One of the amazing things about kebabs is the fact there are so many different types. Depending on where you are, what type of culture the kebab comes from, and what vegetables and proteins are regional/local will determine not only what type of ingredients are used but the style of kebabs you eat. If you compare a chicken skewer to a Doner Kebab you won’t see a lot that looks alike – and yet they’re both a different variation of this classic food!
The spelling even differs (yes, kabobs and kebabs are the same thing) depending on the regional influence. While there isn’t a definitive number for “types” of kebabs, (after all – how do you count minor regional variations and what about names like sattays, skewers, or brouchettes – which go under different names but are prepared in the same way) however it is generally agreed that there are well over 50 commonly recognized styles across the world with likely much, much more if you count all the variations as their own type.
So if you’ve only had one or two of the most common types and want to expand your horizons, here’s a list of 21 various kebab types that you should be able to find and try out to see what style suits your taste buds the most.
Let’s dive into the wide, wide, culinary world of local and regional kebabs!
21 Kebab Types from Around the World!
Just bare in mind that this list is in no particular order. While the two most popular styles of kebab in the world show up one and two on the list that doesn’t even necessarily mean they’re the best – just they were the easiest to think of when I started making this list.
All of these kebabs are going to have fans, and detractors, but the point of this list is to give you an amazing starting point for your culinary journey. With that said, let’s jump in!
1) Shish Kebabs
Shish kebabs are the most common and well known kebabs, and are what many of us grew up thinking of whenever anyone mentioned the “K word” during a grill out. These are cubes of marinated meat that are then grilled using skewers. Meat will be separated by vegetables, and possibly mushrooms (also marinated) and create a really delicious meal.
The most common meant are lamb, beef, and chicken, and I can tell you from experience that mushrooms are a great addition to bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Adjust your vegetables or meat choices based on what you enjoy. We mostly did beef because it was widely available (and top-notch) in Iowa, but chicken was also another common option.
Very easy to prepare and I’d be surprised if most of my readers weren’t already familiar with this one as for many of us this is the exact type of kebab that goes with steak and chicken on the grill and introduces us to kebabs as kids!
2) Doner Kebabs
Doner Kebabs are right up there with shish kebabs in popularity, despite the fact they are an incredibly different in shape, style, and preparation compared to shish kebabs. Doner Kebabs are much closer to gyros or shawarmas as opposed to a skewer.
The meat for Doner Kebabs isn’t marinated cubes of meat but comes from a large sausage on a rotisserie. Multiple thin slices are cut off of this into a type of flat bread or pita bread with limited topics like a little bit of lettuce, vegetables, and sauce to tie it all together.
These are wildly popular and a very contrasting definition of what a kebab looks like.
Related Article: Why Are Doner Kebabs So Popular?
3) Adana Kebab
The Adana Kebab hails from the nation of Turkey and is known for being both spicy and bursting with flavor. Most Adana Kebabs will consist of either ground lamb or ground beef, which is then mixed with a wide variety of herbs and spices. The meat is prepared on a skewer over (traditionally) charcoal fires, but then the skewer is often removed and placed on a plate over small pita bread slices.
These kebabs might even include sides like dipping sauces, some light vegetables, sauce, etc. The spice combinations can make a major difference in the taste which means that if you have two Adana Kebab places in the same city they might both produce a delicious kebab that looks the same, but taste quite different – so give them both a shot, you might be surprised just how many delicious Adana Kebab taste profiles you can find!
4) Seekh Kebab
The Seekh Kebab is a very popular kebab that comes in Pakistani and Indian form. This Asian style of kebab is often mistaken with shish kebabs, but they are actually quite different both in preparation and in taste. While shish kebabs are cubes of meat (often marinated) that are skewered and then placed on a grill, the Seekh Kebab (in both Indian and Pakistani forms) are made from ground meat.
Generally speaking Indian Seekh Kebabs will be made from ground lamb or ground chicken while Pakistani style Seekh Kebabs will be made from ground lamb or ground beef. Both tend to be flavored with garlic, onions, ginger, and a combination of spices based on recipe.
Important: For those of you who don’t like spicy (or those who do), it’s worth knowing that most Seekh Kebab recipes have green chilis which can add quite a kick to the spiciness of the kebab!
Originally the description of “Seekh” for a kebab meant it was prepared over a charcoal fire or charcoal stove, although that is not necessarily the case anymore depending on where you are partaking.
5) Kofta Kebab
Kofta Kebabs, sometimes also referred to as Kefta Kebabs, are a very interesting style of kebab because the way these are presented for eating can vary greatly from culture to culture or place to place. A Kebab that appears in both the Mediterranean area and Turkey/the Middle East, the Kofta Kebabs are a ground meat kebab (normally lamb, beef, or chicken) that are shaped into a meatball and cooked or into long meat sticks around skewers and grilled.
