Recipe: Easy Lamb Kebabs

Recipe: Easy Lamb Kebabs

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Nealey Dozier
Sep 16, 2015
(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

These homemade meatballs (kefta) make a really fabulous dinner, and are especially great if you find yourself in a weeknight recipe rut and need something a little different. If lamb isn't a regular on your table, don't be shy of using it here — it pairs absolutely perfectly with the fresh mint and parsley and smoky spices. Traditional recipes will tell you to have your butcher grind the meat from the leg, but I find the packaged ground lamb from my grocer works incredibly well.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

I have recently become obsessed with exploring the culinary world of the Mediterranean, and I've been incorporating many new recipes from Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon into my regular cooking repertoire. The combination of bold spices and delicate heat, balanced by cooling sauces and a subtle sweetness bring every meal together in perfect harmony.

One of my go-to dishes is lamb kefta, or ground lamb kebabs, which is a popular form of street food in Morocco — and throughout the Mediterranean, for that matter. At all hours in the bustling city Medinas, you can find cooks taming their flames and tempting customers with the aroma of freshly grilled meats and vegetables.

I like to form my kefta into long sausage-like cylinders, but you can shape them into flat patties or round meatballs if you desire. They can easily be cooked outside on the barbecue, but I like the ease of a cast iron grill pan. I like to skewer them — it makes a fun presentation and makes them easier to turn — but it's definitely not necessary. Also, if lamb isn't your thing, ground beef also works really well here, too.

I always serve my kefta with a tangy yogurt sauce and store-bought naan. (I love Trader Joe's frozen garlic naan! It's so good and makes such an easy side.) If I'm grilling, sometimes I'll grill zucchini coins alongside the kebabs, but I also love an easy sauté of canned chickpeas with garlic, onion, cumin, and harissa paste. It's a pretty exceptional side dish, takes mere minutes to throw together, and makes an excellent pairing with the kefta.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

Easy Lamb Kefta

Serves 2 to 4

  • For the kefta:
  • 3 tablespoons

    minced red onion

  • 3 tablespoons

    minced herbs (mix of Italian parsley, cilantro, and mint)

  • 2 to 3

    garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin (preferably toasted and ground yourself)

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) or regular paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pound

    ground lamb or beef

  • 1 teaspoon

    olive oil

  • For the yogurt sauce:
  • 1/2 cup

    plain yogurt

  • 1 heaping teaspoon

    minced herbs (mix of Italian parsley, cilantro, and mint)

  • 2 teaspoons

    lemon juice, or to taste

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • For the chickpeas:
  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, plus more for serving

  • 1 tablespoon

    minced red onion

  • 1

    large garlic clove

  • 1

    (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained

  • 1 teaspoon

    harissa paste

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    ground cumin (preferably toasted and ground yourself)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) or paprika

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • 1/4 cup

    chicken stock or water

  • 1 teaspoon

    lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon

    minced herbs (mix of Italian parsley, cilantro, and mint), for garnish

  • To serve:
  • Store-bought naan or flatbreads

For the kefta:

Toss the onions, minced herbs, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater blade (or a large mixing bowl) and mix until combined. Add the ground lamb and beat until all of the ingredients are incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to an hour while you finish getting everything else ready for dinner.

Grab a handful of meat, form into an oblong, sausage-like shape, and slide onto a skewer. Repeat with remaining meat. (You can also form them into any shape you like, such as flat patties, meatballs, or torpedoes, and cook them skewered or un-skewered.) Heat a large griddle or grill pan over medium-high and generously coat with cooking oil. Once the oil is sizzling, add the skewers and cook until deep golden brown on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until meat is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more.

For the yogurt sauce:

Combine the yogurt, herbs, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

For the chickpeas:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes, followed by the garlic for another 20 seconds or so. Add the chickpeas, harissa, cumin, pimentón, and a generous pinch of salt. Pour in the chicken stock and increase heat to high; simmer until the mixture is almost dry. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning. Drizzle with additional olive oil before serving.

Recipe Notes

Chop all of the herbs for the lamb, yogurt sauce, and chickpeas together to save yourself some prep time.

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