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Home Style Iskender Kebab in Tomato Sauce, Pita Bread and Yoghurt

Home Style Iskender Kebab in tomato sauce with pita bread and yoghurt

I have long wanted to recreate the delicious Iskender Kebab, Iskender Kebabi at home; thin slices of lamb or beef in tomato based sauce, served over pide bread with yoghurt and grilled vegetables by the side. It is one of the most delicious kebabs you can have in Turkey and it is a joy to be able to recreate at home.

Traditional doner maker in Istanbul, making chicken (tavuk) doner

Doner maker, donerci, in Istanbul, making chicken (tavuk) doner on a vertical rotisserie

Living abroad, Iskender Kebab is one of the special treats I dearly miss. This delicious kebab is a specialty of Bursa region in Turkey and I remember many foodie trips I made to Bursa to enjoy the genuine Iskender Kebap. Iskender Kebab is made with doner kebab, which requires a vertical rotisserie where layers of thinly sliced lamb, beef, veal – or chicken – stacked together. Traditionally, minced meat is used to stick the slices of the meat.

Home made Iskender Kebab; easier than you think and most delicious.

Home made Iskender Kebab; easier than you think and most delicious.

I don’t have a vertical rotisserie but managed to make a very close by Iskender Kebab at home, greatly enjoyed by family and friends. Thin slices of rib eye steak or lamb or beef tenderloin work very well here. Marinating the meat in onion juice, olive oil and spices is really worth the effort to tenderize the meat and add a lot of flavor. With pide bread, pide ekmek as a base, delicious tomato sauce poured over the meat, grilled tomatoes, peppers and yoghurt by the side, home style Iskender Kebab makes a very special meal to share with family and friends. My thanks goes to the brilliant book Anatolia; Adventures in Turkish Cooking, for the inspiration to have a go at making Iskender Kebab at home.

Home style Iskender Kebab; delicious over pita bread with yoghurt and grilled vegetables aside.

Home style Iskender Kebab; delicious over pita bread with yoghurt and grilled vegetables aside.

I hope you enjoy making Iskender Kebab at home with my recipe, it is easier than you think and most delicious. My best wishes to you all for the festive season and the New Year, in good health and happiness.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

4.8 from 10 reviews
Home Style Iskender Kebap in Tomato Sauce, Pita Bread and Yoghurt
 
Iskender Kebab is one of the most popular kebabs at home and a specialty of Bursa region. You can make this delicious Iskender Kebap at home; thin slices of lamb or beef in tomato based sauce, served over pide bread with yoghurt and grilled vegetables by the side. It is easier than you think and most delicious, afiyet olsun!
Author:
Recipe type: Turkish Style Kebabs to make at home
Cuisine: Turkish
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • For the meat marinate:
  • 2 lbs. rib eye steak or lamb or beef tenderloin
  • 2 large onions, grated
  • 45 ml / 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 10 ml/ 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 10 ml/ 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the tomato sauce:
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp. concentrated tomato paste
  • 15 ml/ 1 tbsp. red pepper paste (optional; you can use extra 1 tbsp. tomato paste and red pepper flakes to your taste instead too)
  • 30 ml/ 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 16 fl oz. / 2 cups water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 green pointy or bell peppers, deseeded and sliced
  • Thinly sliced pide ekmek or plain pita bread – 6 pieces, to serve
  • 500 gr / 2 cups plain yoghurt to serve
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F
  2. Prepare the meat marination a day ahead of time of cooking.
  3. Grate the onions or place them in a food processor and process until liquid. Squeeze all the onion juice into a non-metallic bowl and discard any remaining onion pulp.
  4. Slice the meat thinly (you can ask your butcher to this for you too) and then pound each slice with the back of a wooden spoon (or with a meat tenderizer). We aim to achieve the slices about 5 cm (2”) x 4 cm (1.5”) in size.
  5. Combine the onion juice, oregano, red pepper flakes, olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the meat slices and coat each piece with this marination. Cover the bowl with a cling film and marinate overnight in the fridge.
  6. To make the tomato sauce, pour in the olive oil in a sauce pan over the medium heat. Stir in the tomato paste, red pepper paste (if using) and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and combine well. Add the water then bring to the boil. Then gently simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Slice the pide or pita bread in 3 cm x 3 cm (about 1”) squares and place on a tray. Warm in the oven for 5 minutes.
  8. Drizzle a little olive oil on a skillet and cook the meat slices on high heat; for about 2 minutes each side (take care not to overcook). Also sauté the sliced tomatoes and peppers at the other side of the skillet, until they start to charcoal at edges.
  9. Once everything is cooked, plate your Iskender Kebap. Place the warm pide / pita bread slices on each plate. Spread the cooked slices of the meat over the pide bread and pour over the tomato sauce. Place the sautéed tomatoes and peppers at one side and a dollop of plain yoghurt at the other side. Serve immediately. This recipe serves 4 -6 generously.
  10. Afiyet Olsun.

