Lebanese kafta kabobs are known as a quintessential part of any Lebanese barbecue. Made of minced meat mixed with aromatic herbs and warm spices, kafta is skewered on a stick and then grilled to perfection.
Lebanese kebab is the equivalent of a Middle Eastern meatball skewered into a log shape and grilled or pan-fried to perfection. Kofta kebobs and shish tawook are guaranteed at any Lebanese barbecue.
Why This Works
These beef kafta kabobs (or lamb kafta kabobs) need a few basic ingredients. This delicious recipe comes together quickly. It's also super flexible when serving: wrap kafta in pita bread, eat it with a bowl of fattoush, or alongside other Lebanese mezze platters like baba ganoush, hummus, or batata harra.
- Minced meat: Use beef or lamb or a mix of both with about an 85% to 90% fat content. Buy already ground meat, or grind meat with a food processor.
- 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 the kafta mixture 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 this spice blend!
- Additional spices: Lebanese kafta needs some ground allspice, ground cinnamon, and salt.
- Ghee or butter: Ghee or butter adds flavor to the kafta kabobs.
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.
How To Make Lebanese Kafta Kabobs
Wash and chop the parsley. Mince the garlic either with a garlic press or mortar and pestle.
Place the minced meat in a large bowl.
Then add the chopped parsley.
Next, add the spices, the minced garlic, and the 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 indoor grill pan greased with butter or ghee (or in a preheated grill). Cook for a few minutes on each side until your meat reaches the desired wellness.
Serve these beef kafta kebabs with vermicelli rice and a Mediterranean chopped salad.
Tips and Tricks
- Don't over-grill your kafta: Ensure you're always around the grill while cooking the meat skewers. Overcooking kafta results in the meat drying out, so 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 flavors together. Butter also works here but is 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.
- Use high-quality cuts of meat with 85% to 90% fat content. If the minced onion has liquid, squeeze it out. Reducing the moisture helps the kafta kabobs to grill rather than steam.
Variations and Substitutions
- Change up the ground meat. Use lean ground beef, ground lamb, ground turkey, or ground chicken (like these chicken kafta patties). If the meat is lean, it will be a little drier.
- Outdoor grill kafta kabob recipe: I grilled these on the stovetop, but you can also cook them on an outdoor barbecue grill over hot coals. They'll taste just as good, but brush a bit of ghee on each meat skewer before grilling.
- Pita kafta rounds: This is a childhood favorite for me. 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 bit of the kafta mixture and shapes it into meatballs that we later use in soups and stews.
- For more variations of kafta, check out these chicken kafta patties and baked kafta and potatoes (kafta bil sanieh).
- Grill pan, cast iron grill skillet, or outdoor grill to grill the kafta skewers
- Large mixing bowl for mixing the ground meat and spices
- Wooden skewers or flat metal skewers
Lebanese kafta kabobs taste best when eaten hot from the grill pan. If you want to store some later, shape the mix on skewers and keep them in the fridge (for up to 2 days) or 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.
Ground beef or ground lamb is a great choice for kafta. Buy minced meat with a moderate fat content (around 85% fat).
Minced Meat Recipes
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Lebanese Kafta Kabobs (Beef or Lamb Ground Meat)
- 2.2 lbs minced meat (beef or lamb) 85% to 90% fat content
- 2 medium-sized onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon Lebanese 7 spices
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
- Wash the parsley. Remove the stems. Chop the parsley finely. Mince the garlic. Finely chop the onion.
- Place the minced meat in a deep mixing bowl (make sure it's large enough to mix in all the other ingredients). Add in the chopped parsley, minced garlic, finely chopped onion, and all of the spices.
- Mix them in really well, dip your hand in a bit of water to help the mixture come together.
- Take a handful of the meat mixture and start shaping it on a wooden skewer. Dip your hand in some water before shaping meat on each skewer. Repeat until all of the kafta meat is skewered.
- Place the kabobs in a hot grill pan greased with ghee or butter.
- Cook for a few minutes on each side until your meat reaches the desired wellness.
- Grill on an indoor grill, outdoor grill, or pan-fry in a skillet.
- Make sure not to overcrowd the grill pan.
- Serve hot.