An Iftar Recipe for Ramadan: Lamb Kebabi with Watermelon, Cucumber, and Herb Salad

A tasty plate of Ramazan kebabi with yogurt dressing and pita.Ramadan is the holy month for Muslims around the world, a time of fasting, prayer, and charity. The dates of Ramadan change each year (moving forward by 15 days), because it follows a nine-month, lunar calendar, but the month-long rituals remain the same and are meant to commemorate the month in which the Quran was revealed to Muhammad.

A beautiful view of Istanbul's Blue Mosque during a culinary vacation in Turkey with The International Kitchen.Each year you can find the approximate dates of Ramadan, but its official start and end are decreed by a moon-sighting committee in Saudi Arabia (the location of Mecca, the holiest city of Islam and site of Muhammad’s birth).

Learn more about Middle Eastern food.

Fasting during Ramadan

One of the most known of the many traditions surrounding Ramadan is fasting, during which you do not eat food nor drink water from sun-up to sun-down. This challenging discipline is thought to purify, to promote self-reflection, and to help the practitioner to achieve moral rectitude.

A salad of watermelon, cucumber, feta, and fresh herbs.As you might imagine, since there is no food or water consumed between sunrise and sunset, an early, sustaining breakfast and a healthy, nutritious dinner are particularly important. Although there are no specific rules about what you can eat during suhoor (before sunrise) or iftar (after sunrise), nutritionists recommend a good balance of foods.

Check out more recipes with watermelon.

Today we’re sharing a delicious and quick Turkish iftar recipe for kebabi. There are other Turkish kebabi recipes that use cubed meat and vegetables like eggplant, peppers, and potatoes, but we like the ease of this dish. We’ve paired it with a fresh salad to include plenty of ingredients high in water content. If you’re cooking for a vegetarian, you can adapt the kebabi by omitting the meat and substituting chickpeas – or, add chickpeas to the recipe for additional protein and fiber!

See our recipe for homemade pita bread.

A Turkish iftar meal featuring lamb and a fresh salad.Ramazan Kebabi with Watermelon, Cucumber, and Herb Salad

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cook method: Sautee


Making chili oil for a Ramazan kebabi.For the kebabi:

  • 1 lb ground lamb (or beef)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Pita bread for serving

Ingredients for a fresh salad with watermelon and cucumber.For the salad:

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 English cucumber, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 3 oz fresh feta cheese, cubed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Sauteeing onions in a cast iron pan. Preparation:

1. Assemble the salad by placing the first six ingredients in a bowl. Mix oil, vinegar, salt & pepper in a separate bowl, but wait to dress the salad until the rest of the meal is ready.

2. To prepare the kebabi, cook the onion in 1 tbsp oil for a 4-5 minutes until translucent.

3. Add the meat, stirring it as you brown it, and season with salt and pepper. Once the meat is browned, drain off the extra fat.

Browning the meat while making the kebabi.4. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup of water, and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes more, until the tomatoes are cooked, and the mixture starts to form a crust in the pan. Set aside.

5. Sautee the red pepper flakes in the remaining oil and set aside. Mix the garlic into the yogurt. Drizzle the oil and vinegar dressing over the salad and toss lightly.

Enjoying a meal of Ramazan kebabi and fresh salad.6. To serve, place the meat on a platter and drizzle with the pepper oil. Spoon the garlic sauce around the edge and serve with pita and the salad.

Do you celebrate Ramadan? What are your favorite dishes for suhoor and iftar?

Try another delicious lamb recipe: Kofta Kebabs.

By Peg Kern

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