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Koobideh Kabob

Persian koobideh kabob is a labor of love that combines ground beef, onions, and spices to form kabobs you coat with savory saffron butter. Grill the kabobs over an open flame until they become tender and juicy with a perfect char. Serve them with warm lavash, saffron rice, and Shirazi salad.

Koobideh kabob on a plate.

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. 

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • 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: Add saffron stems to a small bowl and use the back of a spoon to crush the stems into smaller pieces. Add them to a small bowl with hot water. Stir and set it aside to bloom.

Saffron blooming in a small bowl.

Step 2: Use a grater or food processor with a grater attachment to process one medium onion into a small bowl.

Transfer the onion to a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Press or squeeze the onion to release excess liquid. Reserve the onion juice and grated onion separately. 

Grated onion in a bowl.

Step 3: Add the ground beef, salt, black pepper, and grated onion to a mixing bowl. Knead to combine for 5 minutes until the mixture is sticky. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grated onion and ground beef in a bowl.

Step 4: Remove the ground beef mixture from the refrigerator. Hold a wide metal skewer with one hand, dip your other hand in the ice water, and form two small palm-sized amounts of ground beef onto the skewer with no spaces or cracks.

Ground beef formed onto a kabob.

Step 5: Use your thumb and forefinger to create indentations in the beef.

Ground beef formed onto a kabob.

Step 6: Adjust the burners on your grill to high heat for 10 minutes. Then, use a wooden grill scraper to clean the grates (if using them). Otherwise, remove the grates before preheating the grill.

Step 7: While preheating the grill, warm the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the reserved onion juice and saffron water. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Saffron butter in a saute pan.

Step 8: Set the skewers on the grill over high heat. Cover and cook for 6 minutes.

Kabobs on the grill.

Step 9: Flip, brush the kabobs with saffron butter, and cook for another 6 minutes.

Tip: Check the skewers every 30 seconds for the first several minutes and flip the kabobs if it looks like the beef will separate.

Kabobs on the grill.

Step 10: Slide the kebabs off the skewers onto the cutting board to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Koobideh kabob on a plate.

Expert Tips

  • Knead the meat mixture in a food processor or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. You can also knead the mixture by hand.
  • Leave a large bowl of cold water next to the kabob meat. Dip your hand into the water before forming the kebabs to keep the mixture cool and prevent the meat from sticking to your hand. 
  • Adhere the meat to wide metal skewers using the same amount of meat for each kebab to ensure they all cook at the same rate. The wide skewers provide a greater surface area for the meat to adhere and cook more quickly from the inside out. 
  • After forming the beef onto the skewers, line them onto a baking sheet for easy transportation to the grill. 
  • Preheat the grill and clean the grates well before grilling. You don’t want the kabobs to stick! 

If you enjoy the meal, try one of these grilling recipes!  

Koobideh kabob on a plate.

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 Kabob Recipes:

And for more ideas about what to make with ground beef, try one of these ground beef recipes!

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Koobideh kabob on a plate.

Koobideh Kabob

Tressa Jamil
Persian koobideh kabob is a labor of love that combines ground beef, onions, and spices to form beef kabobs you can serve with warm lavash.
5 from 5 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
Ingredients
  
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron stems, broken down
  • 4 tablespoons hot water
  • medium white onion, grated
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ½ cup onion juice (reserved from grating the onions)
Instructions
 
  • Add saffron stems to a small bowl and use the back of a spoon to crush the stems into smaller pieces. Add them to a small bowl with hot water. Stir and set it aside to bloom.
  • Use a grater or food processor with a grater attachment to process one medium onion into a small bowl. Transfer the onion to a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Press or squeeze the onion to release excess liquid. Reserve the onion juice and grated onion separately. 
  • Add the ground beef, salt, black pepper, and grated onion to a mixing bowl. Knead to combine for 5 minutes until the mixture is sticky. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the ground beef mixture from the refrigerator. Hold a wide metal skewer with one hand, dip your other hand in the ice water, and form two small palm-sized amounts of ground beef onto the skewer with no spaces or cracks.
    Transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  • Use your thumb and forefinger to create indentations in the beef.
  • Adjust the burners on your grill to high heat for 10 minutes. Then, use a wooden grill scraper to clean the grates (if using them). Otherwise, remove the grates before preheating the grill.
  • While preheating the grill, warm the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the reserved onion juice and saffron water. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Set the skewers on the grill over high heat. Cover and cook for 6 minutes. Flip, brush the kabobs with saffron butter, and cook for another 6 minutes.
    Tip: Check the skewers every 30 seconds for the first several minutes and flip the kabobs if it looks like the beef will separate.
  • Slide the kebabs off the skewers onto the cutting board to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
Expert Tips:
  • Knead the meat mixture in a food processor or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. You can also knead the mixture by hand.
  • Leave a large bowl of cold water next to the kabob meat. Dip your hand into the water before forming the kebabs to keep the mixture cool and prevent the meat from sticking to your hand. 
  • Adhere the meat to wide metal skewers using the same amount of meat for each kebab to ensure they all cook at the same rate. The wide skewers provide a greater surface area for the meat to adhere and cook more quickly from the inside out. 
  • After forming the beef onto the skewers, line them onto a baking sheet for easy transportation to the grill. 
  • Preheat the grill and clean the grates well before grilling. 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!
5 from 5 votes (2 ratings without comment)
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.