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35 Responses to Home Style Iskender Kebab in Tomato Sauce, Pita Bread and Yoghurt

  1. seniordogsabroad December 14, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    Özlem’ciğim,

    Ah yes. Thanks to your post, I’m remembering the wonderful Iskender kebab we enjoyed in Bursa, each time we visited. It is not to be missed. I think some of the chefs also pour melted butter over the whole pile at the end! (I think that’s going a bit far.) But it is truly scrumptious. Thanks for the recipe and the memories. Çoook öpüyoruz, sevgilerimizle, xoxo J.

    • Ozlem Warren December 14, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

      Merhaba sevgili Jolee’cigim, it is an amazing experience isn’t it; I remember itching to go Bursa just to be able to have the genuine Iskender kebab, such a treat. I did omit the pouring melted butter bit at my recipe here but you’re right, that’s a part of the real deal; a bit indulgent but most delicious. Glad it brought happy memories : ) Cok sevgilerimle, Ozlem xoxo

  2. Phil in the Kitchen December 14, 2015 at 11:45 pm #

    That sounds SO good. I love the idea of using onion juice – I must try that. (I might take the processor into the garden in an attempt to avoid too many tears!) I think I’d probably omit the melted butter too, although, now I’ve heard about it, I’m very tempted.

    • Ozlem Warren December 15, 2015 at 10:40 am #

      Many thanks Phil, I am with you re the tears and onion but so worth the effort. The melted butter over the finished dish is lovely too, some days just call for it, especially when one is enjoying Iskender Kebabi at home. My best wishes to you, Ozlem

    • Ayse October 3, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

      Try keeping the onions in the freezer until they are bit frozen before you start cutting or processing them, it makes wonders and helps with tears a lot 🙂

      • Ozlem Warren October 4, 2016 at 10:37 am #

        Sevgili Ayse, this is a great tip!! With the amount of onions we use at Turkish cuisine, this will be a lifesaver, cok cok tesekkurler!:) Ozlem

  3. Peri's Spice Ladle December 15, 2015 at 7:26 am #

    My mouth was watering as I read this delicious recipe. I like the idea of using onion juice as tenderizer. In many Indian kebab, we use papaya juice for tenderizing too, not very easy to find the US. Lovely kebab, Ozlem, a must try. xxPeri.

    • Ozlem Warren December 15, 2015 at 10:38 am #

      Thank you dear Peri, onion juice really does wonders, so healthy too. Must look out for the papaya juice, as we love your Indian kebabs too : ) Much love, Ozlem xx

  4. janet December 15, 2015 at 7:27 am #

    Delicious, Özlem!
    By coincidence we met with friends in Burdur yesterday and we all, children included, chose Iskender kebabı. It was the right choice – tender and succulent with all the additions.
    Now we have a soba with oven, any suggestions for recipes?
    Happy cooking, J.

  5. Dina December 15, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    Ozlem hanim – I live in Turkey but want to make this at home anyway. What cut of meat should I ask for from the butcher? Any special way to cut it?

    • Ozlem Warren December 15, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

      Merhaba Dina, so glad to hear you will give it a go at home; rib eye steak, beef or lamb tenderloin works well, softer, tender cut of the meat would be best. Hope you enjoy it, afiyet olsun, Ozlem

  6. Turkey's For Life December 15, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Oh, just wow. Iskender Kebab has got to be one of my favourite Turkish dishes. Love it. Your homestyle one looks great and the ribeye steak must do it justice! You’ve got my mouth watering now! 🙂 We must get back to Bursa sometime to just indulge! 🙂
    Julia

    • Ozlem Warren December 15, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

      Merhaba Julia, many thanks for your kind note : ) It really was such a delicious memory to recreate Iskender Kebap at home and rib eye steak worked perfectly, succulent and juicy : ) Enjoy the real thing for me at home, cok sevgiler, Ozlem x

  7. BacktoBodrum December 15, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    Delicious, looks much better than the Iskender we get here.

    • Ozlem Warren December 16, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

      Many thanks for your very kind note Back to Bodrum, no better compliment : )

  8. Rob February 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

    Hi Ozlem,

    Looking forward to cooking this tonight – the meat is in the fridge marinating now!

