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Jujeh kabab, roast chicken kebab in Iranian cuisine
Course Main course
Place of origin Middle East
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Meat
Cookbook: Kebab 

Kebab, (also kebap, kabob, kebob, or kabab) is a Middle Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean, and South Asian dish of pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables roasted or grilled on a skewer or spit[1] originating either in the Eastern Mediterranean,[2][3] where it is mentioned by Homer,[4] or the Middle East,[5][6] before spreading worldwide. In American English, kebab with no qualification refers to shish kebab cooked on a skewer,[7] whereas in Europe it refers to doner kebab. In the Middle East, however, kebab refers to meat that is cooked over or next to flames; large or small cuts of meat, or even ground meat; it may be served on plates, in sandwiches, or as dürüm.

The traditional meat for kebab is lamb, but depending on local tastes and religious prohibitions, other meats may include beef, goat, chicken, pork or fish. Like other ethnic foods brought by travellers, the kebab has remained a part of everyday cuisine in most of the Eastern Mediterranean and South Asia. Doner kebab is popular in Germany as a snack after a night out.[8]


  • History 1
  • National varieties 2
    • In Afghanistan 2.1
    • In Armenia 2.2
    • In Azerbaijan 2.3
    • In Bulgaria 2.4
    • In China 2.5
    • In Greece 2.6
    • In India 2.7
    • In Iran 2.8
      • Kabab koobideh 2.8.1
      • Kabab barg 2.8.2
      • Jujeh kabab 2.8.3
      • Kabab Bakhtiari 2.8.4
    • In the Levant and Iraq 2.9
    • In Malaysia 2.10
    • In Nepal 2.11
    • In Norway 2.12
    • In Pakistan 2.13
    • In Turkey 2.14
      • Shish 2.14.1
      • Döner 2.14.2
      • Adana 2.14.3
      • Steam kebab 2.14.4
      • Testi kebab 2.14.5
  • Other variants 3
    • Kebab kenjeh 3.1
    • Kebab Halabi 3.2
    • Kakori 3.3
    • Chapli/Chappal 3.4
    • Burrah 3.5
    • Kalmi 3.6
    • Galouti 3.7
  • Similar dishes 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


According to Sevan Nişanyan, an etymologist of the Turkish language, the word kebab is derived from the Persian word "kabap" meaning "fry". The word was first mentioned in a Turkish script of Kyssa-i Yusuf in 1377, which is the oldest known source where kebab is mentioned as a food. However, he emphasizes that the word has the equivalent meaning of "frying/burning" with "kabābu" in the old Akkadian language, and "kbabā/כבבא" in Syriac language.[9]

Tradition has it that the dish was invented by medieval soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires.[10][11] Persian kebab was served in the royal houses during various Islamic Empires and even commoners would enjoy it for breakfast with naan or pita.[12][13]

National varieties

Cağ kebabı, a related dish. Note that the meat is horizontally stacked.

In Afghanistan

The Afghan variant of the kebab is the "kabob"[Pashto/Farsi: کباب].

In Armenia

Kebabs in Armenia are prepared of ground meat spiced with pepper, parsley and other herbs and roasted on skewers.

In Azerbaijan

Tika kabab and lyula kabab from mutton, as served in Qəçrəş, Quba Rayon, north-eastern Azerbaijan

The main varieties include tika kabab, lyula kabab (doyma kabab in some places), tas kababy and tava kabab. The meat for tika kabab is sometimes prepared in basdirma (an onion gravy and thyme) and then goes onto the ramrods. It may be served, wrapped in lavash, with sauce-like pomegranate addon (narsharab) and other condiments.

In Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, the word кебап (kebap) is a generic term for meat stews with few or no vegetables. The döner kebab is widespread as fast food and is called дюнер (döner). Shish kebap / shashlik is also common, and is called шишче (shishche - "small skewer").

In China

Chuan-style lamb kebab sticks sold by a street vendor

Chuanr (Chinese: ; pinyin: chuàn), often referred to as "chua'r" in Pekingese and throughout the North, or kawap (كاۋاپ) in Uyghur, is a variation of kebab originating from the Uyghurs in the Western province of Xinjiang and a popular dish in Chinese Islamic cuisine. The dish has since spread across the rest of the country and become a popular street food.

Although the most traditional form of chuanr uses lamb or mutton, other types of meat, such as chicken, beef, pork, and seafood, may be used as well. Small pieces of meat are skewered and either roasted or deep-fried. Common spices and condiments include cumin called "ziran", pepper, sesame, and sesame oil.

