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My Mother’s Arab Kebab; from Historic Antakya (Antioch)

Arab Kebab- or Arap Kebabi, as we say in Turkish – is a juicy, delicious specialty made in the homes in Antakya, Southern part of Turkey, where my roots are from. This kebab is also so easy to make; I remember my mother making in almost no time, with delicious aromas coming from the kitchen, and how we used to dip our potato and bulgur patties to its delicious sauce.  Antakya  is a city rich in history and traditions; I greatly admire that folks from different religions and backgrounds live and trade happily there over many centuries. This kebab is a heritage passed from the Arab community living in Antakya region.

Juicy, delicious Arab Kebab; make sure to cook a few potatoes in its delicious sauce and make potato&bulgur patties; they go so well with this kebab.

There is abundance of onion in this kebab, which makes it so delicious (and healthy too). I love the natural sweetness the onions bring out to the dish. There are no eggplants (aubergines) in the traditional Arab Kebab, though I like to add on my version. Again, the sweet, almost meaty texture of the eggplant goes so well in the kebab – you can simply take the eggplant out for the traditional Arab Kebab. We also like to add red pepper paste to this kebab, for a richer, spicier flavor. You can make your own red pepper paste; here is my recipe if you would like to have a go.

Signed copies of my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland is available to order at this link, it is delivered worldwide.. This recipe and many other wholesome, authentic Turkish recipes are included, if you’d like to get one.

If you live in the US, Canada or Mexico, you can order a hardback copy with reduced shipping rates here.

Turkish red pepper paste – Biber Salcasi; an essential ingredient especially for the Southern Turkish Cooking.

The potato & bulgur patties with onion and parsley go so well with Arab Kebab. We like to add a few potatoes to the kebab to cook, so that they can soak up this wonderful sauce. We then use these deliciously flavored cooked potatoes in our bulgur & potato patties. Dipping the patties to the sauce of Arab Kebab is just heavenly.

These potato and bulgur patties are also wonderful when dipped into olive oil and pomegranate sauce.

You can make the Arab Kebab ahead of time and give a gentle heat just before serving.  The left overs can also be frozen successfully.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 30 minutes             Cooking time: 35 – 40 minutes


500 gr/1 1/4 lb/ 2 cups lean ground beef or lamb

2 medium onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 medium size eggplant, finely diced

1 green bell (or pointy) pepper, finely chopped

400gr/14oz can of good quality chopped tomatoes

15ml/1 tbsp red pepper paste – optional-

30ml/ 2 tbsp olive oil

12oz/ 1 1/2 cup hot water

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

5-10ml/1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3-4 medium potatoes skinned and halved (to be used for the potato & bulgur patties)


Sprinkle salt over the eggplants; salt will help the moisture to come out of them.

Cut each eggplant length wise and then about 3-4 in cubes, lay them on a wide flat tray and generously season with salt. This will help the moisture to come out of the eggplants. Leave for about 15 minutes. Drain the water that came out of the eggplants and squeeze them with a paper towel to extract the excess water.

Heat the oil in a large wide pan and sauté the onions for a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Stir in the ground meat and sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the eggplants, garlic, green pepper and cook for further 4-5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, red pepper paste and the hot water, giving a good stir. Stir in the potatoes to the mixture. Season with salt, ground black pepper and red pepper flakes, combine well.

Arab Kebab has a wonderful sauce to dip the bulgur & potato patties or your bread in.

Cover the pan and gently simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the ingredients cooked and the sauce thickened. Stir in the chopped parsley and combine well, the Arab Kebab is ready. The end result should have a good amount of juice/liquid, as we would like to dip the potato & bulgur patties this sauce. Take the cooked potatoes out to be used in the potato & bulgur patties.

Arab Kebab with onions, garlic, peppers, aubergines in rich tomato sauce; enjoy!

Have you ever tried this kebab or any variation of it? I would love to hear from you 🙂

Afiyet Olsun,

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21 Responses to My Mother’s Arab Kebab; from Historic Antakya (Antioch)

  1. Alida September 30, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    this looks so easy to make and I can imagine the powerful smells in your kitchen. This dish is amazing Ozlem! Thank you for sharing it!

    • Ozlem September 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      Ciao Alida, it is indeed easy and so comforting, a nice treat for the Autumn!

  2. Phil in the Kitchen September 30, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    Well, I’ve never knowingly tried to make this kebab, but it’s actually very similar to something I made for a warming bonfire night supper some years ago. I think I added some carrot and maybe some oregano. I served it with pita. I love the idea of cooking the potatoes in this way before using them in the patties and I know the patties are really good.