    I was wondering about trying to cook the meat in the oven on a couple of trays so I could do more at one time, but in the photos yours looks like you cooked on a very high heat to get it slightly charred. Might try half in the oven and the rest in a pan to see which is better 🙂

    • Ozlem Warren February 14, 2016 at 7:14 pm #

      Merhaba Rob,

      How exciting, enjoy making Iskender Kebab at home! I did cook on skillet on high heat; you could try cooking in the oven, though take care not to over cook it. Afiyet olsun!:)

  9. Fiona June 11, 2016 at 5:36 am #

    Dear Ozlem, I remember being in a Turkish restaurant years ago. I still talk about the amazing chicken dish I had there, and I would love to recreate it at home. It was called PILIC special, marinated chicken breast thinly sliced,, a tomato garlic and yoghurt based sauce to cover, with a case of pitta on the plate and topped with a butter sauce. This recipe you share here is similar. Can you help? Thank you, Fiona.

    • Ozlem Warren June 11, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

      Merhaba dear Fiona, thank you for your note. Pilic Special sounds very similar to the chicken version of Iskender Kebab; and you can use chicken breast in this recipe, do the same marination and make the Iskender Kebab with chicken, we did it a while a go, it was lovely. I hope you enjoy it, afiyet olsun, Ozlem

  10. APRIL OZBILGIN October 3, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

    Iskender Kebab is one of my favorite Turkish dishes. Nothing like going to kebab house and having Iskender Kebab and finishing with Kunufe!!!!

    • Ozlem Warren October 4, 2016 at 10:36 am #

      So true dear April, so agree with you! Sevgiler, Ozlem

  11. Cindy November 12, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

    Made this tonight. Simply delicious! Thanks for sharing!

    • Ozlem Warren November 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

      Delighted to hear it Cindy, afiyet olsun!

  12. Aldi December 2, 2016 at 12:53 am #

    Merhaba, i just remeber when i was there for being exchange student for a year. i remember that i ate Iskendar at least once for a week . and now i’m at Indonesia , of course i miss this delicious food. thanks for the recipe. i will make iskendar in Endonezya , Hope my family like it. and of course Endonezya Selamlar , tessekurler ^^

    • Ozlem Warren December 2, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

      Merhaba Aldi, many thanks for your kind note – do hope you enjoy making Iskender Kebab and it brings happy memories of your time in Turkey, afiyet olsun! Ozlem

  13. Ali December 2, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    Made this last week and my husband loved it so much has asked me to make it again tonight. Simple yet absolutely delicious!

    • Ozlem Warren December 2, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

      Merhaba Ali, delighted to hear it, thanks so much for letting me know, enjoy Iskender tonight!:) Ozlem

  14. George May 6, 2017 at 3:25 am #

    Several years ago while in the US Airforce I was temporarily assigned to Incirlik Air Base outside of Adana. Right out if the main gate in what was referred to as “The Alley” were tons of shops, bars, and restaurants. In one of those restaurants we ate at was a dish that consisted of grilled lamb chops over stewed tomatoes and rice. Any idea what this dish is called and where I might find a recipe.
    I LOVED that dish, and for the life of me I can not remember what it was called. Please someone help!

    • Ozlem Warren May 7, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

      Merhaba George, many thanks for your note, you must have lots of fond memories of your time in Incirlik, Adana. We generally serve lamb chops wih grilled veg and tomatoes by the side, as in “Pilavli, Sebzeli Kuzu Izgara” . I don’t recall a recipe that lamb chops cooked together with the rice and the tomatoes, though it can be a delicious regional specialty. I would cook rice separately, grill the chops and tomatoes separately and serve as you recall. Do hope it helps, afiyet olsun. Ozlem

  15. Sharon and Jim May 11, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

    We were introduced to Iskender Kabab at a wonderful Turkish Restaurant in Burlington, Vermont. We have a hard time ordering anything else when we go there. Even though we just had it yesterday, our mouths still cry out for more! So imagine our excitement when we found your recipe online. Thank you so much for the detailed recipe and great pictures!! We know what we will be cooking this weekend.

    • Ozlem Warren May 13, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

      Merhaba Sharon and Jim, many thanks for your kind note – do hope you enjoy making your own Iskender, Afiyet Olsun!

  16. Sarah W September 16, 2017 at 10:39 pm #

    I made this yesterday for a dinner guests and it was fantastic. I made a few small changes; the tomato sauce was very thin so I gradually mixed in yogurt stabilised with some cornflour. I’d also used half a roasted red capsicum blitzed in a blender in lieu of red pepper paste. Got a beautiful deep red creamy sauce. I also oven roasted the veggies to save space on the hob.

    The meat was sensational and I only had it marinating for 6 hours as I was limited for time. Well worth the effort (and tears) with the onion juice.

    I’ll definitely be making this again! Thank you!

    • Ozlem Warren September 17, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

      Merhaba Sarah, many thanks for this lovely note – over the moon that you enjoyed making Iskender kebab, I so agree with you, it is so worth the effort and the tears with onion!! Mind you, good for your eyes, apparently : ) Great improvisation with capsicum peppers and all – I always feel cooking is always all about what feels right for you – the recipes provide a guideline but by all means to do changes that suits you, well done! Afiyet Olsun, Ozlem

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