Exploring Chelo Kebab: A Timeless Icon of Persian Cuisine

Persian Chelo Kebab is a quintessential dish in Persian cuisine, celebrated for its rich history and cultural significance. With origins dating back centuries, Chelo Kebab holds a special place in the hearts of Iranians, reflecting the nation's culinary artistry and love for grilled perfection. Traditionally, succulent cuts of meat, such as lamb, beef, or chicken, are meticulously marinated with a blend of aromatic spices and herbs.

The meat is then expertly skewered and grilled over open flames, creating tantalising flavours and a smoky aroma that captivates the senses. The dish is commonly served with fragrant saffron-infused rice and accompanied by grilled vegetables, bringing together a harmonious symphony of tastes and textures. This time-honoured recipe continues to be cherished across generations, symbolising the warmth of Persian hospitality and culinary heritage.

The Art of Grilling

Grilling holds immense significance in Persian culinary traditions, and it is an integral part of preparing the delectable Chelo Kebab. With a culture that cherishes communal gatherings and outdoor feasting, grilling has become a cherished culinary art form in Iran. The smoky flavour imparted during grilling adds depth and character to the marinated meat, elevating the taste to unparalleled heights.

Different types of grilling techniques are employed to create distinct variations of Chelo Kebab. "Sikh Kebabs" are cooked on skewers over open flames, while "Shish Kebabs" is prepared on metal or bamboo skewers. "Koobideh Kebabs" are made into long, thin shapes and cooked directly on the grill. Each technique offers a unique experience, making the art of grilling an essential part of the enchanting journey into the enigmatic flavours of Persian Chelo Kebab.

Understanding Chelo Kebab Varieties

1. Koobideh Kebab: This beloved Chelo Kebab variety features a mix of ground lamb and beef blended with grated onions and a medley of spices. The meat is moulded onto skewers and grilled over open flames, resulting in tender, flavorful kebabs with a delicious smoky aroma.

2. Barg Kebab: Tender cuts of beef or lamb, often from tenderloin or sirloin, are marinated in a mixture of yoghurt, spices, and onions. The marinated meat is then threaded onto skewers and grilled to perfection, creating succulent and juicy kebabs.

3. Jujeh Kebab: This delightful variation showcases marinated chicken pieces, often bone-in for added flavour. The chicken is marinated in a mixture of saffron, lemon juice, yoghurt, and aromatic spices before being grilled, creating a tangy and vibrant taste.

Each Chelo Kebab variation brings its own unique combination of spices, meats, and marinades, offering an array of tantalising flavours that captivate the senses and make Persian cuisine truly extraordinary.

The Perfect Marinades

The art of creating the perfect Chelo Kebab lies in the traditional marinades that infuse the meat with captivating flavours. These time-tested marinades typically feature a harmonious blend of ingredients that enhance the taste and tenderise the meat. Common elements in these marinades include yoghurt, lemon juice, and olive oil, contributing to a luscious and juicy texture. Aromatic spices like saffron, turmeric, cumin, and paprika add a burst of colour and earthy notes, while garlic and onion impart depth and pungency. Fresh herbs like mint, parsley, and coriander provide a refreshing lift to the overall profile. The marinades play a vital role in creating the distinct flavours that make Chelo Kebab an enigmatic delight, drawing enthusiasts to relish this grilled perfection time and again.

Side Dishes and Accompaniments

Chelo Kebab's allure is further enriched by a delightful array of side dishes and accompaniments that complement its flavours. Classic choices include charred tomatoes, which add a smoky sweetness, and saffron-infused rice, known as "Chelo," lending a fragrant and buttery essence. Additionally, Persian cuisine offers an assortment of delectable sauces and dips to elevate the experience. "Mast-o-Khiar" combines yoghurt, cucumber, and mint for a cool and refreshing taste, while "Mast-o-Musir" blends yoghurt with shallots for a tangy and aromatic relish. These carefully curated side dishes and condiments harmonise with Chelo Kebab, offering a symphony of flavours that make every meal a celebration of grilled perfection

Recipe For Chelo Kebab


For the Koobideh Kebab:

500 g of ground lamb or a mix of lamb and beef (with some fat content)

1 medium onion, grated and drained

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground sumac (optional, for extra tanginess)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)

For the Saffron Rice (Chelo):

2 cups long-grain Basmati rice

3 cups of water

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot water)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt to taste

For Grilled Tomatoes:

4 medium tomatoes, cut in half

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Prepare the Marinade:

In a large bowl, combine the grated onion, minced garlic, ground sumac (if using), cumin, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, and salt.

Add the ground meat to the bowl and mix thoroughly until the spices and onions are evenly distributed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (preferably longer) to allow the flavours to meld.

Prepare the Saffron Rice (Chelo):

Rinse the Basmati rice under cold water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in cold water for about 30 minutes, then drain.

In a pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add the soaked and drained rice. Season with salt to taste.

Cook the rice over medium heat until it's parboiled (partially cooked), about 6-7 minutes. Drain the rice in a colander.

In the same pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the saffron water and mix well. Arrange the parboiled rice in the pot in a mound shape. Create a few holes in the rice to allow steam to escape.

Cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel and then with a lid. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, allowing the rice to steam and develop a crispy golden crust at the bottom (tahdig).

Prepare the Grilled Tomatoes:

Preheat your grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.

Brush the tomato halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the tomatoes for about 2–3 minutes on each side, or until they have grill marks and are slightly softened.

Prepare the Koobideh Kebabs:

Preheat your grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.

Take a small handful of the marinated meat and shape it around a skewer, forming a long, thin sausage shape. Repeat with the rest of the meat.

Grill the Koobideh Kebabs for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until they are fully cooked and nicely charred on the outside.


Arrange the saffron rice on a serving platter, shaping it into a mound.

Place the grilled Koobideh Kebabs on top of the rice.

Serve the grilled tomatoes and any desired sauces or dips, like Mast-o-Khiar or Mast-o-Musir, on the side.

Enjoy your homemade Persian Chelo Kebab with your favourite accompaniments and immerse yourself in the delightful flavours of this grilled perfection!