Urfa Kebabs: The Secret to the Best Turkish Kebab
Urfa Kebabs, Turkish Kebabs, and Food on a Stick
Who Invented Urfa Kebabs?
As with many foods in Mediterranean cuisine, a few countries lay claim to the origination of Kebabs, but the most accepted owner to the fame is Turkey. And they definitely get credit for the Urfa Kebab as Urfa is in Turkey!
Back in the 1300s, soldiers out in the field cooked their daily hunt on their swords and invented Kebabs. Today smaller metal skewers are used, but the concept is the same. Grilling meat on a stick of some kind. And in the case of the Urfa Kebab also known as Urfa Kebap.
Who doesn’t love food on a stick? I wonder if fair food like fried Oreos on a stick were inspired by Turkish Kebabs. I have to think so. Fun fact, in 2018 the Iowa state fair had 82 food items on a stick!
Types of Turkish kebabs
There are more than 40 different official types of Turkish Kebabs. And they can be mixed and matched to make hundreds of different Turkish Kebabs, so I think they can beat the Iowa state fair even without frying every junk food.
Kebabs are a traditional Turkish dish. If you travel to Turkey, you will find they are in every restaurant. They are an integral part of Turkish cuisine and are even a very popular Turkish street food.
What is Urfa Kebab?
Urfa Kebab is the delicious signature Kebab of Urfa, Turkey of course. Urfa Kebabs are made with perfectly seasoned ground meat (typically lamb, beef, or a combination) using traditional Turkish spices like cumin, paprika, and cinnamon. You may see it called Urfa Kebap because kebap is Turkish for kebab. And the urban dictionary has Urfa Kebabi where kebabi is slang for a really tasty kebab. You may also see it as Urfa kabab, but that’s just a misspelling!
How can I make the BEST Urfa Kebabs at home?
Most Kebabs involve marinating cubed meat, putting it on a skewer, and grilling it. That hardly needs a Turkish Kebab recipe. However, the Urfa Kebab is made with ground meat, and therefore requires a little more finesse. That’s where our foolproof Urfa Kebab recipe comes in.
These popular Turkish Kebabs are much easier to make at home than they look. The first time I made Urfa Kebabs everyone was so impressed. (OK, maybe my friends impress easily.) And they all decided they loved Turkish food, and wanted to rename this dish the Denise Kebab! I think they just weren’t sure on the pronunciation of Urfa.
Traditional Turkish kebab meat is usually ground lamb or beef for Urfa or Adana Kebabs. What’s the difference Urfa Kebab vs Adana Kebab? It’s simple, Adana Kebab is a spicy version of an Urfa Kebab. So if you’re deciding between Adana Kebab vs Urfa Kebab, it just comes down to your spice tolerance (more below).
Turkish kebab recipes vary, but I prefer to use ground lamb, because I’ve always loved Mediterranean Lamb Meatballs from Greece and Turkey. But you can use ground beef, a mix, or even ground turkey like I do for my Greek Meat Pies. Just substitute the same quantity of ground turkey to make an Urfa Turkey Kebab.
The Mediterranean spices and flavor of Urfa Kebabs will transport you right to Turkey! And the moistness of this this Urfa Kebab recipe can’t be beat. The secret is below (see the onions). And if you prefer spicy kebabs, it’s easy to turn these Urfa Kebabs into their spicy sibling, Adana Kebabs (see tips below).
Urfa Kebab Recipe (Urfa Kebap Tarifi)
Servings: 6, makes 8-9 Urfa Kebabs
¾ cup onion
1 tablespoon garlic
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley (packed)
2 tablespoon fresh mint leaves (packed)
2 lb ground lamb
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Line a sheet pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
3. In a processor, puree the onion and garlic. You can finely mince them, but I like the extra moisture from the onion when it’s pureed. It’s the secret to what makes these Urfa Kebabs so moist.
4. Transfer the onion and garlic to a bowl and mix in cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, oregano, and salt and mix well.
5. Add in the tomato paste and mix until it is well combined.
6. Stir in the parsley and mint.
7. Add the egg and mix in. If you are making a large quantity, beat the egg first in a separate bowl before adding it to the kebab mixture.
