Grilled Beef Kebabs With Yogurt-Mint Sauce and Onion Salad Recipe (2024)

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Aromatic meat served with a bright refreshing sauce


Jennifer Olvera

Grilled Beef Kebabs With Yogurt-Mint Sauce and Onion Salad Recipe (1)

Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera is a Chicago-based food writer and cookbook author who has written eight cookbooks and contributed to Serious Eats, the Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, and others.

Learn about Serious Eats'Editorial Process

Updated October 19, 2023


Grilled Beef Kebabs With Yogurt-Mint Sauce and Onion Salad Recipe (2)

Why It Works

  • Blending the kofta kebab mixture until sticky in a food processor causes the proteins in the ground beef to cross-link with each other, which keeps the kebabs from disintegrating on the grill.
  • Chilling the formed kebabs thoroughly before grilling helps them retain their shape.

I recently embarked on an olive oil tour in Turkey and was pleasantly surprised by what I found: liquid gold rivaling its Mediterranean counterparts. I loaded my suitcase with all the bottles, spices, and Aegean sea salt I could fit.

Long after I returned home, the meals I had haunted me. They were uniformly fresh and vibrant. I can't help but think about Turkey as I turn my thoughts to spring. From silky raw sea urchin with nothing more than a squirt of lemon and turn of black pepper to crisp salads and lively seafood stews, it was an epic adventure.

In that spirit, I've made Turkish "meatballs," or kofta, reminiscent of ones at Sultanahmet Koftecisi—a storied kebab house—in Istanbul. Instead of traditional lamb, I substituted grass-fed beef, which I find just gamey enough.

Do take time to properly chill the skewered meat before grilling. Otherwise, the meatball kebabs will fall apart. Likewise, take care when turning them (and don't turn them too soon). The initial flip is the trickiest part; once they start to cook, you're golden.

Scoop them up in pita, and top them with minty yogurt sauce, onion salad, and pickled hot peppers.

This recipe was originally published as part of the column "Sunday Supper."

April 2013

Recipe Details

Grilled Beef Kebabs With Yogurt-Mint Sauce and Onion Salad Recipe

Prep15 mins

Cook35 mins

Active45 mins

Chilling Time60 mins

Total110 mins

Serves4to 6 servings


For the Kebabs:

  • 2 large white onions, divided

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 3 medium cloves minced garlic (about 1 tablespoon), divided

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 5 1/2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley, divided

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground sumac (see note), divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon dried mint

  • 1 teaspoon ground hot pepper, such as Aleppo

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 jar pickled banana peppers

  • Middle Eastern chile sauce or sriracha

  • 1 package pita

For the Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, grated and squeezed to remove excess liquid

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice from about 2 lemons, divided

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint


  1. For the Kebabs: Grate one onion using the large side of a box grater. Add grated onion, beef, 2 cloves garlic, and egg to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons parsley, cumin, 1 tablespoon sumac, allspice, cinnamon, mint and 1 teaspoon hot pepper. Season with 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper. Blend until meat mixture appears sticky and smooth and all spices are evenly distributed. Place a small amount on a plate and microwave for 10 seconds. Taste and add more salt to mixture to taste.

  2. Fill a medium bowl with warm water. Divide the meat mixture into 6 portions. Wetting your hands with water as necessary to prevent sticking, form meat into cigars about 4 inches long. Thread each kebab onto a skewer, pinching the sides and flattening the meat and as you go. (This will help meat adhere to the skewer.) Chill meat in the refrigerator, covered, for at least an hour.

  3. For the Sauce: Combine yogurt, cucumber, remaining garlic clove, olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and fresh mint to a medium bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Stir to combine, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

  4. Slice remaining onion and combine it with remaining 3 tablespoons of parsley, remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and remaining 1/2 tablespoon sumac in a small bowl. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

  5. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over half of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate.

  6. Cover the grill and cook, turning the skewers, until the meat is cooked through, about 8 or 9 minutes, until an instant read thermometer registers 155°F (68°C). When meat is almost finished cooking, place pita on the grill, flipping after 30 seconds, until warmed through. Remove skewers and pita from the grill.

  7. Serve meatballs immediately with warm pita, peppers, yogurt sauce and onion salad. Pass hot sauce as a condiment.

Special Equipment

Box grater, food processor, skewers (soaked in water for 30 minutes if wood), grill, chimney starter


If you can't get your hands on sumac, replace with 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Sumac is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores and online from Penzeys.

Read More

  • Kofte Kebabs With Spicy Harissa Yogurt Sauce and Grilled Flatbread
  • Adana Kebabs (Ground Lamb Kebabs)
  • Khorovats (Armenian Shish Kebabs)
  • How to Set Up Your Grill for Better Skewers, Kebabs, and Yakitori
  • Beef Mains
  • Grilled Beef
  • Ground Beef
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
16g Fat
51g Carbs
30g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4to 6
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g20%
Saturated Fat 5g24%
Cholesterol 84mg28%
Sodium 916mg40%
Total Carbohydrate 51g18%
Dietary Fiber 5g17%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 30g
Vitamin C 34mg170%
Calcium 190mg15%
Iron 5mg28%
Potassium 745mg16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Grilled Beef Kebabs With Yogurt-Mint Sauce and Onion Salad Recipe (2024)
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