Chicken Kabab Koobideh (Iranian Chicken Kebabs)

Genetic modification in the 21st century
provided new and exciting food options.
But some thought crossbreeding a chicken
with a grapefruit was taking things too far.
I thought the Indians made good chicken. And they do. But one of the most memorable chicken dishes I had in recent memory, was at an Iranian restaurant. We ordered and were served "chicken kebab koobideh". Specifically, the chicken version of the more popular beef kebab. It had an orangey colour, and was moist and flavorful throughout. It came with a most delicious Persian rice, whereby some of the grains were coloured orange. The oil from the kebabs infused the rice with a wonderful flavour. And it was the most fluffiest and perfectly cooked rice I'd seen. Hard to imagine it was the same sort of rice served in an Indian restaurant. (Although Persians do have their own varieties of basmati). Served alongside the kebabs was grilled tomatoes, raw onion, parsley, and pita bread.

Iranian pizza is quite different from Italian,
with many unusual ingredients for toppings.
Cutlery, for example. 
Kebabs, now served in many parts of the world, originated in Iran (back when it was "Persia"), and spread throughout from there. So they've been doing this for a long, long time. This dish has been a staple in Iran for much of that time. So you will find it served commonly and frequently in both Iranian homes, and Iranian restaurants abroad; which often specialize in kebabs.

Breakfast in Iran.
The Kebab, its accompanying rice and other Persian dishes I've tasted, have given me a great appreciation for Iranian cuisine. I dare say, it has even challenged Indian for my favorite type of cuisine. In the way it plays with spices and such, it is much simpler than Indian fare. But it can be even tastier, if not healthier. In a truly "less is more" type of way. Plus, I see more of an emphasis here on fresh, raw ingredients. Naturally, after coming back from the last "Persian" restaurant, I was determined to try to recreate the meal I had. Thus, the chicken kebab koobideh recipe here is the first element of that. See my recipes on Persian Rice and Persian Soup for the trifecta. Make no mistake, this is an ambitious recipe. Not a quick and particularly easy recipe (though the ingredient list is simple). But I hope if you try it, it turns out good and worth the effort. If not... look up the nearest kebab house....



1 lb ground chicken (or chicken breast or leg or thigh)
1 white onion, large, grated
1 pinch saffron, resting in 1 T boiling water
1 T tumeric
1 egg yolk
1 cl garlic, crushed
1 t smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 t salt


roma tomatoes (for grilling)
white onions (for grilling)
raw spanish onion, thick slice (garnish)
fresh parsley (garnish)
flat bread (ie. pita or iranian bread)
1 lemon, quartered (garnish)


Grinding the chicken

If you can find ground chicken at your local grocer, then you're lucky. I rarely can. Even so, I think it's better to grind your own, because this way you know what went into it, and can remove all the fat and other undesirables in the meat. (n.b. Authentic chicken koobideh kebab does have fat in it. About an 80/20 ratio, to keep the meat moist during cooking. I prefer to lose this, at the expense of dryness, than claim authenticity). If you have a meat grinder, or a stand mixer with a grinder attachment, you're singing. I don't. (Although it might be the only kitchen gadget I don't have). So in this case, we have to improvise a little. Hello Cuisinart.... Any food processor with a decent motor and sharp blade, should be able to produce a viable result. (Do not use a blender! A food processor is challenging enough. That will be a nightmare).

Breast: Prepare one pound of boneless chicken breast by removing the fat/sinew by scraping with the blade of a knife.

Leg/thigh: Even better flavor can be had using the darker cuts of meat, and indeed, the kebabs we were served at the restaurant was made with chicken thighs. But it's usually more trouble to prepare. If included, remove skin and de-bone, if necessary. Remove all fat/sinew from the meat, by scraping or cutting with the blade of a knife.

Cut the chicken meat into 1" pieces, and partially freeze the cubes by placing them in a zip loc bag (single layer if possible, and storing in freezer for 1 hr. The meat should be fairly firm, but -not solid-. (Partial freezing helps prevent the meat from becoming too sticky during processing). Once done, break the cubes apart, and place them in a single layer in the processor. (Work in multiple batches if necessary).

Hold the machine steady with one hand, while using it on "pulse" (brief bursts of power) with the other. Start slow, and scrape down the sides of the container as needed. Until the meat is well-chopped and cohesive, but not pasty. Transfer meat to a mixing bowl, and repeat with remaining batches if necessary until all the meat is processed. The ground chicken mix should not be too soft and wet, or it will fail to hold its shape during grilling. In a med bowl, beat the egg yolk. Add the grated onion, saffron water, salt and spices. Mix. Then combine this egg mixture with the meat. Either manually (with a spoon in a large bowl) or via the food processor. Refrigerate this mixture overnight (or a few hours), to marinate and allow the flavours to develop.


