The Juiciest Beef Kafta

Learn how to make tender Kafta Kabob that are dripping with flavor with this EASY step-by-step recipe. The tasty seasoned beef mixture is grilled to juicy perfection.

A plate of beef kafta kabobs with mint and sliced cucumber. Turkish bread is placed behind the plate.

These kafta kabobs (or beef kafta kebabs) are a popular Lebanese dish made of ground meat, typically beef or lamb, that is seasoned with a blend of Middle Eastern spices, herbs and other ingredients. The seasoned meat mixture is shaped into long sausage-like forms around skewers and then grilled to perfection.

A combination of fresh herbs like parsley and mint, along with aromatic spices such as coriander, cumin, and cinnamon, give the kabobs a distinct and flavorful taste. Kafta Kabobs are often served as a main course with rice, salads, or wrapped in pita bread, accompanied by various dips and sauces.

Origins

The exact origin of Kafta is unclear, as it has been a part of the culinary traditions of different regions for centuries. It is believed to have originated in the Levant region, encompassing modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. These countries have a long history of meat-based dishes, and Kafta is considered one of their culinary treasures.

Kabab or Kebob? The Many Different Names

The term “kabob” is an anglicized version of the Arabic word “kebab,” which itself has various spellings and pronunciations depending on the region. In English, the plural form is usually “kabobs,” with an “s” added to the end of the word. However, in its original languages (like Arabic, Persian, Turkish), the word may not follow English pluralization rules. For instance, in Arabic, the plural form is “kabāb” while in Persian, it would be “kabāb-hā.”

Kafta is known by different names in various countries and regions. For example:

  1. Kofta: This is a commonly used term in many parts of the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia. It refers to meatballs or meatloaf made from ground meat, including lamb, beef, or even chicken. Kofta: Kofta refers to meatballs or meatloaf made from ground meat, typically lamb or beef, mixed with various spices, herbs, and other ingredients. The ground meat mixture is shaped into cylindrical or oval patties and can be cooked by grilling, baking, or frying. Kofta can be prepared on skewers (kofta kebab) or as individual meatballs.
  2. Kefte kabob: This term is used in Greece. This version is often seasoned with herbs like oregano and mint.
  3. Koobideh kabob: a popular Iranian version that consists of ground meat seasoned with various spices like onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. The meat mixture is then shaped onto flat, wide skewers and grilled over an open flame.
  4. Kafta kebabs: In many countries, Kafta is shaped onto skewers and cooked over a grill, making it a type of kebab. It is often served with pita bread and accompanied by various sauces and side dishes.
  5. Shish Kofta: (or shish kafta or shish kabob), specifically refers to kofta that is skewered and grilled. The ground meat mixture is shaped onto skewers, typically metal or wooden, and then cooked over a a grill.

Variations and Regional Differences: Kafta recipes can vary slightly from one region to another, with different spices, herbs, and ingredients being used. In some areas, the addition of onions, garlic, parsley, or mint is common. Additionally, regional cooking methods and preferred types of meat can also influence the taste and texture of Kafta.

Why You’re Going to Love This Kafta Kabob Recipe

This Kafta Kabob recipe is about to become your new favorite dish, and here’s why:

  • Flavorful and juicy: The delicious blend of fresh herbs and spices creates an unforgettable taste that will have you craving more. They are dripping with juicy flavor.
  • Easy to make: With just a few simple steps, you can have these mouthwatering kabobs on your plate in no time.

Gather Your Ingredients for the Best Kafta

Before you start, make sure you have all the essential ingredients to create this delicious dish:

Ingredients for Beef Kafta Kabob arranged on a kitchen countertop: ground beef, cinnamon, mint, black pepper, parsley, ground coriander, ground cumin, garlic, and onion.
  • Ground beef: The main protein source in the recipe, providing a juicy and flavorful base. You can use lean ground beef or regular.
  • Fresh parsley: Adds a touch of freshness and color to the kabobs.
  • Fresh mint: Provides a cooling contrast to the warm spices.
  • Grated onion: Contributes moisture and subtle sweetness to the mixture.
  • Minced garlic: Enhances the overall flavor profile with its pungent taste.

Kafta Spices

Just a few pantry spices are needed to make this flavor-packed shish kafta recipe.

