This kafta kabob recipe (or “kofta” or “kefta”) is so simple and delicious. Made using lean ground beef that’s skewered and perfectly seasoned with Arabic spices, this recipe is versatile and comes together in under 30 minutes!
What is Kafta?
Kafta is a middle eastern kebab made of ground meat, usually beef or lamb, along with finely minced onions, garlic, parsley and lots of warm spices. It's typically grilled on the BBQ but you can also grill it on the stove top using a cast iron grill pan, or you can even bake it.
As someone middle eastern, I've been perfecting my kafta recipe over the years and I'm pretty proud to share this one! Here are three reasons to make this recipe:
- It's a versatile dish because you can eat it as a wrap, over Arabic rice, or in a salad.
- It's easy and quick with only 30 minutes total cook and prep time
- It's healthy and super kid friendly! My kids love it.
What kind of meat is used for Kafta?
The most common type of Kafta you will find is beef. But lamb kafta is also very popular in the middle east, or a mix of both. Traditionally, a fattier ground meat is used because it helps keep the kafta skewers moist when grilling.
I suggest a 10-15% ground beef if you want to go the authentic route. But I must admit, I tend to use lean ground beef most of the time (because that's what I always have) and introduce a healthier fat (like olive oil) instead.
Ingredients You'll Need
The only "unusual" ingredient that goes into Kafta is the Lebanese "seven spice" spice mix. Seven spice is usually made up of allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cloves and nutmeg (although there are some variations).
You can find it at your local middle eastern store, or simply make your own. An easy replacement for it in this recipe is to just use ground allspice (the ground allspice berries) which is readily available at most stores.
You will need:
- Olive oil
- Lean ground beef
- Spices (seven spice, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin)
How to make this recipe
Making Kafta Kabob requires just a few simple steps:
- Start with preparing the vegetables. Finely dice the onions, garlic and parsley. I do this in a food processor to make the job much easier, but you can also do it by hand. You want them fairly small so they can mix well with the meat and form a dough.
- Mix everything together. This is where you use your hands and mix together the meat, spices, and the vegetables until everything is well combined.
- Shape the Kafta. You can make kabob shapes like little logs using skewers, or simply shape them by hand if you don't have skewers. You can also shape them into flat circular shapes like mini burgers. Just ensure they are all the same size so they cook evenly.
- Grill! BBQ the Kafta on lightly oiled grill for a few minutes on each side, or grill them on a lightly oiled cast iron grill pan. You can also bake them, but grilling maximizes juiciness and taste!
How to serve Kafta in various ways
There are so many ways you can serve this Kafta Kabob, which is why it's great to have in your freezer. You can grill it into kabob shapes (like logs) and serve it over rice with a delicious yogurt tahini sauce (get the recipe for the sauce from this Shawarma post).
You can also make them into wraps or stuff in pita bread for Arayes. You can also throw it on top of a salad, layer it with vegetables for a middle eastern casserole, or lastly, one of my favourite ways, is to shape them into meatballs and use in any meatball recipe like spaghetti or in a Kafta stew.
FAQs and Expert Tips
What is Kafta made of? Kofta is made of beef, lamb, or a mixture of both meats, along with parsley, onions, garlic and spices.
What's the difference between Kebab and Kofta? In Middle Eastern cuisine, and more particularly Arab cuisine, there actually isn't a difference between the two. Both are made from ground meat (beef or lamb) and skewered and grilled. Sometimes Kofta can be hand made (without skewers) and cooked on the stove top. The different words are likely due to what the dish is called in different regions (i.e. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, etc.)
How do you make Kafta on a skewer? Simply shape the kafta meat around a skewer using your hands, until you get a log shape. Skewers are great if you're going to grill them, and you can use both metal and wood skewers (make sure you soak the wooden ones before using).
If you intend to freeze Kafta, you need to use fresh ground beef as opposed to frozen beef (it is not recommended to thaw and then re-freeze meat).
For best results, freeze the Kafta raw. Once you shape them, place on a lined baking sheet and into the freezer for a few hours until they freeze. Then transfer them to freezer bags. They can stay in the freezer up to a month
For more ground beef recipes, check out:
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Ground Beef Kafta Kabobs (Skewers or Patties)
- 1.5 lb extra lean ground beef
- 1 onion
- 1 bunch parsley approx. 2 cups packed
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1.5 tsp 7 spice middle eastern spice mix
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 4 tbsp olive oil plus more for grilling
- 1 tbsp flour see notes
- Using a food processor, add the garlic, onions and parsley and process for a few seconds until finely chopped
- Add the mixture to the ground beef in a bowl, and add all the seasoning and olive oil. Mix well using your hands, then add the flour (see notes) and continue to mix until you form a dough (if dough does not feel firm, add slightly more flour)
- Form the Kafta into approximately 3-4 inch long pieces about 1 inch in thickness
- Heat up your BBQ or a grill pan on the stove and add a dash of olive oil (I recommend cast iron)
- Grill each Kafta for 2-3 minutes on each side (test a piece to ensure it is cooked to your liking) for a total of 6-8 minutes (see notes for baking)
- Serve with a yogurt tahini sauce (see Eggplant Fatteh for sauce recipe) over rice, salad, or in a wrap
- I typically use 1 tablespoon of flour to help the kafta bind together and be easier to skewer and BBQ. There are situations where there may be too much moisture which could cause the Kafta to fall apart (such as using thawed meat that may have some extra moisture in it). However if you have a dough that is firm, no need to use it! Adding a lot of flour can make the Kafta taste tough so use it sparingly.
- You can also bake the Kafta the oven at 400F for 15 to 20 mins until fully cooked through as a faster cooking method. Baking works, but grilling yields a juicier result.
- If you're using regular ground beef (not extra lean), you can reduce the olive oil to 1 tbsp since the meat will release fat