Kurdish kebab

May 12, 2011  •  Category: ,


There are many Kurds who live in Lebanon especially Beirut and I have met and grown fond of a few. I have admired their courage  and always felt a fascination for their culture and traditions and sad for their hardships.

I recently found out that there are several flights a week from Beirut to Kurdistan (Iraq) and I would love to go visit at some point. The flight takes only about an hour. Inchallah!

This recipe is taken from a Kurdish blog edited by Gula Welat in French. Gula is a native of Diyarbakir (Turkey) and through her I am learning more about this cuisine and culture; some dishes have a lot of similarities with Lebanese dishes, including their names (kofta, hariré, baba ghannouj), the ingredients (bulgur, semolina, lamb, grape molasses, tahini,walnut, pistachios,pine nuts) and  spices (sumac).

At first glance this could be a Lebanese kebab; however, the techniques and the taste are completely different. Check this out.

INGREDIENTS: 20 kebabs

  • 1 pound of ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tablespoon of red pepper paste
  • 1 tablespoon of hot red pepper paste (can substitute tomato paste + 1 tablespoon of hot or mild paprika)
  • 1 bunch of flat-leaved parsley
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1 teaspoon of hot red pepper paste (can substitute red chili paste)
  • 1 cup of fine bulgur (#1)
  • 1/2 cup of pistachios
  • 1 cup of drained yogurt or labneh
  • Red pepper paste, as needed
  • 2 cloves of garlic


  1. Prepping the kebabs: Chop the onion by pulsing in the food processor; pluck the parsley leaves and place in the food processor bowl with the onions. Place the bulgur in a bowl and pour warm water on it to cover; leave for about 5 minutes until the bulgur is swollen. Transfer the bulgur to a sieve and press to extract all the remaining water. Place in the food processor bowl. Add salt, red pepper paste both mild and hot (or substitute with red chili paste or paprika); process until the bulgur is red in color and all the vegetables are well mixed. Add the meat and process some more. Adjust seasoning. Chop the pistachios coarsely and add to the meat mixture and combine.
  2. Place a cookie sheet covered with foil on a work surface. Fill a small bowl with ice water. Start shaping the kebabs one at a time and place on the cookie sheet, dabbing your fingers in the ice water to help with the stickiness.
  3. Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the kebabs over medium-low heat, making sure they don’t burn as they will cook rather fast, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate covered with paper towels to soak the excess oil. Serve warm or at room temperature with the pine nuts and some yogurt sauce on the side.

To prepare the pine nuts: Heat some olive oil and add a teaspoon of hot red pepper paste. Stir to mix and add the pine nuts; fry over gentle heat for 3 minutes or until they turn golden-brown, watching them carefully as they burn easily.

To prepare the yogurt sauce: Place one cup of drained yogurt in a bowl; mash 2 cloves of garlic in a mortar with some salt; add one tablespoon of red pepper paste and the mashed garlic. Taste to adjust seasoning, adding a squeeze of lemon if necessary.

NOTE: Gula’s recipe called for egg yolks to bind the meat; I forgot to add them and it was fine; however, it might be nice to have that added richness (3 egg yolks should suffice).


14 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    Those Kurdish Kebabs look mighty scrumptious! What a beautiful speciality.



  2. Jumanah says:

    Those look delicious! I think it would be so interesting to visit Kurdistan! Hope you have the chance to visit and blog about it!

  3. Nuts about food says:

    I always enjoy learning about cuisines I know very little of, this was an interesting read.

  4. Belinda @zomppa says:

    These kebabs are beautiful! They are so absolutely flavorful.

  5. Devaki says:

    Dear Joumana – I am amazed at the introduction of red pepper paste in these kababs…it feels so familiar and yet is quite unique to the kababs I grew up with. These look so wonderful especially with the rich red color, bughar and nuts that is so appealing.

    Love it Joumana and especially on the this bleak rainy day, I wouldn’t mind some straight off the stove with some chai! 🙂

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  6. Kristen says:

    I love kebabs, always great to find a new recipe from another culture. I have all the ingredients so I think I will have to try this tonight! Thanks 🙂

  7. Gula welat says:

    İls sont super 🙂 C’est pas mal aussi la forme que tu as donner
    Et surtout bonne idee cette sauce au labneh
    J’espere que tu as aimer
    A bientot

  8. Doc says:

    Man those look scrumptious. I am also loving the kebabs. We had many whilst in Turkey a few years back-amazing. I love the sautee with the pine nuts. Thank you again for the culinary inspiration, my friend!

  9. Magic of Spice says:

    These look fantastic! I have only tried making kebabs once and vegetarian, but loved them. Will have to try them again 🙂

  10. Maria @ Scandifoodie says:

    Great recipe and I know my partner would absolutely adore these! I’m saving this!

  11. Sheena says:

    Thank you very, very much for this recipe!

    I have been dreaming of these kebab since I tried something very similar in Diyarbakir several years ago!

    I was shown how to make them (your method is right on – except she didn’t have a food processor) but I didn’t understand the proportions as there was no measuring and the women only spoke Kurdish. I am looking forward to trying these!

    PS – this is my first time commenting, but I have been following your blog for quite some time. I love learning about Beruit. I would love to go back to Lebanon, I have visited before, but it went too fast!

  12. Louise says:

    What can I say? AWESOME! As you know, Joumana, I’m a huge fan of Turkish dishes. Indeed a culture I too would love to explore.

    Thank you so much for sharing your lesson:) They look delicious!!!

  13. Marla says:

    I love that you use pine nuts in these kebabs.
    Cookin’ Canuck & I would love if you linked up to 3 of your Kebab recipes into this weeks Get Grillin’ round up. The recipes can be anything & don’t need to be grilled. This and any 2 others would be perfect. http://su.pr/1BZGKK

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