If you haven't tried Kafta Kabob (also pronounced 'Kofta' or 'Kefta'), you're missing out! It's a ground beef kabob that is perfectly seasoned with Arabic spices, and you can cook and serve it in many different ways which makes it super versatile. It comes together in under 30 minutes!
What is Kafta?
Kafta is an Arabic 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 (although grilling is much tastier). It's a versatile dish because you can eat it as a wrap, over rice, or in a salad. Over the years, I've experimented and came to this recipe which has the perfect balance of flavours.
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.
Also, I prefer using lean ground beef and introducing a healthy fat like olive oil instead of using regular ground beef. You can also do a mix of beef and lamb or just lamb per preference.
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 using pita bread. You can also throw it on top of a salad, 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.
FAQ's and Expert Tips
Kofta is made of beef, lamb, or a mixture of both meats, along with parsley, onions, garlic and spices.
Yes they are! To make them even healthier, use lean ground beef and introduce fat through the addition of olive oil.
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.
- You can double or triple the recipe to make a large batch
- 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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Kafta (with Beef)
- 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