These lovely homemade minced Lamb Kebabs (kofte / kofta) will definitely become the talk of your next barbecue! If your fluffy and soft pita breads need a juicy and extra tasty companion, you have just found it!
And the best part? They are dead simple to make. Ready in only 20 minutes, this traditional homemade minced lamb kofta kebab recipe never fails to impress!
So go ahead, read along to discover my delicious recipe, step by step photos, tips and tricks, serving suggestions and more!
What are minced lamb kofta kebabs?
This is a traditional lamb kofta kebab recipe with minced lamb from Constantinoupoli. It is one of the brightest examples of the influence of Turkish cuisine on lots of popular Greek dishes.
However, in Greece, most kebab recipes are prepared with ground meat formed in oblong-shaped burgers around a skewer.
There are two other types of street food meat – pieces of meat-on-a-skewer, which are called souvlaki and chopped meat of a spit roast, called gyros.
What is the difference between Shish kebab and Kofte/ Kofta kebab?
- Kofta kebab: A traditional lamb kofta kebab is made of minced meat and is seasoned with more than ten different herbs and spices. Needless to say it tastes like heaven, and is one of the most popular dishes in Greece, served in every taverna.
- Shish Kebab (also kebap or kabab) is a Middle Eastern dish where pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables are roasted or grilled on a skewer or spit. It originates in the Middle East and has later been adopted in the Greek cuisine.
Spicy Minced Lamb Kofta Kebab Key Ingredients
- The meat: You need both ground beef and ground lamb for the recipe as well as onion and garlic to cook them with as this helps to nicely offset the spices. The key here is in the lamb mince which has lots of flavour and a little fat that is necessary for that extra flavour!
- The spices: I use oregano, parsley, cumin, cinnamon, hot paprika and powdered spice berries with tomato puree for the flavouring of the meat. If you like them spicy, you can also add some cayenne pepper!
- Yogurt sauce: Tomatoes, butter, garlic and cinnamon are added to the Greek yogurt making the sauce to serve your kebabs with. Alternatively, you could also serve them with some refreshing tzatziki sauce as well!
- Serving: Pita breads are the perfect base for this dish. You can grab some in your local Greek deli or simply make your own home made pita breads! Finally you’ll also want some wooden or metal skewers to cook the meat on and serve.
Key Preparation Steps
There are just a few steps needed to make your Lamb Kofta Kebabs (Giaourtlou):
- Make the lamb koftas
- Assemble and cook the koftas
- Bake the pita breads
- Optionally, make the yoghurt and tomato sauce (Giaourtlou) and serve
Make the lamb koftas
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil, chopped onion and garlic over medium-high heat until softened. Then, in your food processor, add the minced meat, spices and tomato puree and season with salt and pepper. Blitz it on high until they form a paste.
Then, add the chopped parsley and sautéed onions and garlic in your processor and blitz again until fully combined. Remove the lamb kofta kebabs meat mixture from the food processor and place in a bowl.
Finally cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour. However, the longer you leave them marinade the better, so if you have time, it’s preferable to let the kebabs marinade in the fridge overnight.
Assemble and cook the koftas
To assemble the kofta kebabs, start by cutting the wooden skewers using a pair of scissors to fit your griddle pan. To prevent them from burning, soak them in a bit of water.
Then gently grab a handful of your meat mixture and squeeze it around the skewers, spreading it evenly and forming your kebabs. Each should be about 10-12cm/4 inches long.
Finally, refrigerate until you’re ready to cook them. If possible, let them chill for 30 minutes to allow the meat to firm up against the skewers.
To cook them, preheat your grill or griddle pan over high heat. Brush the kofta kebabs with olive oil and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning them often, until they’re golden brown on all sides and fully cooked through.
Preparing the pita breads
To save time, prepare the pita breads while your lamb kofta kebabs are cooking. Start by preheating your oven to 250C/480F. Grab your pitas and layer them in a sheet pan, then lightly oil them with a cooking brush and lastly sprinkle them with some salt and oregano.
Finally, place your sheet pan with your pitas on the top rack and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. If you’re baking your kebabs, place your pitas on the rack above them.
Make the yoghurt and tomato sauce (Giaourtlou)
I love serving my kebabs with my delicious yoghurt, garlic and tomato sauce, as I love the cooling texture of the yogurt against the freshness of the tomato and the meatiness of the kebabs!