  • Ground coriander: Offers a slightly citrusy note to complement the other spices.
  • Ground cumin: Imparts a warm, earthy flavor to the kabobs.
  • Cinnamon: Adds a hint of sweet warmth to the spice blend.
  • Kosher salt: Balances and brings out the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Black pepper: Provides mild heat and enhances the overall taste.
White dish filled with a mixture of ground beef, cinnamon, mint, black pepper, parsley, ground coriander, ground cumin, garlic, and onion for beef kafta kabob.

Grab these Tools

To create the perfect grilled kafta kabobs, gather these essential tools:

  • Grill or grill pan: For cooking the kabobs to achieve those desirable char marks.
  • Skewers: Optional. If you want, you can make kafta skewers, using wooden, bamboo, or metal skewers to hold the meat mixture while grilling, ensuring even cooking.
  • Large mixing bowl: For combining the meat mixture and seasoning ingredients. No need for a food processor (as that makes it easy to over-mince the meat and make a paste).
  • Instant-read thermometer: To check the internal temperature of the kabobs for safe consumption.

How to Make a Juicy Grilled Beef Kafta Kabob: Easy Step-by-Step Directions

Follow these simple steps to create your mouthwatering beef kafta kabobs:

The ground beef is mixed with parsley, mint, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a bowl until well combined. The mixture is divided into equal portions of about 3 tbsp and shaped into long sausage-like shapes, either freeform or around a skewer
  • Preheat grill: Ensures even cooking and perfect searing of the kabobs.
  • Mix ingredients: Combine all ingredients in a bowl to create a well-seasoned beef mixture.
  • Divide mixture: Portion the mixture into equal parts for consistent sizing and cooking.
  • Shape kabobs: Form each portion into long sausage-like shapes, either freeform or on skewers.
  • Grill kabobs: Cook your beef kafta kababs on medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes per side until they reach the desired internal temperature.
  • Check temperature: Ensure the kabobs are cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165ºF before serving.
The kafta kabobs are grilled for 4-5 minutes on each side or until they reach an internal temperature of 165ºF.

How Do You Keep Kafta Kebobs From Breaking?

To prevent Kofta Kebabs from falling apart, follow these 5 simple tips:

  1. Finely chop or mince the ingredients: Make sure your meat, onions, and herbs are finely chopped or minced. This will help the mixture bind together better.
  2. Refrigerate the mixture: Before forming the kebabs, refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes to an hour. This helps the ingredients to meld together and makes it easier to shape the kebabs.
  3. Wet your hands: When shaping the kebabs, wet your hands with cold water or oil to prevent the mixture from sticking to your fingers. This will make it easier to form the kebabs and keep them intact.
  4. Preheat the grill or pan: Make sure your grill or pan is properly preheated before placing the kebabs on it. This helps to sear the outside quickly, locking in the juices and preventing the kebabs from falling apart.
  5. Handle with care: Be gentle when turning the kebabs on the grill or pan. Use tongs or a spatula to carefully turn them, avoiding any unnecessary force that may cause them to break apart. If they are stuck to the grill, they aren’t ready to flip yet.
A white dish with long sausage-like shapes formed from the beef kafta kabob mixture.

What to Serve with Kafta Kabob

Serve your juicy beef kafta kabobs like a pro with these side dishes and presentation tips:

  • Yummy flatbread: Wrap the kabobs in warm homemade naan or Turkish bread for a satisfying handheld meal.
  • Dips and sauces: Accompany the kabobs with flavorful dips like Indian yogurt sauce, hummus, or tahini sauce.
  • Garnish: Sprinkle some chopped parsley or mint over the kabobs for added freshness and color.
  • Couscous: Serve alongside any one of these delicious Israeli Couscous recipes or a classic couscous salad with lemon dressing.
  • Salads: A fresh tabbouleh or fattoush salad complements the flavors of the kabobs perfectly. My Indian father-in-law’s famous Cucumber Yogurt Salad would also be great.
  • Grilled vegetables: Add some grilled eggplant, zucchini, or bell peppers for a healthy and tasty side option. Air fryer eggplant would be perfect.
Stack of 4 Turkish breads (bazlama) on a kitchen cloth

Make Ahead and Storage Tips

Ensure your Beef Kafta Kabob stays fresh and delicious with these storage tips:

  • Make ahead: Prepare the meat mixture up to a day in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours when you’re ready to grill.
  • Storing leftovers: Store cooked kabobs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Freezing: Freeze uncooked, shaped kabobs on a baking sheet before transferring to a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months.

