut the meat into 1½-inch strips. This last method resembles the authentic Kebab and, once the meat has cooked, it will be easy to separate the strips from one another.

Broil close to the heat source for 7 minutes or until the meat has nicely browned. Take the baking sheet out, turn the kebabs over and continue cooking for 8-10 more minutes, farthest from the heat. If you used the 9″x13″ pan, you do not have to turn the kebabs over. If you use an instant-read thermometer, the meat will be done at 140°F.

Baste with basting sauce and serve immediately with over white Persian rice (Chelo).


Yield: 11 Kebabs

You are what you eat:
Sumac is probably the most exotic and interesting spice I have ever encountered. It originates from Turkey; some varieties are from Italy. The shrub’s petals and berries are dried up and ground into a purple burgundy powder with a strong acid taste. When mixed with water it can be used for the same purposes as lime juice, but will tint everything, including your teeth, purple!

Tricks of the trade:
If using metal skewers, make sure they are dry and cold before pressing meat onto them.  Do not use dirty skewers. I like using metal skewers with wooden handles because the metal gets very hot. Do not oil the metal skewers, as this will prevent the meat from attaching. Also, keep your hands wet when handling ground beef and it will not stick to your hands

Recipes: Meat, Ground Beef or Turkey, Kebabs, Persian, Kosher

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