In Greece this sauce is called giaourtlou, pronounced “yiaourtlou” and literally means yoghurt sauce! So if you have the time to make it, this sauce is definitely worth it!
To prepare the giaourtlou, heat some butter in a saucepan and add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Then lay a pita bread on a plate, then top with lamb kebabs, two tablespoons of tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon yogurt, and finally sprinkle some sliced red onions.
Variation: Lamb Kofta Kebab with Yogurt, roast Peppers and Tomatoes
Another delicious alternative is to serve the kofta kebabs with some roast peppers and tomatoes and a full spoon of yogurt seasoned with a pinch of cumin, salt, pepper and lemon zest.
Grill the peppers and tomatoes on a griddle pan over high heat to get them all nicely coloured and finish in the oven along with the kebabs for extra flavour.
Top tips to make your Lamb kofta kebabs
Traditionally, lamb kofta kebabs have a completely different texture than just “burgers-on-a-stick”. When making Greek burgers (click here for recipe), your meat mixture shouldn’t be overworked. That way they remain fluffy and airy.
However, the kofta kebabs must be tight and firm, but still juicy. So when preparing this traditional minced lamb kebab recipe, butchers and tavernas season the ground meat with spices and then cut it into little pieces with two large kitchen knives, traditionally called “baldades”. This allows the spices to infuse the meat and almost form a ground meat paste.
You can replicate this procedure at home by using a food processor. All you need to do is pulse the ground meat for 10-15 seconds, until it is very finely chopped and the spices have fully “penetrated” the meat.
If you prefer your ground lamb kebabs to be fluffier (like a burger) simply mix the ingredients using your hands.
Finally, when cooking them, of course, the best option is to grill the kofta kebabs on a char-coal barbecue, to get them all crunchy and smokey.
However, if you don’t have access to one or are in a hurry, the best alternative is to use a heavy grill pan or the grill setting in your oven.
How to make your Lamb Kofta easy to digest?
Minced Lamb Kebabs (Kofta) owe their unique distinctive flavour and taste to the aggressive seasoning used on the meat. For example, in this lamb kebab recipe, more than 10 different herbs and spices are used! The downside is that the kebabs can become a bit hard to digest.
To avoid this, a little trick that I use is to sauté the onions and garlic before adding them to the ground meat mixture. Doing this means that the meat is still infused with those gorgeous aromas, but because the aromatics are cooked, they are more discreet and gentle on the stomach.
Why do my Koftas fall apart?
There are three common reasons your koftas may fall apart when cooking:
- The meat is not finely ground. You need to work the meat thoroughly so all the ingredients bind together. Using your food processor is the easiest way but you can also work the mixture with your hands. Just make sure it is thoroughly mixed and “kneaded”.
- Not enough pressure is put on them when forming the meat skewers. Without this, they cannot bind together properly and once the heat is applied, they will fall apart.
- They are cooked for too long. Make sure you cook them enough for them to cook throughout but don’t overdo it as the meat may dry out resulting in them falling apart.
Making ahead of time and storing
You may prepare this ground lamb kebab recipe in advance. Form the meat kebabs on your skewers and place them on a platter. Wrap the platter tightly in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for 1-2 days. Remove the skewers from the platter, brush with oil, and grill as directed.
Can You Freeze Ground Lamb Kebabs?
You may also freeze this lamb kofta dish. I prefer freezing them after I’ve formed them but before baking them, so they are cooked on the day and are served piping hot.
To prepare them for freezing, form them on the skewers, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container or a freezer bag. That way you can serve them in individual portions!
When you want to serve, simply take them out from the freezer, let them defrost overnight and cook in your BBQ, griddle pan or oven until cooked throughout. When frozen, they will last for up to four months.
Pairing suggestions and similar recipes
I love pairing my minced Lamb Kofta Kebabs with a refreshing, traditional Greek feta salad and some extra dips, like some traditional tzatziki sauce, hummus and fava (split peas puree). Also if I’m making a proper BBQ platter I always love pairing them with some traditional Greek BBQ dishes like:
- Marinated Greek Beef Souvlaki Skewers (Beef Kabobs) recipe
- Marinated Greek Lamb Souvlaki recipe (Skewers) with Pita and Tzatziki
- Pork Souvlaki (Skewers) with Tzatziki Sauce
- Homemade Greek Pork Gyros Souvlaki recipe
- Homemade Greek Chicken Gyro recipe
- Greek Chicken Souvlaki recipe (Skewers) with Tzatziki
- Vegetable Skewers (Souvlaki) with Halloumi and Pita Bread
So go ahead, prepare his traditional minced lamb kofta kebab recipe for your friends and family and enjoy it over a glass of cold beer!Print
Spicy minced Lamb Kofta Kebab Recipe (Giaourtlou)
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 10 min
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 6 kebabs 1x
- Category: Main
- Method: Grilled
- Cuisine: Greek
Spicy minced Lamb Kofta Kebab recipe (Giaourtlou)! With only 20 minutes prep time, these lovely homemade Lamb Kebabs will become the talk of your barbecue!