Variations and Substitutions

Customize your Kafta Kabobs with these alternative options:

  • Alternate protein: Swap the ground beef for ground lamb, ground turkey or chicken for a different flavor profile.
  • Additional spices: Experiment with other spices like paprika, allspice, or sumac for a unique twist.
  • Veggie kabobs: For a vegetarian version, try using a mixture of grated vegetables, like zucchini and carrots, along with breadcrumbs and an egg as a binder.

Expert Tips and Tricks for the Best Beef Kafta Kabob

Master the art of Kafta Kabob-making with these expert suggestions:

  • Don’t overmix the kafta mixture: Overmixing ground meat mixtures like kafta can result in a denser, tougher texture. This happens due to the development of myosin, a type of protein that acts as a binding agent. When ground meat is mixed, especially if it is mixed vigorously, the myosin develops more fully. While a certain amount of mixing is necessary to distribute the seasoning and other ingredients evenly, excessive mixing can result in a rubbery texture because it makes the meat mixture too cohesive and elastic. Mix just until the ingredients are evenly distributed to keep the meat tender and juicy.
  • Prevent sticking: Properly preheat the grill for at least 5 minutes. Lightly oil the grill grates or grill pan before cooking the kabobs to avoid them sticking. Don’t try to turn them until they lift easily
  • Soak wooden skewers: If you want to grill them on skewers, soaking wooden or bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes ahead of time prevents them from burning during grilling.

FAQs

What is Kafta meat made of?

Kafta is made primarily of ground beef, blended with a vibrant mix of fresh herbs like parsley and mint, along with aromatic spices such as coriander, cumin, and cinnamon.

How do you make kofta kebabs stick together?

To ensure your kofta kebabs hold together, combine the ground meat and spices well until the mixture becomes slightly sticky. Also, moistening your hands with water can help when shaping the kebabs. Chill them for 30 minutes before cooking if you find the mixture too soft to handle.

Why do my kebabs break?

Kebabs may break if the meat mixture is not properly combined, they are over-handled during grilling, or the grill temperature is too high causing the outside to cook faster than the inside. Ensuring a well-combined meat mixture, being gentle handling during the grilling process, and not flipping them too often will help keep your kebabs intact.

What is the difference between kofta and meatballs?

While both are similar, kofta generally refers to spiced meatballs originating from Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines, while “meatballs” is a more generic term used in various cuisines worldwide. Kofta (a.k.a. kafta or kofte) are typically oblong instead of in ball shape.

What is the difference between kabob and kafta?

While both are forms of skewered meats, kabob refers to chunks of marinated meat (and often vegetables) threaded onto skewers, while kafta refers to a specific type of Middle Eastern kebab made from ground meat and spices.

If You Love Ground Beef Like I Do, Try These Recipes

  • Ground Beef Tacos: Flavorful tacos made with ground beef, spices, and fresh ingredients for an authentic taste.
  • Chili Con Carne: A hearty and flavorful Mexican chili made with ground beef, beans, and spices.
  • Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce with Ground Beef: This richly flavorful spaghetti sauce is made in the crockpot for easy and delicious weeknight cooking.
  • Meatloaf: The best moist and tender meatloaf with a sticky, caramelized topping.
  • Keema Naan: This recipe can easily be adapted to use ground beef filling. The naan is made from scratch and is perfectly soft and fluffy.

Beef Kafta Kabob

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 4
Dinner, Lunch
Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Keyword Authentic Beef Kafta Kabobs, Beef Kafta Kabob

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef regular is juicier, but lean will do
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup minced fresh mint
  • ½ cup grated onion
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent burning.
  • In a bowl, mix together the ground beef, parsley, mint, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper until well combined.
  • Divide the mixture into equal portions of about 3 tbsp and shape each portion into a long sausage-like shape (you can do it freeform or around a skewer).
  • Grill the kafta kabobs for 4-5 minutes on each side or until they reach 165ºF internal temperature.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 454kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 30gFat: 35gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 2gCholesterol: 121mgSodium: 851mgPotassium: 561mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 453IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 65mgIron: 4mg
Keyword Authentic Beef Kafta Kabobs, Beef Kafta Kabob

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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Meg
Meg
4 months ago

5 stars
This is a family hit Jenn! I’m a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine and have always been curious about variations. Have you ever experimented with different meats like lamb or even a vegetarian version with chickpeas? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to adapt this classic dish.

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