A serving of pork souvlakia with olive oil, salt and oregano garnished grilled bread and lemons

During Chinese New Year, it is common to find fruit kebabs candied and covered with a hard candy sugar coating. At the famous Wángfǔjǐng in Beijing, it is very common to find many kinds of fruit kebabs of everything from bananas, strawberries, and seasonal Chinese fruits, as well as scorpions, squids, and various Japanese-flavored kebabs all year long.

In Greece

Souvlaki is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. It may be served either on the skewer or in a pita sandwich with garnishes and sauces, or on a dinner plate, often with fried potatoes.

In India

Chicken kebabs from Kolkata, India

Ancient Hindu texts, such as Mahabharata, mentions a dish made of marinated game meats roasted on large, open fires.[14] Modern day kebabs in India trace their origin to the influence of the Mughlai cuisine in India. Kebabs in India are more or less similar to most other kebab preparations along with their distinct taste, which can be credited to the use of Indian spices.

All the varieties such as sheesh, doner (known as shawarma), shammi, tikka, and other forms of roasted and grilled meats are savoured in India. Some popular kebabs are:
  • Kakori kebab
  • Shami kebab
  • Kalmi kebab
  • Kacche gosht ke chapli kebab
  • Tunda kebab (prepared with pumpkin)
  • Sambhali kebab
  • Galawati kebab
  • Boti kebab
  • Hara bhara kebab
  • Kathi kebab
  • Reshmi kebab
  • Lasoni kebab
  • Chicken malai kebab
  • Tikka kebab
  • Tangdi kebab (tangdi meaning "leg of the chicken")
  • Kaleji kebab
  • Hariali chicken kebab
  • Bihari kebab
  • Soovar ki saanth (Pork belly kebabs from Rajasthan)
  • Rajpooti soolah (Game meat-wild boar, deer & partridge barbecue kebabs made with a special "Kachari" (wild melon) sauce by Rajputs in Rajasthan)

In Iran

Kabab (Persian: کباب‎‎), of which there are several distinct Persian varieties, is a national dish of Iran. Kebab may be served with either steamed, saffroned basmati or Persian rice (chelow kebab; Persian: چلو کباب‎‎) or with Persian naan. Iran has more than seven types of kebab, which form a significant part of the Iranian diet.

It is served with the basic Iranian meal accompaniments, in addition to grilled tomatoes on the side of the rice and butter on top of the rice. It is an old northern tradition (probably originating in Tehran) that a raw egg yolk should be placed on top of the rice as well, though this is strictly optional, and most restaurants will not serve the rice this way unless it is specifically requested. "Somagh", powdered sumac, is also made available and its use varies based on tastes to a small dash on the rice or a heavy sprinkling on both rice and meat, particularly when used with red (beef/veal/lamb) meat.

At Persian restaurants, the combination of one kabab barg and one kabab koobideh is typically called Soltani, meaning "sultan's feast". The traditional beverage of choice to accompany kebab is doogh, a sour yogurt drink with mint and salt.

In the old bazaar tradition, the rice (which is covered with a tin lid) and accompaniments are served first, immediately followed by the kebabs, which are brought to the table by the waiter, who holds several skewers in his left hand, and a piece of flat bread (typically nan-e lavash) in his right. A skewer is placed directly on the rice and while holding the kebab down on the rice with the bread, the skewer is quickly pulled out. With the two most common kebabs, barg and koobideh, two skewers are always served. In general, bazaar kebab restaurants only serve these two varieties, though there are exceptions.

Kabab koobideh

Kabab koobideh (Persian: کباب کوبیده‎‎) or kūbide (Persian: کوبیده‎‎) is an Iranian minced meat kabab which is made from ground lamb, beef, or chicken, often mixed with parsley and chopped onions.

Kabab Koobideh contains: ground meat, onion, salt, pepper, turmeric, and seasoning. These ingredients are mixed together until the mixture becomes smooth and sticky. One egg is added to help the mix stick together. The mixture is then pressed around a skewer. Koobideh Kabab is typically 18 to 20 centimeters (7–8 in) long.

Kabab barg

Kabāb-e barg (Persian: کباب برگ‎‎) is a Persian style barbecued lamb, chicken or beef kebab dish. The main ingredients of Kabab Barg – a short form of this name – are fillets of beef tenderloin, lamb shank or chicken breast, onions and olive oil.

