Chelo Kabob

Nura’s recipe

Chelo kabob is a special meal that we kids would look forward to during the summer months. Chelo kabob consists of white fluffy rice (use the “Basic Rice” method) served with special grilled burgers. Chelo kabob was often served with “Doog” (a salted yogurt drink), grilled tomato halves, and a relish tray consisting of fresh mint leaves, basil leaves, green onions, and feta cheese. The kabobs are sprinkled with ground sumac seeds which provide a tart flavor to the grilled meat. My parents found it difficult to locate a store which sold sumac, so they improvised and discovered that cream of tartar sprinkled on the grilled meat provided a similar flavor. Ground sumac is available in Middle Eastern specialty shops and larger grocery stores. 

Servings: About 5

Ingredients for kabob (“koobideh“)

1.5 lb. ground beef


1 large onion (puréed)

Relishes (described above)

1.5 t. salt


Step 1: Mix together the beef, puréed onion, and salt. Shape the meat into oblong patties about 4 to 5 inches long by 1/2 inch thick. Seal the edges of the patties by rubbing them with water. 

Step 2: Grill well over charcoal or in the oven broiler. Serve over rice; top with sumac and relishes.

Alternative: It should be noted that kabob can also be made from tender cuts of beef or lamb. Marinate strips of the meat 1 to 2 hours in a mixture of chopped onion, yogurt and olive oil. Stick the meat onto skewers and grill over charcoal.

Recipe © Nura Amerson 1991

Kabob patties on top of rice
Chelo kabob

Layli’s Reflections

As my mom has childhood memories of delicious grilled kabob meals in the summer months, so do I. Today, however, being an apartment dweller, I don’t have a grill. So, I turned to the oven. I’m not going to claim that oven-baked kabobs are just as good as grilled ones; there’s really no way to replicate the smoky flavor imparted by the grill. But they still came out decently!

In fact, a confession: these kabobs are vegetarian. I combined a ground beef substitute with eggs and breadcrumbs to produce the patties. Again, I’m not going to claim it tasted the same as the carnivorous version!

In fact, it came out too salty; I hadn’t realized the fake beef already had some salt in it. As a workaround, I served the kabob with borani esfenaj, since the yogurt helped counteract the salt. I also topped the kabobs with za’atar, a spice blend that contains sumac.

My husband came up with another way to consume the patties: between two buns with ketchup. Yup, kabob really isn’t that different from a hamburger!

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