8. Add the turkey and either with your hands or a firm spatula combine the mixture and ground lamb thoroughly. I wear plastic gloves, and mix it with my hands.
9. Scoop out a half cup of your kebab mixture and put it in you hand. I like to wear gloves for this part too.
10. Make the lamb mixture the length of your hand and keep the meat as thick as possible.
11. Place the skewers in the middle so that it runs down your middle finger. Press it into the meat and fold it and pat it to form your Urfa Kebab.
12. Place the raw Urfa Kebab on your sheet pan and repeat until all meat is used. It should make 8-9 Kebabs.
13. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn in oven and then broil for remaining 4-5 minutes.
Tips for Making the Best Urfa Kebabs
1. You can put these Urfa Kebabs on the grill as well, but I think they are just as good, and maybe even more moist in the oven.
2. If your meat was holding a lot of moisture before you started, it may be too loose to form your Urfa Kebabs. If this happens, you can add a little bread crumb. Try to avoid using frozen ground meat.
3. You can make both Urfa Kebabs is Adana Kebabs (recipe below) ahead of time. Either prepped and ready to cook, or fully cook and reheat.
How Do you Make an Urfa Kebab Recipe become an Adana Kebab recipe?
It’s easy! Adana kebab recipes vary, but I keep everything exactly the same as the Urfa Kebab recipe, except one small addition. Just add a tablespoon of cayenne pepper, hot paprika, or other hot chili spice to the ground meat .
Which is better Urfa vs Adana kebab? Well, if you come from either of these Turkish cities, the answer is obvious! If you don’t, it probably comes down to spice tolerance. If you’re looking for heat, then it’s an easy pick between Adana kebab vs Urfa kebab. I have recently become sensitive to hot spices, so my pick is also easy—Urfa Kebap!
What to serve with Urfa Kebab
When deciding on side dishes to serve with Urfa Kebabs, I like to keep in the Mediterranean cuisine theme. You can serve just a couple of these, or all of them for a big feast or dinner party. Or, if you’re like me, serve it all for 2 people and enjoy the leftovers!
Veggie Kebabs: It’s so easy to cut big hunks of colorful veggies and put them on skewers and cook them right next to your Urfa Kebabs. You can brush them with olive oil and salt and pepper, or just leave them as is. My favorite veggies for this are red onions, red and yellow peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms. The colors will brighten up the Urfa Kebabs and make this a beautiful dish to serve.
Tabbouleh, or Lebanese Bulgur Wheat makes a great side dish to Urfa kebabs that’s colorful, flavorful, and full of fiber. I always think of freshness when I eat this dish.
Tzatziki, or specifically our Fat-Free Tzatziki can act like a side dish or a sauce for either Urfa Kebabs or a nice cooling sauce to Adana Kebabs.
Hummus with or without pita is good with any Mediterranean cuisine meal. It can also act like a sauce. I usually wind up mixing it with a little of everything on my plate.
Turkish, Israeli, or Greek Salads, or any salad with cucumber, tomatoes, and onion, compliment Urfa Kebabs nicely.
What to do with leftover Urfa Kebab or Adana Kebab
Well, your first meal was absolutely delish, right? So I usually wind up doing another round of the same. However, you can transform your Urfa Kebab into:
Urfa Kebab Pita
Just wrap it in a pita with some tomatoes, onions, and Tzatziki and you have another yummy meal! If you have Tzatziki left, just some Greek yogurt mixed with a splash of lemon juice is good too!
Urfa Tabbouleh Bowl
Chop up your Urfa Kebab, add chickpeas, and leftover Tabbouleh. You may need to add a little more lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper.
If you don’t have tabbouleh, make an Urfa Rice Bowl. Again, chop up the Urfa Kebab, add any kind of cooked rice, chickpeas, onions, garlic, herbs (any or all: parsley, mint, cilantro) a good squeeze of lemon and a splash of olive oil, and of course salt and pepper.
Your thoughts on Urfa Kebabs
My hope is this Turkish Kebab recipe will transport you to Urfa with the smell and taste of Turkey! Let me know if you make them!
Do you have plans to visit Turkey? Or, or have visited Turkey? What’s your favorite Turkish Kebab? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!