Kafta kabobs are known as a quintessential part of any Lebanese barbecue. Made up of minced meat mixed with aromatic herbs and spices, kafta is skewered on a stick then grilled to perfection. These kabobs need a few simple ingredients to be put together but they are versatile: they can be grilled indoors or outdoors, roasted, and even pan-fried. And if you love kafta, check out the chicken kafta patties and baked kafta and potatoes.
What I Love About This Recipe
I love how fast this recipe comes together and how with a few ingredients you get an incredibly filling and good meal. It's also super flexible when it comes to serving: wrap kafta in pita bread, eat it with a bowl of fattoush, or alongside other Lebanese mezze platters.
- Minced meat: Use beef or lamb or a mix of both with about an 85% to 90% fat content.
- Onion: Use white, yellow, sweet, or red onion.
- Parsley: I recommend using fresh parsley, either curly leaf or Italian type.
- Garlic: Use fresh minced garlic cloves. Some people prefer to skip this ingredient but I never make kafta kabobs without some garlic.
- Seven spice: This adds a touch of Lebanese flavor and gives kafta a brilliant uplift. Here's our recipe for homemade seven spice. I am never without a jar of it!
- Additional spices: Lebanese kafta needs some ground allspice, ground cinnamon, and salt.
- Ghee or butter: Ghee or butter add flavor to the kafta kabobs.
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.
How To Make Kafta
Wash and chop the parsley. Mince the garlic either with a garlic press or mortar and pestle. Place the minced meat in a deep mixing bowl (make sure it's large enough to mix in all the other ingredients). Then add in the minced garlic and chopped parsley.
Next, add all of the spices and finely minced onion. Mix them in really well. Knead everything together so that the ingredients are evenly spread out.
Now it's time to make our kafta kabobs. Have a cup of cold water next to you before starting this step. This is to help you shape the kabobs on the skewers. Take a handful of the meat mixture and start shaping it on a wooden skewer. Repeat until the meat mixture is all done. Place the kabobs in a hot grill pan greased with butter or ghee. Cook for a few minutes on each side until your meat reaches the desired wellness.
Tips and Tricks
- Don't over-grill your kafta: Make sure you're always around the grill as you cook the meat skewers. Overcooking kafta results in the meat drying out so make sure you check on your skewers as they cook.
- Add melted ghee to the grill pan: I cook these on the stovetop using a grill pan that has some melted ghee melted all over it. This gives the kafta a brilliant flavor and prevents and binds all the flavor together. Butter also works here but it's not as good as some high-quality organic ghee.
- Space the skewers out: Make sure your skewers are spaced out in the pan and not overcrowded because that affects the cooking process. I cook these in batches and recommend that you do that too.
Variations and Substitutions
- BBQ kafta kabobs: I grilled these on the stovetop but you can also opt to cook them on an actual outdoor barbecue. They'll taste just as good but make sure you brush a little bit of ghee on each meat skewer before grilling.
- Pita kafta rounds: This is a childhood favorite for me. Basically, use the same meat mix we prepped but instead of shaping it on skewers, you spread it on pita bread and pop it in the oven for a few minutes. Drizzle with some pomegranate molasses when it's out of the oven and thank me later.
- Kafta meatballs: My grandma always saves a little bit of the kafta mix and shapes it into meatballs that we later use in soups and stews.
- Grill pan, cast iron grill skillet, or outdoor grill to grill the kafta skewers
- Large mixing bowl to mix the ground meat and spices together
- Wooden skewers or metal skewers
Kafta kabobs taste best when they're eaten hot right from the grill pan. If you want to store some for later, shape the mix on skewers and keep them in the fridge (for up to 2 days) or in the freezer (for up to 6 months). You can then cook them right before you want to serve them.
It's best to avoid reheating the kabobs in a microwave because that makes the meat dry. To reheat cooked kafta kabobs place them on a grill pan and heat for a few minutes on each side.
Beef or lamb both work for kafta with a moderate fat content (around 85% fat).