Kebabs that are made in the Kofta style are mixed with various herbs and spices that vary based on the local region and which are available. Generally speaking garlic, salt and pepper, and ginger are likely to be found in most recipes, and after that the mix can vary greatly from one recipe to another.
These can then be served on a plate with side salad and fresh tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables or they can be put on pita-style bread with salad sprinkled on top and various bits of bread, vegetables, and dips on the side.
This is a delicious take on kebabs, whether you get the more traditional Kofta Kebab style, or get it in more of a meatball form when put on the plate with the rest of the meal.
6) Chapli Kebab
The Chapli Kebab comes from central Asia and is a style of kebab that comes from the Afghanistan and Pakistan regions of the continent. These are minced meat kebabs that are normally either lamb or beef and mixed with a variety of local spices. Unlike most other kebabs, these are not skewered on sticks – not at all!
The normal way to prepare a Chapli Kebab is shape the spiced minced meat into patties and then pan fry them. This makes the Chapli appear much more similar to a hamburger patty then to many of the skewer-based kebabs that you might otherwise be familiar with.
Because of this, this style of kebab can often be adjusted for home cooking, as well, and can even look similar to a hamburger, just with a pocket bread or pita bread making the two “buns” instead. There’s a great recipe for such an at-home adjustment to try out your own Chapli Kebab Recipe at AllRecipes.com. Check it out if interested.
7) Tandoori Chicken Tikka
Undeniably this has one of the most fun names to say out of all the delicious options given in this article and it delivers a very different style of taste compared to many of the options we’ve seen so far. That said, if many of your early experiences with kebabs or kebab style dishes where the meat was treated with a yogurt based mixture, than the Tandoori Chicken Tikka will bring you back to a familiar place.
Generally speaking the Tikka refers to the style of preparation for the chicken using the yogurt and spice mixture to imbue special flavors with the meat while Tandoori refers to the cooking technique, which involves a Tandoor, a special clay oven.
This is a delicious dish, but if you tend to have a weak stomach for spices it is important to know that the spice mixture that comes with the yogurt tends to be heavy in amounts and numbers, meaning if you have a delicate stomach, you might want to approach this one with caution.
For people who don’t worry about having weaker stomachs, if you’ve never tried Tandoori Chicken Tikka – you’re in for a treat!
8) Jujeh Kebab (Jujeh Kabab, Persian Saffron Chicken Kebab/Kabob)
The Jujeh Kebab is a Persian (Iranian) kebab and is a delicious dish that I highly recommend as a safe go-to if you find yourself trying out a Persian restaurant for the first time. This kebab’s names may come in multiple spellings, as you can see from this section header, but what you’re looking at is grilled and marinated chicken that is well spiced (though not hot spicy) and is most often served on a bed of saffron rice and sometimes with a small side salad of greens.
I personally love the spice mix of the chicken from these kebabs and serving it with saffron rice? Chef’s kiss!
This isn’t the most well known or popular kebab, and arguably isn’t even the best known of the Persian kebabs (more on that in the next section) but it is a delicious meal and one that I’m very happy to see on the menu on those rare times I can find a Middle Eastern restaurant or kebab shop where it’s on the menu.
9) Koobideh Kebab
This grilled minced meat kebab is one of the most popular styles, if not the most popular, style of Persian kebab out there and is a common menu item you are almost certain to find at any restaurant with a focus on Persian cuisine…not to mention a favorite likely to be on the table if you’re ever invited over to a Persian household for dinner.
Persian Mama has an awesome article/recipe explaining how to prepare the Koobideh Kebab which I strongly recommend! Why take a chance on a random big site recipe when you can get an adopted Mom’s homemade recipe?
The Koobideh Kebab is all about the ground lamb or ground beef, usually mixed with finely minced onions, an array of popular Persian spices, and grilled on skewers to get that perfect flavor. I’ve always seen this kebab come with a bit of rice and flat bread, though I’m told some people may serve these without the flat bread – but the rice is pretty much a prerequisite!
If you’ve never tried a Koobideh Kebab, do yourself a favor and find the nearest Persian place to get a taste of utter deliciousness!
10) Tandoori Paneer Tikka
This is an interesting Indian take on traditional kebabs and is one that vegetarians will certainly appreciate (though it is not vegan-friendly due to the dairy). This involves replacing chunks of meet with cubes of paneer, which is an Indian-style cottage cheese that is marinated with spices, combined with spices and yogurt into a paste, shaped into cubes, and then cooked in a Tandoor.
Often combined with slices of onion, bell pepper, and tomato, this creates a skewer appearance that looks a lot like spiced chicken but has its distinctive taste and flavor that comes from Indian spices that give the cottage cheese combo a very spicy taste that is going to keep your mouth, and the rest of you, warm for the rest of the day.
