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Koobideh Kabob

If you’re a fan of grilled meat, Persian koobideh kabob is the meal for you! This mouthwatering Iranian dish is a labor of love that combines ground beef, grated onion, salt, and pepper to form kabobs that we top with savory saffron butter. Grilled over an open flame – the kabob’s are tender and juicy, with a crispy char that adds smokiness to every bite just like our joojeh kabob. We serve ours with basmati rice, lavash, or saffron rice.

Fresh kabob koobideh off of the grill is ready to be served.

What is Koobideh Kabob?

Koobideh kabob is one of the most popular meals in Iran, along with kabob barg (beef tenderloin) and joojeh kabob (chicken). Originating from the ancient Persian empire before spreading to the surrounding Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions, kabob koobideh is a longstanding staple in Iranian culture.

The simple beef kabobs are flavored traditionally with grated onion, salt, and pepper before cooking on the grill. We coat the skewers in a wonderfully aromatic and rich marinade made of bloomed saffron, juice from an onion, butter, and a touch of lemon juice.

While meat on a stick sounds simple enough, it’s an art form- one I am still trying to master. From forming the beef onto the skewers to keeping it there over an open flame, I treasure the experience (and the failures) of learning how to make wonderfully simple and great-tasting kabobs. 

What You Need to Make this Recipe

  • Beef: The higher fat content in the beef could cause the meat to pull away from the skewers and fall into the flame; I use 80/20 ground beef. You can also use ground lamb, ground chicken, or a combination of ground beef and lamb, which all taste amazing!
  • Onion: Grate the onions to release all the liquid from the onion for the best results. Then, combine the grated onions with the beef to form the kabobs.
  • Spices: Generously season the ground beef with salt and pepper.
  • Saffron Stems: Take the time to bloom the saffron before using it in the recipe. This process draws out the richness and fragrance of the saffron. Bloom the stems by gently mixing them with a hot liquid, like water or milk. Purchase saffron at local Indian or Arab markets. 
  • Saffron Butter: Use high-quality butter, reserved onion juice, and lemon juice to make Saffron Butter.

How to Make Koobideh Kabob

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Use a grater or food processor to grate one medium onion into a small bowl.

Grated onion is the base flavor for kabob koobideh.

Step 2: Place the onion into a sieve or cheesecloth. Press or squeeze the onion to release all the fluid; reserve the onion juice and grated onion separately. 

It's important to squeeze as much of the liquid out of the onion as possible to ensure the beef remains on the skewer.

Step 3: Stir salt and pepper into the grated onion mixture.

Grated onion is the base flavor for kabob koobideh.

Step 4: Then, add the beef and grated onion to a mixing bowl. Use your hands to combine until well incorporated; knead for about 5 minutes.

Mix the beef and onion together in a large bowl to form the kabob koobideh.

Step 5: Then, form a ball. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Roll the beef into a ball and set aside to chill.

Step 6: Hold the metal skewer with one hand and form a fist-size amount of beef onto the skewer using your other hand; be sure the meat wraps around the entire skewer with no spaces or cracks.

Use your thumb and forefinger to create indentations in the beef.

After the kabob koobideh is formed onto the skewer, use your fingers to make indents for the kabobs signature look and ridges to lock in all the flavor.

Step 7: Remove the grates from your gas grill and set them aside. Adjust the burners to high heat for 10 minutes to preheat the grill before adding the kabobs.

Form the meat onto the skewer and place them on the grill.

Step 8: Set the skewers on the grill over high heat; cover and cook for 1 minute. Flip the kabob, and cook for another minute. Check the meat every 30 seconds for the first several minutes and flip the kabob if it looks like the beef will separate.

Step 9: After the first minute, lightly coat the kabobs with the saffron butter using a pastry brush; cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Flip and coat the other side of the kabob with Saffron Butter. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

Form the meat onto the skewer and place them on the grill.

Step 10: Allow the kabobs to rest for 5 minutes, then slide them off the skewer onto a serving platter. Serve kabob koobideh with saffron rice, and enjoy!

Fresh kabob koobideh off of the grill is ready to be served.

Expert Tips

  • You can knead the meat with a food processor, but I prefer to do it by hand, making it easy to spot the large onion pieces in the mixture. Large onion pieces left in the ground beef will cause it to pull away from the skewer while grilling.
  • Use flat kabob skewers and not round ones for kabob koobideh; they provide a greater surface area for the meat to adhere to and cook from the inside out. 
  • Pour ice water into a bowl and leave it next to the beef mixture. Dip your hand into the ice water to prevent the meat from sticking to your hand. 
  • After forming the beef onto the skewers, line them onto a baking sheet for easy transportation. When the temperature outside is warm, I encourage you to refrigerate the skewers before adding them to the grill.
  • If you decide to leave the grates on your gas grill, be sure they are well-oiled and cleaned using them; you don’t want the kabobs to stick! 

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Fresh kabob koobideh off of the grill is ready to be served.

Serving Suggestions

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the beef falling off of the skewer?

What’s the most frustrating part of making koobideh kabob? It has to be keeping the meat on the skewer! As difficult as it may be, it can also be rewarding as you grow your koobideh skills. Preparing the kabobs requires patience as you learn, and I am right there with you. Here are a few reasons you may be fishing your kabobs out from the flame.

• The skewers are too warm; prevent this by putting them in the freezer before forming the beef onto the skewers.

• The skewers are too wet. Dry them quickly before adding the beef.

• The beef and onion mixture is too warm. Especially if it is a hot day, consider refrigerating the kabobs after you’ve formed the meat onto the skewers.