For the lamb kofta kebab
- 250g mince lamb (9 oz.)
- 250g mince beef (9 oz.)
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 (flat) tsp cumin
- 1 (flat) tsp cinnamon
- 1 (flat) tsp hot paprika
- 1 (flat) tsp powdered all spice berries
- 2 tsps salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 a bunch parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp tomato puree
- 1/2 tsp pepper cayenne (optional)
To serve the kebabs
- 4–5 pita breads
- olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 6 wooden or metal skewers
Kofta kebab Giaourtlou (alternative serving with yogurt sauce)
- 4 tomatoes, finely chopped
- a pinch of cinnamon
- 2 tbsps butter
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 500g strained Greek yogurt (17 oz.)
For the lamb kofta kebab
- To prepare this minced lamb kofta kebab recipe, heat a saucepan over medium high heat, add the olive oil, the chopped onion and garlic and sauté, until tender. In the meantime, add in a large bowl the minced meat, the spices and the tomato puree. Season well with salt and pepper and mix the mixture well, squeezing the ingredients with your hands (or a food processor). Add the chopped parsley and the sautéed onions and garlic. Using your hands mix all the ingredients together until combined.
- Place the mixture for the lamb kofta kebabs in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge to rest for 1 hour. (If you have the time it’s best to leave the kebabs in the fridge overnight).
- To assemble the kofta kebabs, cut the wooden skewers to fit your griddle pan and soak them in water. (This will prevent them from burning). Gently squeeze the meat around the skewers to form log-shaped kebabs, each about 10-12cm long. Make sure the meat is spread to an even thickness. Refrigerate the kebabs until you are ready to grill. If you have time, it is best to chill 30 minutes to let flavours mingle and firm up meat. (The ingredients for this lamb kebab recipe are enough for 6 skewers).
- Preheat a grill or griddle pan on a high heat. Brush the kofta kebabs with live oil and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until nicely coloured on all sides and cooked through.
To serve the kebabs
- While your lamb kofta kebabs are cooking, prepare the pita breads. Preheat the oven to 250C. Use a cooking brush to lightly oil the pita breads on both sides and season with salt and oregano. Place a large oven tray at the bottom of the oven and place the pita breads on top of the tray. Bake for 2-3 minutes.
Kofta kebab Giaourtlou (alternative serving with yogurt sauce)
- Alternatively you can serve the kofta kebabs with tomato sauce and Greek yogurt (kebab giaourtlou).
- To prepare the tomato sauce for the lamb kebabs melt the butter in a sauce pan, add the chopped tomatoes, the garlic and seasoning and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Layer a pita bread on a plate, top with the lamb kebabs, add two full spoons of the tomato sauce, 1 tbsp yogurt and garnish with sliced red onions.
- Serving Size: 1 kebab (without serving propositions)
- Calories: 224kcal
- Sugar: 0.9g
- Sodium: 829.7mg
- Fat: 15.9g
- Saturated Fat: 5.6g
- Unsaturated Fat: 9.3g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 3.7g
- Fiber: 1.2g
- Protein: 16.6g
- Cholesterol: 55.4mg
Keywords: minced lamb kebab, spicy lamb kebab, lamb kofta kebab, giaourtlou kebab
I just want say thank you for sharing Greece with rest of the world. I love all the recipes and the cultural insights you describe with each culinary journey. Thank you, and many blessings.
Thank you very much Stephen! I’m so glad you like the work we’ve done 🙂
Absolutely delicious recipe – perfect seasoning! We served these with pickled red cabbage, tomatoes, homemade French fries, roast Cauliflower and sriracha sauce.
Thanks. Made the mince meat mix the night before and what tasty kebabs they turned out to be. Very much enjoyed along with the sauce. Top marks for your recipe 😁.