Jujeh kabab, an Iranian chicken kebab

Marinade is prepared by the mixture of half a cup of olive oil, three onions, garlic, half teaspoon saffron, salt and black pepper. One kilogram of lamb is cut into 1 cm thick and 4–5 cm long pieces. It should be marinated overnight in refrigerator, and the container should be covered. The next day, the lamb is threaded on long, thin metal skewers. It is brushed with marinade and is barbecued for 5–10 minutes on each side. Kabab-e Barg

Jujeh kabab

Jūje-kabāb (Persian: جوجه‌کباب‎‎) consists of pieces of chicken first marinated in minced onion and lemon juice with saffron then grilled over a fire. It is sometimes served with grilled tomato and pepper. Jujeh kabab is one of the most popular Persian dishes.

Kabab Bakhtiari

Kabab Bakhtiari is a combination of Jujeh Kabab (Chiken Kebab) and Kabab Barg (Meat Kebab) in a decussate form and its name comes from the Bakhtiyari people.

In the Levant and Iraq

Shawarma and other varieties of kebabs can be found at most restaurants representing this region. The preparation of Shawarma consists of chicken, turkey, beef, veal, or mixed meats being placed on a spit (commonly a vertical spit in restaurants), and being grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit. Although it can be served in shavings on a plate (generally with accompaniments), shawarma also refers to a pita bread sandwich or wrap made with shawarma meat. The Lebanese shish kebab is called lahem meshwi.

In Malaysia

Kebabs in Malaysia are adapted from the Turkish döner kebab. They are generally sold at pasar malam (night markets) and in shopping mall food courts.

Normally, the meat, after being cut from the spit, is pan-fried with onions and hot sauce then placed into a pita bread pocket before being filled with condiments such as tomatoes, mayonnaise, onion, and lettuce.

In Nepal

Sekuwa Kebab in Nepalese restaurant.

In Nepal it is a popular dish in Nepalese cuisine as well as Newa cuisine and known as Sekuwa. It is a meat roasted in a natural wood/log fire in a real traditional Nepalese country style. At first while the meat is still in its raw stage is mixed with homemade natural herbs and spices and other necessary ingredients. Sekuwa could be of pork, lamb, goat or chicken, or a mixture. Sekuwa is very popular in Nepal, especially in the Eastern Nepal and Kathmandu. Tarahara, a small town in Sunsari District of Koshi State in the Eastern Nepal could be called as the sekuwa capital of Nepal.

In Norway

Common Norwegian fast-food kebab variety, served in a pita bread with garlic dressing and chili sauce

In Norway, the kebab was introduced by Pakistani and Turkish immigrants during the 1980s. The kebab has become a symbol of immigration from the Muslim world, and speaking Norwegian with an Arab accent or with a lot of words and expressions borrowed from the Pakistani, Turkish, Arabic, and Persian languages is sometimes referred to as Kebabnorsk (Kebab Norwegian).

The kebabs in Norway are commonly served in inexpensive fast-food shops selling both hamburgers and kebabs. The most common variety, called kebab i pita or often simply kebab, is a pita bread filled with chunks or shavings of finely ground meat, shredded lettuce, various other vegetables and liberal amounts of sauce. Sweet corn kernels, slices of fresh cucumber and sliced raw onion are very common ingredients, however some shops offer a much wider variety of vegetables. The sauces are usually varieties of creamy Salad dressing, sometimes supplemented with a Chili sauce if the customer prefers a spicy kebab. Common sauces include garlic dressing, curry dressing and a sauce reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing but with a deeper red color and spicier flavor featuring chili and garlic. The garlic dressing variety is usually served together with chili sauce.

A dürüm variety called kebabrull (kebab roll), where the kebab ingredients is wrapped in a thin bread and eaten in the same manner as a Burrito is also popular. Authentic kebab varieties with meat cooked and served on skewers are available in ethnic restaurants.


  • A Complete Guide to the Iranian Kebab
  • Facebook page
  • Caucasian lamb lula kebab - VIDEO TUTORIAL

External links

  • Batmanglij, Najmieh. New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij. ISBN 0-934211-34-5

