Kuyu Kebabi: incredibly tender lamb like from the tandir

lamb recipes turkish mandir kuyu kebabi

When we eat lamb or mutton on the bone, we don't usually eat it the Turkish way. Instead, we enjoy the meat in a Moroccan tagine with homemade bread. This time, however, we made an exception. And yes, it pays to try something new.


Because after this kuyu kebabi, we were sad that we hadn't prepared lamb according to the Turkish recipe earlier. The meat literally falls off the bone and the lamb is as soft as butter. The seasoning is typically Turkish and subtle, but still spot on.


Overall, this butter-soft lamb tastes as if it has come straight from the tandir. And that was also our aim - because we wanted to prepare so-called "Kuyu Kebabi".


1. What is a tandir?

You are probably more familiar with the tandir as a tandur or tandoor.


It is a type of oven that is traditionally made of clay and built deep into the ground. The fuel is therefore placed on the floor and the food is hung in the tandir from above. Baking bread in the tandir is particularly fascinating. Here, the thin flatbreads are simply stuck to the walls of the tandir, where they then bake.


Incidentally, the tandir is still traditionally used in many places in Turkey, but mainly from central Anatolia eastwards. Its use is commonplace in the village. However, the incomparable taste of meat and bread from the tandir is special. These are cooked evenly at high temperatures and acquire the typical and delicious charcoal aroma of grilled food.

lamb recipes turkish

2. What is kuyu kebabi?

Kuyu kebabi is an umbrella term for various kebab dishes, i.e. meat/grilled dishes in Turkey that are grilled in a pit. Kuyu simply means "pit" in English. A hole is dug two to three meters deep. A whole lamb is attached to iron skewers and grilled for a good one to three hours with the lid closed. The lid is then opened and the lamb grilled for a short time. The animal is then removed and everyone involved chooses a piece.


Traditionally, a distinction is made between different categories, such as "without fat" or "lots of fat". The carved butter-soft lamb is served on bread, sprinkled with salt and eaten with onions and grilled peppers. 


We have never eaten a traditional kuyu kebabi like this, but there are a few places in Istanbul that serve it or the pit for it. With the Turkish-style lamb recipe that we are presenting to you today, we prepared our kuyu kebabi ourselves. And it was worth it!

kuyu kebabi turkish lamb

Which piece of meat for Kuyu Kebabi?

In the original kuyu kebabi, a whole lamb is grilled. Of course, we didn't take it that seriously... Instead, we used a few pieces of lamb on the bone. These included lamb ribs and lamb neck. The preparation is super easy and you basically don't have to do anything. In our Turkish lamb recipe, the meat simply cooks in the oven. 


Serve kuyu kebabi correctly

Raw onions are so underrated. Juicy, spicy, sweet - onions are unbeatable, especially in combination with hearty meat. You can therefore also serve the kuyu kebabi with raw onions. You can fill them directly into the sandwich or simply eat them by hand.


It is also served with grilled peppers, which we simply grilled on the grid in the oven after the kuyu kebabi. The bread in which you stuff the butter-soft lamb is traditionally white bread, of course. We used homemade bazlama (pan-fried bread). But you can also use bought flatbread, lavash or Arabic bread. It should taste good.


And now it's time for the recipe for the Turkish lamb recipe. You don't need much here - the combination of tender meat and fresh bread remains untouchable anyway. Afiyet olsun!


Kuyu Kebabi recipe: incredibly tender lamb like from the tandir

Ingredients for approx. 4 portions

  • 1.5 kilo mutton or lamb on the bone
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 0.5 tsp cumin
  • 1 liter of water

To serve

  • bread
  • Onion cut into rings 
  • green pointed bell pepper
Turkish lamb recipe


Step 1: Massage the salt, pepper, cumin and olive oil into the meat. 

Step 2: Fry the meat in a pan on all sides without adding any fat for approx. two minutes per side. Preheat the oven to 230 °C/450 °F fan.

Step 3: Wrap each piece of meat with bone individually (!) tightly in aluminum foil. Place the pieces of meat in a baking dish and fill it with a liter of water.

Step 4: Place the meat in the oven for 1.5 hours or until the water has evaporated. After this time, you can check a piece of meat. If it is soft, take the lamb out of the oven and grill a few peppers in it.

Step 5: Remove all the meat from the bone. Serve it in sliced flatbread or pita bread. Sprinkle more salt on your sandwich and enjoy with raw onions and grilled pointed peppers.

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