This is a dish that won’t be found in most kebab places but is an option that you will find in some Indian restaurants, depending on the region or style of cooking from India that the restaurant is inspired by.
11) Souvlaki Greek Kebabs
Souvlaki is a Greek dish that is interesting since it can be made in many ways and combines two styles of cooking and meat preparation that have many dishes individually, as well. Souvlaki Kebabs in modern form are a
They can be prepared still on the skewer when plated or the meat and various local veggies that were grilled on the kebabs, or sometimes the meat is removed and placed on pita bread on a plate with a variety of fresh vegetables, salad, and sometimes a touch of feta cheese for a more plate-based meal.
Souvlaki can be made from pork or lamb, and while it’s sometimes possible to find a chicken or beef option the traditional or most common method is to use either lamb or pork so if this dish is on the menu then chances are this kebab will use one of those original meats.
12) Lamb Chop Kebab
Why mess too much with perfection? Lamb chops are delicious and considering lamb was such a common food in Greece and the Middle East, it should come as no surprise that many kebabs featured lamb in some shape or form. The classic lamb chop kebab features slices of lamb chops that are marinated with herbs and spices that are regionally popular and then grilled.
This skewer based kebab is a simple, common, but popular choice and is very similar in preparation to how Shish Kebabs are prepared, and the part of the lamb that offers the best cuts for lamb chop kebabs are the shoulder (boneless) or lamb sirloin.
If in doubt, why not try one of the true classic kebabs?
13) Chicken Shish Tawook Kebabs
Shish Tawook is a Lebanese style dish that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, and is sometimes called Chicken Shish Tawook Kebabs or sometimes simply Shish Tawook. Generally speaking these are only prepared using grilled chicken, which is prepared with a yogurt marinade that often includes garlic, lemon, oregano, and a series of other local spices in a mixture that can vary slightly from recipe to recipe or based on regional availability.
I’m a huge fan of the chicken marinated in yogurt recipes because they lock in great moisture and often have a truly incredible taste. Add in some perfect spices and flavoring and you have a truly special dish here, one that I am always happy to find when hitting a new Lebanese restaurant.
If you tend to favor grilled chicken kebabs or variations thereof, the Chicken Shish Tawook is a dish that you won’t want to miss out on!
14) Salmon Kebab
So, yeah, this is not going to be what you would call a traditional kebab because of where salmon tends to be found, but if you are in the Pacific Northwest you might find a Salmon Kebab as one of the offerings. Salmon is a delicious fish that is often marinated and then served on a plate with vegetables and rice.
The Kebab version marinates the salmon, often with lemon juice and pepper, then grills the pieces on a skewer before serving the skewers on a plate, again with vegetables or rice, or both. This isn’t a traditional kebab preparation, but it is a delicious meal and that’s never something that should be dismissed out of hand!
15) Prawn Kebab
Again going the route of seafood and a local place adapting another food style to blend with their own local food sources, a prawn kebab isn’t going to be a common offering in many places, and is far more likely to be referred to as a prawn skewer or shrimp skewer.
However, as a veteran of many a prawn skewer with a touch of herbs and spices and some grilled mushrooms and veggies, all of which are marinated before putting on the grill for a generally quick once over. A nice common take on various skewer kebabs found in other parts of the world.
16) Vegetable Kebab
Look, vegetarianism really isn’t my thing, I’m way too much of a carnivore, however there’s no reason that vegetarians can’t enjoy a good vegetable kebab. Marinate the veggies and mushrooms, skewer them up, and then put them on the grill. A little bit of smoke and marinating makes all the difference and I know firsthand just how much flavor a mushroom can take from good marinating and preparation.
While it’s not quite my thing, it shows there’s a kebab out there for everyone and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a delicious
17) Chicken Tikka Kebab
Chicken Tikka is a delicious kebab style dish, one that fans of Indian cuisine and Pakistani cuisine will be familiar with. Chicken Tikka kebabs have skinless chicken breast marinated in yogurt, seasoned, and then grilled. The spices will vary based on whether it’s from a Pakistani, Bengali, or Indian style of recipe.
Chicken Tikka kebabs are always a great choice and the flavor and deliciousness of these kebabs is something that you won’t want to miss!
This is the kebab version, if you’re feeling a more traditional dish then you will also want to check out Chicken Tikka Masala which is a full dish version and also always a great choice when you see it on a restaurant menu.
18) Chelow Kebab (aka Chelo Kebab)
The national dish of Iran, this Persian style kebab can be made from a variety of meats including chicken, beef, and lamb. These are ground meat that has butter, basil, chopped onions, and spices in a mixture that is put together and barbecued on the skewer.