Further reading

  1. ^ Kebab, Oxford Dictionaries
  2. ^ To Vima (in Greek), 6-2-2011 (picture 2 of 7)
  3. ^ How to Cook Like a Mycenaean, Archaeology Magazine
  4. ^ Homer, "Iliad" 1.465, on Perseus Digital Library
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Doner kebab becomes Germany's favorite fast food, USAToday, 4/11/2010
  9. ^ Nişanyan Sevan, Sözlerin Soyağacı, Çağdaş Türkçenin Etimolojik Sözlüğü, Online, Book
  10. ^ Food Around the World, p.45, Oxford University Press, 1986, Check on Google Books
  11. ^ Middle Eastern Kitchen, Ghillie Basan Hippocrene Books, 2007, p.70, Check on Google Books
  12. ^ The New Persian Kitchen, p. 83, Random House LLC, 2013, Google Books
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147
  21. ^
  22. ^ Internet dictionary of Turkish Language Association
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147.
  26. ^
  27. ^ [1].
  28. ^ How unhealthy is a doner kebab?, BBC News Magazine, 21 January 2009
  29. ^ UK study reveals 'shocking' kebabs, BBC News, 27 January 2009
  30. ^ Kebab aux petits oignons, Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism
  31. ^ Testi kebab: a general description. Retrieved on 22 May 2009
  32. ^ Testi kebab: a specialty of Cappadocia. Retrieved on 22 May 2009 (scroll to the bottom of the page)
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b c d
  35. ^ a b c d
  36. ^


See also

Similar dishes

Legend has it that the galawati kebab was created for an aging Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow who lost his teeth, but not his passion for meat dishes. Galawati means "melt in your mouth" and was perfect for the toothless Nawab who continued savouring this until his last days. The original recipe that brought many a smile on the Nawab's face, albeit toothless, and many a sigh of satisfaction, is supposed to have more than 100 aromatic spices.

Many leading Indian hotel chains have taken to popularising the Awadhi food tradition, with the Galouti kebab being a pièce de résistance. The home of this kebab is Lucknow. It is most famously had at the almost iconic eatery "Tundey Miyan" at Old Lucknow.

The Galouti kebab is a dish from South Asia, made of minced goat, gaur or buffalo meat and green papaya, traditionally used to tenderize the meat. After mixing with herbs and spices, the very finely ground meat is shaped into patties and fried in pure ghee until it is browned.[36] Like Lucknowi biryani and Kakori kebab, it is a hallmark of Awadhi cuisine.

Galouti kabab as served in Lucknow, India


Kalmi kebab a popular snack in Indian cuisine. The dish is made by marinating chicken drumsticks and placing them in a tandoor. Various kinds of freshly ground Indian spices are added to the yogurt used for the marination of the chicken. When prepared, the drumsticks are usually garnished with mint leaves and served with onions and Indian bread.

Kalmi Kebab served with onions and cabbage in Delhi, India


Burrah kebab is another kebab from Mughlai Cuisine, fairly popular in South Asia. This is usually made of goat meat, liberally marinated with spices and charcoal grilled.


The word Chapli comes from the Pashto word Chaprikh, which means "flat".[35]

Chapli kebab is prepared flat and round and generally served with naan.[35]

Chapli/Chappal kebab is a patty made from beef or chicken mince, onions, tomatoes, green chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, salt, black pepper, lemon juice or promegranate seeds, eggs, cornstarch and coriander leaves.[35] Chapli kebab is a common dish in Pashtun cuisine and a popular meal in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern parts of India. The kebab originates from north western Pakistan.[35] Mardan is famous for chapli kabab not only locally but also internationally.


Chapli kebab served in a restaurant in Birmingham, United Kingdom

One such story says that the kakori kebab was created by the Nawab of Kakori, Syed Mohammad Haider Kazmi, who, stung by the remark of a British officer about the coarse texture of the kebabs served at dinner, ordered his rakabdars (gourmet cooks) to evolve a more refined seekh kebab.[34] After ten days of research, they came up with a kebab so soft and so juicy it won the praise of the very British officer who had scorned the Nawab.[34] The winning formula that his rakabdars came upon included mince obtained from no other part but the raan ki machhli (tendon of the leg of mutton), khoya, white pepper and a mix of powdered spices.[34]

Kakori kebab is a South Asian kebab attributed to the city of Kakori in Uttar Pradesh, India. There is much folklore about this famous kebab that takes its name from a hamlet called Kakori on the outskirts of Lucknow.[34]


  • Kebab karaz (cherry kebab in Arabic): meatballs (lamb) along with cherries and cherry paste, pine nuts, sugar and pomegranate molasses. It is considered one of Aleppo's main dishes especially among Armenians.
  • Kebab khashkhash: rolled lamb or beef with chili pepper paste, parsley, garlic and pine nuts.
  • Kebab Hindi: rolled meat with tomato paste, onion, capsicum and pomegranate molasses.
  • Kebab kamayeh: soft meat with truffle pieces, onion and various nuts.
  • Kebab siniyye (tray kebab in Arabic): lean minced lamb in a tray added with chili pepper, onion and tomato.