In Iran, the tried and tested formula for the
Burger King "Whopper" was tweaked a
little, for the local market. 
Spread the meat onto the centre of flat metal skewers (preferably wide Iranian shish kebab skewers), such that it is balanced on the skewer, and push it on well so the meat does not fall off. Use the palm of your hands to press the meat in place. You could later gently pinch the meat between your thumb and forefinger, spreading the meat along the skewer, and creating indentations for a nice grilling pattern. Kebab Koobideh is long (about 7-8"), and so normally spread out along the skewer, a couple of inches from either end.

Use your favorite grilling method at a high heat, until nicely charred at the edges. (Could be an indoor or outdoor bbq, or on a rack a few inches under the broiler of your oven). Best results will be over open flame, but there's a great advantage to cooking the kebabs in an oven. As you can catch the juices and pour them over or around your rice. You can add roma tomatoes and white onions (basted in olive oil) to the end of the skewers, or grill separately. Cook until edges are blackened.


Koobideh kababs are usually served with grilled (blackened) roma tomatoes, raw onion, fresh parsley, Iranian or Lebanese flatbread (often dusted with sumac spice), and cucumber in thick slices, or shredded. Alongside the kebabs are persian rice (yes, I have a recipe for that too...). This is essential, as the juices from the kababs help flavour the rice. If you're really going all out, you can serve this meal with a delicious Persian soup as well.


If using a grinder or food processor, be sure to fully soak and/or wash your grinder/processor parts immediately after in hot soapy water. Otherwise it will be very difficult to clean once the residue has dried. It is advisable to soak the parts in water to which a bit of bleach has been added, to prevent contamination.

Yield: 4


vahid said...

This is very thorough rcipe, thanks you. Great job! I make the same but also add a cup of parsly when grinding the meat. Also, I use a combination 1/3 and 2/3 thigh and breast. Thigh meat, although very delicious, has more fat than breast.

Shirin Zargar said...

This a great recipe but no disrespect... your title
"kebab koobideh (Iranian Chicken Kebabs) is wrong... kebab koobideh is our beef kebabs. So if this recipe is just for chicken it needs to be changed to joojeh kebab.

The Recipeless Cook said...

Thanks for letting me know, Shirin! Done and done!

FolSac said...

I disagree with Shirin as most people would presume chunks of chicken, not ground, with the title "joojeh kebab". I do agree that most people would presume beef or lamb using the term "kebab koobideh". I'd say use "chicken koobideh" or "morgh koobideh". (Morgh means chicken in Farsi.)

The Recipeless Cook said...

Thanks for your input, FolSac. Morgh (Murgh) Kebab (Kabab!) also appears to refer to chunks of chicken, according to many recipes. So there is no confusion that this is ground chicken, I renamed the recipe "Chicken Kebab Koobideh".

Ray Amadeo said...

Could I use the same marinate for just chunks of chiken? Any recomendations?

The Recipeless Cook said...

@Ray: No, you could not. There is no marinade in this recipe, and it is for ground chicken only. If you wish to remain in the cuisine of the Middle East, do a search for Shish Tawook (Taouk) marinade recipe.

voroodwork said...


Great recipes. The image you have titled "Iranian pizza" is not actually a pizza. It is a kind of traditional beef kabob (not sure if it is ground from the image)


The Recipeless Cook said...

Yeah, I kind of know it's not Iranian pizza, but uh... thanks for making sure of that.

steven stephen said...

I made this once and it came out overly saffron-tasting. I used spanish saffron strands. persian lamb kabob If not, how much of the saffron strands should I use? Thank you so much. I love yourblog.

The Recipeless Cook said...

Hi Steven,

I dont know how much saffron you used, but the recipe calls for a >pinch< of saffron in one tablespoon of water. That should not be too saffron-tasting.

Carole Soldan said...

Thanks so much for this recipe-This is exactly the recipe I was looking for. I had this dish in a Persian restaurant in Arizona and loved the chicken. I made one batch already with a slightly different recipe and found that this made a wonderful dinner and leftovers easily frozen to use for lunch with a salad. Do you have the info for that delicious rice also??? After this its on to the beef!!!

The Recipeless Cook said...

If you type "rice" in the search box for this site, this comes up....

Unknown said...

If you're cooking with saffron in Iranian culture you need to have a mortar (stone) Grindr some people use sugar some people use salt just a dash and just a few of the shreds of saffron will do you grind them up inside the bowl typically salt if you're doing cup of sugar would only be used in very serious moderation and that would go on for example the jeweled rice. hope that helps..

Stacey Kmetz said...

correction: salt if your using this for kabob and or rice witg kabob. sugar only a bit, and only for jeweled rice.
Either way the addtl element of salt or sugar when grinding this way, help break up the saffron.

And last but not least take a small teacup dump your powdered mixture in the bottom and add just a smidgen maybe a teaspoon at most of boiling water that will help mix it all together and you can spread it out over your rice or kebab or whatever you like.

I hope this helped!

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