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.
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.
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.
My cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, is packed with over 90 authentic Turkish recipes and stunning photography – Signed hardback copies now 25 % OFF and delivered worldwide including US, at this link (please not thar Iskender Kebab is not included in this book).
I hope you enjoy making Iskender Kebab at home with my recipe, it is easier than you think and most delicious.
- 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
- Prepare the meat marination a day ahead of time of cooking.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Afiyet Olsun.
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.
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
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.
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
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 🙂
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
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.
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
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.
Cok tesekkurler sevgili Janet; how nice you all enjoyed Iskender Kebabi in Burdur; it is a huge hit with my children too, a wonderful family meal to enjoy. Enjoy your wonderful cabin and soba with oven, you can make all the tencere / pot dishes there easily, as well as tray kebabs. I love the spinnach with minced meat, onions, and rice stew at this time of the year, here’s the link to my recipe if you fancy. Cok selam ve sevgilerimle, Ozlem x https://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2013/10/comforting-and-gluten-free-spinach-with-ground-meat-onions-wholegrain-basmati-rice-kiymali-ispanak/
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?
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
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! 🙂
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
Delicious, looks much better than the Iskender we get here.
Many thanks for your very kind note Back to Bodrum, no better compliment : )
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 🙂
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!:)
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.
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
Iskender Kebab is one of my favorite Turkish dishes. Nothing like going to kebab house and having Iskender Kebab and finishing with Kunufe!!!!
So true dear April, so agree with you! Sevgiler, Ozlem
Made this tonight. Simply delicious! Thanks for sharing!
Delighted to hear it Cindy, afiyet olsun!
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 ^^
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
Made this last week and my husband loved it so much has asked me to make it again tonight. Simple yet absolutely delicious!
Merhaba Ali, delighted to hear it, thanks so much for letting me know, enjoy Iskender tonight!:) Ozlem
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!
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
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.
Merhaba Sharon and Jim, many thanks for your kind note – do hope you enjoy making your own Iskender, Afiyet Olsun!
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!
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
Ozlem I just made this recipe tonight and my husband who is Turkish loved it. He was shocked that it tasted authentic! I have water Iskender many times at home and in Turkey and for some reason I prefer this one! Thank u so much for posting this recipe!
So delighted you all enjoyed it Saf, Afiyet Olsun! Ozlem
Teşekkür ederim Ozlem. Iskender was the first Turkish dish I ever ate and I ordered it right after I arrived in Bandirma in 1999. I lived in Erdek and commuted to Bandirma for work for a couple of months. Iskender was a regular meal for me. This is a delicious recipe!
Merhaba dear Stephen, many thanks for your kind note, rica ederim. How nice you had a chance to live in Erdek and enjoyed the real thing Iskender there – one of my favorites too. So glad you enjoyed my Iskender recipe, Afiyet Olsun! If you are ever interested, I published my Turkish cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table with delicious, authentic recipes from home – Iskender is not there but over 90 other delicious recipes and kebabs – here’s the link – signed copies are on offer at the moment – My best wishes and cok tesekkurlerimle, https://www.gbpublishing.co.uk/product-page/ozlem-s-turkish-table-hardback
It looks delicious, must try making it sometime. What i don’t understand is do you turn the oven just to heat the pide?. Cok tesekkurler.
Merhaba, you can heat the pide in grill too, however you prefer, Afiyet Olsun : ) Ozlem
I’m from south africa and I’m in Turkey on holiday.
I ordered iskinder kebab at a restaurant and loved it! I forgot the name and then did a bit of research. Now I’m addicted to this dish !
I cant wait to try your recipe back home in SA.
Merhaba dear Fathima,
So glad you enjoyed Iskender, a truly delicious kebab at home – and it is easy to recreate at home too, I hope you enjoy my recipe and enjoy your time in Turkey!
By the way, my Turkish cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table is out now and full of authentic recipes from home, if you’d like a copy, you can have a look here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ozlems-Turkish-Table-Recipes-Homeland/dp/1912031949/ref=sr_1_1?crid=14MJPTSAL4H05&keywords=ozlems+turkish+table&qid=1560761834&s=gateway&sprefix=ozlems%2Caps%2C261&sr=8-1
Your recipe sounds delicious.. Cok tesekkurler. Bunu yapacagim. Pide ekmegi benim oturdugum yerde bulamam ama kendim yaparim.
My son especially (and family of course) could not have enough of it and other great foods and sweets when we visited Turkey last.
This taste IDENTICAL to iskender in Bursa! You seriously won’t find a more accurate recipe on the internet.
Many thanks Nejat, so glad you enjoyed my Iskender recipe – Afiyet olsun, Ozlem
This looks delicious, but could you clarify why not a metallic bowl? Thanks
Merhaba, thank you for your kind note – indeed a delicious recipe, I hope you enjoy it. Metalic bowls are generally regarded to diminish or otherwise affect the flavor of foods containing garlic and onions so I generally avoid that, I hope this helps, Afiyet Olsun, Ozlem
Great article thx for sharing. Enjoyed looking around your site.
Heyy, I absolutely love iskender and your recipe looks amazing. I was wondering what kind of yoghurt do you use? Is it Greek yoghurt which is a bit thicker or just plain? Thank you
Merhaba Cassia, please do give this Iskender kebab a go, it is amazing. I like to use Turkish or Greek yoghurt, or whole milk yoghurt – a bit of thicker consistency if good here, as in Turkish yoghurt. Afiyet olsun, Ozlem
Hello, I am planning on making this dish but im sort of a beginner. Do you have any tips?
Thank you for your note – just follow the recipe, it is pretty straight forward with lots of tips. Thin slices of rib eye steak or lamb or beef tenderloin work very well in this recipe. 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. I highly recommended. Afiyet olsun, Ozlem
Why do you say to preheat the oven , you say to fry the meat and combine with sauce , is that when to use the oven , you don’t say
Thank you for stopping by – my oven (and some ovens) take longer to heat up therefore I mentioned preheating earlier in the recipe, you can do that 5-10 minutes before warming the bread, I revised this way too. Thank you again, I hope you enjoy it, Ozlem
Hi Ozlem, thank you for your great recipe. As a newly moved Turkish in the US I would love to try it. I wonder if I can use shaved beef as well. I love to cook your recipes 🙂 Selam ve sevgilerimle.
Thank you for your kind note – I haven’t used shaved beef here, worth a try; I hope you enjoy it, cok sevgiler, afiyet olsun x
After recently returning from three months in Turkey I have been craving this. Reading your recipe and comments I will be making this tomorrow. It got me so excited I just ordered your book and can’t wait to receive it and enjoying more of your beautiful recipes
Merhaba Rania, many thanks for your kind note – do hope you enjoy this delicious kebab and my book, so delighted to hear – Afiyet Olsun, Ozlem
Perfect! I just made it. Served it in one big dish. Everyone loved it. Thank you for sharing this recipe.
Absolutely delighted to hear it, Afiyet Olsun!
Amazing Turkey recipe, I’ll have to try it out and see how it ends up. Thanks for the great recipe Ozlem!
You are welcome, Afiyet Olsun! Ozlem
Can I use flank steak in place of lamb or beef tenderloin?
Yes it should work, cut in thin slices – Afiyet Olsun! Ozlem