The meat is generally served with rice, a bed of vegetables, and a piece of flat bread. It might remain on a skewer if bamboo was used, or at home since the metal skewers can be washed and returned afterwards, in many restaurants the meat of the Chelo Kebab will be removed from the skewer completely before being plated with the rice, veggies, and flatbread.
This combo makes for a beautiful full dish presentation, but the food is still kebab regardless of the style of presentation because of how it was prepared.
Most important, don’t forget the Saffron and make sure the style of rice is Persian! That makes the Chelow Kebab a very worthy addition to this one and a dish that you want to enjoy!
19) Cag Kebab (aka Yatik Doner Kebab)
Cag Kebab, which also goes by the regional name of Yatik Doner Kebab in some areas, is yet another stunningly delicious Turkish style of kebab hails from the Erzurum region and a mass amount of lamb is rotated from a horizontal rotisserie instead of the vertical rotisserie that fans of the Doner Kebab are going to be most familiar with.
However, the large lamb kebab looks very similar to a Doner rotisserie, though usually a bit smaller. This kebab is cooked over a wood burning fire and then the meat is the main point of the dish though you might get a couple slices of onion or tomato accompanying it or in some Turkish restaurants in the West a bed of rice has become fairly standard.
If you love spiced lamb kebabs, then the Cag Kebab, aka the Yatik Doner Kebab, is one of the options you will not want to miss out on.
20) Iskender Kebab
Iskender Kebabs are actually a play off of Doner Kebabs since they use the same kebab sausage cooked via standing rotisserie that Doner Kebabs use. The two are very similar in many ways, as the Iskender Kebab also uses pita bread. For the Iskender Kebab the pita bread has been sliced into squares and the sliced kebab meat is placed on those squares.
Once plated, often hot tomato sauce and either sheep’s milk butter, yogurt, or both, are also slathered on the side for additional flavor. In some restaurants the preparation calls for tomato sauce and melted butter to be poured over the dish at the table.
This adds even more flavor to an already delicious and flavorful dish that is going to delight most kebab lovers and adds an extra bit of zing to the traditional Doner Kebab.
21) Mutton Boti Kebab
Do you like spice? Do you enjoy the taste and texture of most yogurt based meat marinades but wish it heated things up instead of cooling things down? In that case, the Mutton Boti Kebab might be just what you’ve been waiting for. Chopped mutton is skewered and is seasoned with ginger paste, red chili powder, papaya paste, green chili, and green chutney.
That’s a spicy combination and when you add some butter to seal that flavor in. The Mutton Boti Kebab is prepared many ways and there are common recipe variations for baking and even air frying this kebab, which opens up the options for actually preparing these at home – a definite plus.
Bonus Pick: Yakitori “Kebab”
While the Yakitori might technically not be considered a kebab by many, at the very least it’s very kebab-adjacent. The Yakitori is a Japanese style of kebab. Bite-sized pieces of chicken grilled via skewer over a charcoal fire, and a savory sauce is brushed on while cooking.
Yakitori can be served in a Japanese pub or as street food. The chicken cuts can vary immensely. Some use chicken breast, others chicken thigh, and yet in other recipes liver, heart, and skin can all be used as part of a Yakitori dish.
This delicious chicken dish is often the closest you’ll get to ta kebab in Japan and it is a delicious dish that scratches that itch when it hits. If you get a shot to eat Yakitori you should take advantage!
Don’t Be Afraid To Try A New Kebab!
Kebabs vary so much in taste, even the same type or style when they are from two regions. The most common spices in Greece vary from the most common in Lebanon or Turkey, or even what might be used locally based on an overseas location. This means that there are always new tastes to explore, new dishes to try, and that’s part of the delight of articles like this one: it introduces you to many different types of kebabs to expand your culinary horizons.
There are many more types and styles of kebabs that didn’t even make this list, and that means you have so many options when it comes to eating kebabs and enjoying every bit of that finger licking, delicious culinary journey!
So Which Kebabs Are King of Them All?
The best kebab is the one that you find the most tasty and exciting to eat! While that might seem like a cop out of an answer – why wouldn’t that be the case? We all have different tastes, different preferences, not to mention dietary differences.
If you want to know the two most popular in the world by how often they’re made, those would be the Doner Kebab and Shish Kebab by far. These are the two most well-known and common ones that can be found in thousands of towns and cities across dozens of countries. There’s no denying they are the two most widely known and widespread among hungry locals and travelers everywhere.
If you really want to have a great culinary adventure or experience, making a long list of kebab types and trying each one a couple of times will deliver plenty of incredible meals. Do this with friends and add great memories to those meals, as well!
Whatever style you decide you love most, there’s no question that in this list there’s an incredible array of tastes, dishes, and wonderful meals just waiting to happen!
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