Chelo Kebab Recipe: Grilled Persian Delight

Chelo Kebab Recipe: Grilled Persian Delight

Chelo Kebab is a quintessential Iranian dish that tantalizes taste buds with its succulent grilled meat and aromatic saffron rice. This delightful meal represents the essence of Persian cuisine and has been savored by generations.

In this article, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of making traditional Chelo Kebab, allowing you to recreate this mouthwatering dish in the comfort of your own kitchen.

What is Chelo Kebab?

Chelo Kebab, also known as Chelow Kebab, is a popular and beloved Iranian dish that consists of grilled skewered meat served with saffron-infused steamed rice. It is considered one of the most iconic and traditional dishes of Persian cuisine.

The term “Chelo” refers to the steamed, fluffy, and fragrant rice, while “Kebab” refers to the marinated and grilled meat. The meat used for Chelo Kebab can vary and includes options such as lamb, beef, or chicken. The meat is typically cut into small cubes and marinated with a mixture of yogurt, finely chopped onions, and various spices, which infuse it with rich flavors.

The saffron rice, known for its golden color and unique aroma, is a crucial part of the Chelo Kebab experience. The rice is first parboiled and then steamed with saffron threads soaked in hot water, giving it a beautiful hue and a distinct taste.

Prep time: 30 minutesCook time: 20 minutes
Rest time: 10 minutesServings: 4


For the Kebabs:

  • 500g lamb, beef, or chicken (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Skewers (wooden or metal)

For the Saffron Rice (Chelo):

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • A pinch of saffron threads (soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot water)
  • Salt, to taste


  • Grilled tomatoes and bell peppers
  • Sliced onions
  • Fresh herbs (parsley, mint, or cilantro)
  • Yogurt mixed with dried mint


Marinating the Meat:
a. In a mixing bowl, combine the cubed meat, yogurt, finely chopped onions, olive oil, turmeric, black pepper, sumac (if using), and salt.
b. Mix thoroughly until the meat is evenly coated with the marinade.
c. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the meat marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (or ideally, overnight) to develop rich flavors.

  1. Preparing the Saffron Rice:
    a. Rinse the basmati rice in cold water until the water runs clear, draining any excess water.
    b. In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the rinsed rice.
    c. Cook the rice until it’s parboiled (partially cooked), usually about 5-7 minutes. It should still have a slight bite to it.
    d. Drain the rice in a colander.
    e. Dissolve the saffron threads in 2 tablespoons of hot water and pour it over the drained rice. Mix gently to distribute the saffron evenly.
    f. In a non-stick pot or rice cooker, melt the butter or ghee over low heat. Add a thin layer of rice, followed by a layer of saffron rice. Repeat this process until all the rice is layered. Cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel and the lid, allowing it to steam for about 20 minutes on low heat.
  2. Skewering and Grilling the Kebabs:
    a. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
    b. Thread the marinated meat onto the skewers, leaving a little space between each piece for even cooking.
    c. Grill the kebabs for approximately 10 minutes, turning them occasionally until they are well-charred and cooked to your desired level of doneness.
  3. Resting and Serving:
    a. Once the kebabs are done, let them rest for a few minutes to retain their juiciness.
    b. Serve the Chelo Kebabs on a platter alongside grilled tomatoes and bell peppers, sliced onions, and fresh herbs.
    c. Accompany the meal with a side of Mast-o-Khiar, a refreshing yogurt and mint dip.
    d. Enjoy your homemade Chelo Kebab with friends and family, savoring the flavors of Iran on your plate.

Chelo Kebab is often served with various accompaniments, such as grilled tomatoes and bell peppers, sliced onions, and fresh herbs like parsley, mint, or cilantro. Additionally, a popular side dish known as “Mast-o-Khiar” is frequently served alongside Chelo Kebab. Mast-o-Khiar is a yogurt-based dip mixed with dried mint, cucumber, and sometimes garlic, providing a refreshing contrast to the grilled meat and rice.

This dish is not only cherished for its delicious taste but also for its cultural significance in Iranian cuisine. Chelo Kebab is commonly served at gatherings, celebrations, and family gatherings, fostering a sense of togetherness and joy around the dinner table.

Overall, Chelo Kebab represents the essence of Persian culinary traditions, showcasing the harmonious blending of flavors and textures that make Iranian cuisine so revered and loved by people worldwide.

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