A kind of kebab served with a spicy tomato sauce and Aleppo pepper, very common in Syria and Lebanon, named after the city of Aleppo (Halab). Kebab Halabi has around 26 variants[33] including:

Kebab khashkhash from Aleppo

Kebab Halabi

Kebab Kenjeh (کنجه کباب) is a meat, specifically and traditionally lamb, dish in the Middle East. Originating in Iran, kebab kenjeh is now found worldwide. The meat is cooked with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and served with rice, grilled tomato, and raw onion.

Kebab kenjeh

Other variants

A dish from Central Anatolia and the Mid-Western Black Sea region, consisting of a mixture of meat and vegetables cooked in a clay pot or jug over fire (testi means jug in Turkish). The pot is sealed with bread dough or foil and is broken when serving.[31][32]

Testi kebab

Steam kebab (Turkish: Buğu kebabı) is a Turkish stew which is cooked in a pan or an earthenware casserole. The casserole's lid is sealed in order to cook the meat in its own juices. The dish is prepared with pearl onions, garlic, thyme, and other spices. In Tekirdağ, it is served with cumin; in Izmir, it is served with mastic.[30]

Steam kebab

Adana kebabı (or kıyma kebabı) is a long, hand-minced meat kebab mounted on a wide iron skewer and grilled over charcoal. It is generally "hot" or piquant. A "less hot" version is generally called Urfa kebabı.


Health concerns about döner kebab, including unacceptable salt and fat levels and improper labeling of meat used, are repeatedly reported in UK media.[27][28][29]

The German-style döner kebab was supposedly invented by a Turkish immigrant in Berlin in the 1970s and became a popular German take-away food during the 1990s. It is almost exclusively sold by Turks and considered a Turkish specialty in Germany.[26]

Döner kebab, literally "rotating kebab" in Turkish, is sliced lamb, beef, or chicken, slowly roasted on a vertical rotating spit. The Middle Eastern shawarma, Mexican tacos al pastor, and Greek gyros are all derived from the Turkish döner kebab, which was invented in Bursa in the 19th century by a cook named Hacı İskender.[25]


In the US, the word "kebab" usually refers to shish kebab.[23][24]

Shish kebab (Şiş, pronounced , meaning "skewer" is a Turkish word[21][22]) is a dish consisting of meat threaded on a skewer and grilled. Any kind of meat may be used; cubes of fruit or vegetables are often threaded on the spit as well. Typical vegetables include tomato, bell pepper, onions, and mushrooms.


Since then, Hacı İskender is known as the inventor of Turkish döner kebab.[18][19] With time, the meat took a different marinade, got leaner, and eventually took its modern shape.[17] The Greek gyro, along with the similar Arab shawarma and Mexican taco al pastor, are derived from this dish.[20]

In his family biography, İskender Efendi of 19th century Bursa writes that "he and his grandfather had the idea of roasting the lamb vertically rather than horizontally, and invented for that purpose a vertical mangal".

Before taking its modern form, as mentioned in Ottoman travel books of the 18th century,[16][17] the doner used to be a horizontal stack of meat rather than vertical, probably sharing common ancestors with the Cağ Kebabı of the Eastern Turkish province of Erzurum.

Slicing döner kebab off a rotating vertical spit
İskender kebab served in Bursa, Turkey

In Turkey

  • Bun kebab (Urdu: بن کباب‎)
  • Chapli kebab (Urdu: چپلی کباب‎)
  • Shami kebab (Urdu: شامی کباب‎)
  • Shawarma
  • Adraki Murgh Kebab (Ginger Chicken Kabab)
  • Bihari kebab (Urdu: بہاری کباب‎)
  • Chicken kebab (Urdu: مرغ کباب‎)
  • Dhaga kebab
  • Macchli kebab (Fish Kabab)
  • Fry kebab
  • Gola kebab (Meatballs)
  • Kache Qeema kebab (Half cooked minced-meat Kabab)
  • Beef kebab (Urdu: کبابِ برہ گوشت‎)
  • Pasanday (Urdu: پسندے‎)
  • Peshawari kebab
  • Reshmi kebab (Urdu: ریشمی کباب‎)
  • Seekh kebab (Urdu: سيخ کباب‎)
  • Tikka kebab (Urdu: تکہ کباب‎)

Kebabs in Pakistan trace their origin to the influence of the Mughlai cuisine in South Asia. Pakistani cuisine is rich with different kebabs. Meat including beef, chicken, lamb and fish is used in kebabs. Some popular kebabs are:

Pakistani-style seekh kebabs being grilled on a skewer

In Pakistan


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