One of the most popular dishes ordered in Persian restaurants, these Persian ground lamb or beef kabobs, known as koobideh, are grilled to juicy perfection, and you only need 5 ingredients to make them.
This recipe is quintessential to Persian cuisine, and is an incredibly tasty kabob seasoned with saffron and lemon.
Master this recipe and follow my top kabob tips to keep the meat stuck on those skewers, and I promise you'll have perfect Koobideh every time!
Pair with Shirazi Salad, barbecued tomatoes, and Saffron Basmati Rice.
Why this Recipe Works
Making great Koobideh is essential in mastering Persian cuisine. The shaping technique to get the perfect kabob that sticks to the skewers is an art, and this recipe gives you all the tips you need to make sure they stick!
Grating the onion in the mix helps release the enzymes in the onion, which help tenderize the meat and intensify the flavor. The saffron and lemon also adds a unique flavor to the kabobs with a slight acidity and sweetness respectively.
Some recipes online have turmeric and/or sumac in the Koobideh. Sumac should not go in the meat, but can be sprinkled on top afterwards. I've had Koobideh with turmeric in it, but it is usually used to fake the color of the saffron. Use this recipe and you'll be happy you did.
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Ground lamb or beef – you can use either meat or mix them. We are looking for an 80/20 fat ratio.
Onion – A medium yellow onion or white onion.
Lemon – You only need a small amount of lemon juice and it is best fresh.
Saffron – There are many saffron substitutes, but make sure to purchase real ground saffron for this recipe. You should be able to find real saffron at Middle Eastern markets and even online on Amazon. You can read more about saffron in my post about saffron zoolbia.
Oil – Use a flavorless oil like canola, vegetable, avocado oil etc.
How to Make this Recipe
First, grate the onion and squeeze out all the liquid, reserving the juice that's produced.
Note: Make sure you have squeezed all the water out of the onion. Too much liquid will make the meat mixture not sticky enough. Too much onion will also keep it from sticking, so stay with the ratio in the recipe.
Add the ground meat mixture to the onions with 2 teaspoons lemon juice, steeped saffron (meaning the saffron was steeped in hot water first), salt, and pepper.
Knead the mixture together for a minimum of 5 minutes, and preferably a full 10 minutes until the mix is very sticky.
Note: This is an extremely important step because without kneading it, the meat will fall off the skewer.
Refrigerate and marinate
Refrigerate the meat mixture for a minimum of 30 minutes, ideally 1 hour. Forming the meat just after it was refrigerated is crucial to keep it from falling off the skewer.
Note: If you allow the meat to get warm, you're basically melting/breaking down the fat, and this causes it to fall off the skewer. If it takes you a long time to get the meat on the skewers, you can place the bowl of ground meat in a larger bowl of ice water to help keep it cool.
Preparing to cook
Next, mix together 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of the reserved onion juice from earlier. This is for basting the Koobideh later while it cooks.
Mix together the rest of the onion juice and some ice water. Coat your hands in cold water and get ready to skewer the meat.
Mold the meat around the skewer - it's helpful to taper the bottom and top of the kabob of each skewer. Use your pointer and middle finger in a scissor position to press the classic indentations along the kabob.
Note: If after all of this your meat is still falling off the skewer, you can add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to help it stick on the skewer. Only use this if absolutely necessary, because this will change the texture of the final kabob to a slightly rubbery one.
Cook and Serve
Next, cook the kabobs over high heat, flipping them every 30 seconds until cooked through for a total of 8-10 minutes.
Kabob Cooking Tips
- Make sure your grill fire is very hot.
- Remember that we don't follow the burger flipping rule in this recipe (where you only flip it once when cooking). The kabob get flipped when you first put them on the grill, and you cook them for a short 30 seconds on the first side, until it just starts to brown. Then, you flip it to get the other side to get it brown and continue flipping as you cook.
Note: Flipping the kabob often is important to seal the outside of the kabob so it doesn't fall off the skewer. Cooking one side and letting the other side get warm will undo all the work you did with the cold kabob to get in on the skewer nicely.
- Baste the kabobs with the basting liquid when you have about 1 minute of cooking left.
Read more about two-zone grilling here.
Serve your Koobideh with Persian steamed saffron rice and roasted tomatoes from the grill.
If it's not already ground, grind your saffron using a mortar and pestle. Steep the saffron in hot water prior to adding it to the dish you are making.
My top tips to help make sure your meat sticks are to knead the meat for 10 minutes and then also keep it cold, with your hands cold and wet as well. This will greatly help you with the skewering process.
Traditionally, you would slide your Koobideh off the skewers and serve on a large platter with plenty of Persian steamed basmati rice, and tomatoes that were also cooked on a skewer on the grill. A piece of Sangak is a lovely touch. And add a touch of sumac to season the kabob or rice if you like!
Yes, you can use an oven broiler to cook Koobideh. Place your oven rack close enough to the broiler so the top of your broiling pan with the Koobideh will be less than 3 inches away from the heat source, and make sure to line the broiler pan with foil. Flip every 30 seconds, just as you would on the grill.
Koobideh means 'slammed', referring to the way the meat is flattened and molded around the skewers before cooking.
Feast your eyes and lips on more Persian recipes packed with unique flavor! If you like this recipe, you'll love one of these similar recipes and recipes I serve with this dish:
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Grilled Koobideh - Persian Ground Beef Kabob
- 4 Skewers
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 lb. ground lamb or beef, 80/20
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon oil flavorless, like canola, vegetable, avocado, etc.
- ½ teaspoon saffron ground and bloomed in 1 tablespoon hot water
- Grate the onion and squeeze out all the liquid, reserving the liquid. Add the ground meat, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of oil, the steeped saffron, salt, and pepper. Knead for a minimum of 5 minutes, but preferably 10 minutes until it is very sticky.
- Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, but preferably 1 hour.
- Mix together 2 teaspoons of oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of the onion juice. This is for basting.
- Mix together the rest of the onion juice and some ice water. Skewer with cold, wet hands. It is helpful to taper the bottom and top of the kabob of each skewer. Use your pointer and middle finger in a scissor position press the classic indentations along the kabob. If it isn't sticking, see note below.
- Cook over high heat flipping every 30 seconds until cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Base with the basting liquid when you have about 1 minute left.
10/10 will be making these again! Loved the grilled tomatoes with them.