Can you make koobideh in the oven?

Baking koobideh kabob in the oven is a convenient option if you don’t have access to a grill. However, the kabobs may not have the same smoky and charred flavor as when grilled, but they are still delicious. To enhance the smokiness, consider adding a few splashes of liquid smoke to the beef and onion mixture.

1. Preheat the oven to 375℉ (190℃). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and prepare it with cooking spray; add the kabobs to the sheet. 

2. Bake for 15-20 minutes. If you prefer, turn on the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking to get a crispy and charred exterior.

Can you make koobideh without skewers?

Yes, it is possible to make koobideh kabob without skewers. One alternative is to shape the ground beef mixture into long, thin, and slightly flattened pieces, which can be grilled, baked, or seared in a frying pan.

How to eat koobideh?

Start by tearing off a piece of bread, usually lavash, and use it to scoop up some of the meat and rice. If you prefer utensils, use a fork and knife to cut a piece of the kabob and eat it with some rice.

More International Dinner Ideas:

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Fresh kabob koobideh off of the grill is ready to be served.

Koobideh Kabob

Tressa Jamil
Flavored with onion, salt, pepper, and that's about it, koobideh kabob or a Persian beef kabob cooked over open flame is truly a labor of love.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Marinating Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Servings 8 kabobs, 6-inches
Calories 208 kcal
Equipment
Ingredients
  
For the Koobideh Kabob:
  • 2 pounds ground beef, 80/20
  • 1 ½ medium white onion, grated, juice reserved
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, coarse ground
For the Saffron Butter:
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron stems, broken down
  • 4 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 stick butter, unsalted
  • ½- 1 cup onion juice (reserved from the grated onions)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
Instructions
 

For the Kabobs:

  • Use a grater or food processor to grate one medium onion into a small bowl. Place the onion into a sieve or cheesecloth. Press or squeeze the onion to release all the fluid; reserve the onion juice and grated onion separately. 
  • Stir salt and pepper into the grated onion mixture. Then, add the beef and grated onion to a mixing bowl. Use your hands to combine until well incorporated; knead for about 5 minutes. Then, form a ball. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • Hold the metal skewer with one hand and form a fist-size amount of beef onto the skewer using your other hand; be sure the meat wraps around the entire skewer with no spaces or cracks.
    Dip your hand in ice water and repeat with another handful of beef on the same skewer. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until all the skewers are loaded.
  • Use your thumb and forefinger to create indentations in the beef.
  • Remove the grates from your gas grill and set them aside. Adjust the burners to high heat for 10 minutes to preheat the grill before adding the kabobs.
  • Set the skewers on the grill over high heat; cover and cook for 1 minute. Flip the kabob, and cook for another minute. Check the meat every 30 seconds for the first several minutes and flip the kabob if it looks like the beef will separate.
  • After the first minute, lightly coat the kabobs with the saffron butter using a pastry brush; cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Flip and coat the other side of the kabob with Saffron Butter. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Allow the kabobs to rest for 5 minutes, then slide them off the skewer onto a serving platter. Serve kabob koobideh with saffron rice, and enjoy!

For the Saffron Butter:

  • Add saffron stems to a mortar and pestle or small bowl, and use the back of a spoon to break the saffron stems into smaller pieces. Add them to a small bowl with boiling water. Stir and let it stand for at least 5 minutes. 
  • Warm butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the reserved onion juice and saffron water. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, add the juice of 1 lemon, and stir to combine. Set the saffron marinade next to the grill with a pastry brush for easy access during the grilling process.
Notes
Grilling Tips: 
  • You can knead the meat with a food processor, but I prefer to do it by hand, making it easy to spot the large onion pieces in the mixture. Large onion pieces left in the ground beef will cause it to pull away from the skewer while grilling.
  • Use flat kabob skewers and not round ones for Kabob Koobideh; they provide a greater surface area for the meat to adhere to and cook from the inside out. 
  • Pour ice water into a bowl and leave it next to the beef mixture. Dip your hand into the ice water to prevent the meat from sticking to your hand. 
  • After forming the beef onto the skewers, line them onto a baking sheet for easy transportation. When the temperature outside is warm, I encourage you to refrigerate the skewers before adding them to the grill.
  • If you decide to leave the grates on your gas grill, be sure they are well-oiled and cleaned using them; you don’t want the kabobs to stick! 
 
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Kabob | Calories: 208 kcal | Carbohydrates: 2 g | Protein: 31 g | Fat: 12 g | Saturated Fat: 5 g | Cholesterol: 71 mg | Sodium: 362 mg | Potassium: 1 mg | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 1 IU | Vitamin C: 2 mg | Iron: 15 mg
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
Recipe Rating




Liam Thompson

Friday 26th of May 2023

As a meat lover, this koobideh kabob was a dream come true! I enjoyed mine with your saffron rice, and it was a match made in heaven. This recipe is a definite winner!

Tressa Jamil

Thursday 5th of October 2023

Thanks for trying the rice and kabobs! I am happy you enjoyed them both.

Sarah

Friday 26th of May 2023

Wow, making your koobideh kabob recipe took me on a culinary journey! The combination of ground beef, grated onion, and spices created the most tender and juicy kabobs I've ever tasted! I paired it with some basmati rice and lavash.

Tressa Jamil

Thursday 5th of October 2023

The juiciest kabob you've ever tasted! Wow, that it high praise. Thank you for taking the time to comment and rate my recipe.

Ali Raza

Friday 26th of May 2023

Absolutely delicious!

Tressa Jamil

Thursday 5th of October 2023

Thank Ali, I am happy you enjoyed the kabobs.