    • Ozlem October 1, 2012 at 9:31 am #

      Hi Phil; I bet your version must be delicious! To be honest, as much as love getting to know the traditional recipes and sharing, I am all up for experimenting with different flavors too. My kids love carrot, and I must add to the next batch! Try to make the patties this way, I think you will enjoy it.

  3. Peri October 1, 2012 at 3:26 am #

    Absolutely delicious, Ozlem, so many flavor combinations remind me of our Indian kheema(lamb mince) and the large potatoes are so yummy looking in the dish…and I agree, the sweet onions add a beautiful gravy base to the dish…another winning recipe here:) xx Peri.

    • Ozlem October 1, 2012 at 9:29 am #

      Thank you Peri, I love the big chunky potatoes in this kebab too; all you need to do is to mash them up for the bulgur patties. So love hearing the similarities with Indian cuisine : )

  4. Saei October 1, 2012 at 5:09 am #

    Hi Ozlem,
    I like them,we also have something like these and they are really helpful for the days you don’t know what to cook,easy and fast.
    I have a question about “bulgur”…
    It’s been years I see bulgur in turkish recipes but I don’t know what it is exactly,what is it made of?

    have a great day 🙂

    • Ozlem October 1, 2012 at 9:27 am #

      Hi Saei,
      Many thanks for your comment; this really is an easy dish, and so delicious and nutritious. We use bulgur a lot in Turkish cooking; it is a wholegrain that is parboiled and dried. It’s packed with fiber and nutrition, you can get bulgur in most supermarkets, whole foods markets. I hope you can give it a go 🙂

  5. Jane Ozmus October 1, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    This looks delicious Ozlem, I have a question about the patties,is it better to use kofte or pilaf bulgar?
    One more thing do you have a recipe for turkish ice cream using mastic gum?
    Thank you


    • Ozlem October 1, 2012 at 9:40 am #

      Merhaba Jane,
      Thanks for your comment; I like to use the fine bulgur – called koftelik bulgur – in the patties, as it is finer. If you can’t get fine bulgur, you may like to run the coarse bulgur on the blender for a pulse or two to make it finer – don’t do it too much otherwise it would get powder-. I must say, I also made the patties with coarse bulgur, it just needs a little more hot water and the texture is not as fine, but still tastes great.

      I haven’t yet made the ice cream with mastic gum – though I made a milk pudding with mastic gum, if you like to see it under “desserts”. But I searched for a recipe for you, this link looks good

      hope it helps! let me know if I can help further ; )

  6. Alan October 1, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    my earlier comment has not appeared – just to say this is brilliant because it’s something I can do easily (cooking is my least favorite occupation) and will keep J off my back for not pulling my weight!

    • Ozlem October 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      Hi Alan,
      Many thanks for stopping by – and I am so glad I checked the spam folder as your comment was there!: ) Lovely to hear you will give this a go; it really is so easy, and a little bit of red pepper paste produces wonders, hope J and you enjoy it:) any questions, just please let me know 🙂

  7. Tuba October 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    Merhaba Ozlem,
    This looks amazing! I’m definitely going to have to try this!
    Ellerine Saglik,

    • Ozlem October 2, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      Merhaba Tuba,
      Cok tesekkurler; many thanks for stopping by : )

  8. April Ozbilgin May 24, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    Glad to see the link for the homemade pepper paste! I have been wanting to try and make some myself! The Arab Kebab looks delicious!

    • Ozlem Warren May 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      Cok tesekkurler April; pepper paste – biber salcasi is a major staple in my kitchen, hope you enjoy making your own!
      Ozlem x

  9. Marianne W August 30, 2014 at 2:16 am #

    I just made this–very delicious! I made the pepper paste with roasted Hatch pepper, but otherwise followed the recipe. Loved it so much that I will be sure to make it again. Thank you for posting this recipe!

    • Ozlem Warren August 31, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Dear Marianne,

      Many thanks for your note, so glad you enjoyed Antakya’s Arab kebab; such a comforting, satisfying dish. Using hatch peppers is a great idea too, glad it all worked well – afiyet olsun!

  10. Turkey's For Life October 17, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    We’ve not made this before but it’s a regular one when we go to eat at our local Hatay restaurant in Fethiye. Love it – and will probably give it a go over winter. 🙂

    • Ozlem Warren October 17, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

      Thank you Julia, a lovely warming dish we make often, hope you enjoy making yours – how nice you have a local Hatay restaurant to indulge!!: ) Ozlem x


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