Binnur's Turkish Cookbook - Delicious, healthy and easy-to-make Ottoman & Turkish recipes

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Iskender Kebab

(Iskender Kebap - Bursa - Marmara Region)

Iskender Kebab
2 pieces of beef tenderloin, each 200 g
200 g regular ground beef
4 pieces of Asian Nan Pita bread or plain pita bread (pide)

1 cup tomato paste, heated up with a few tbs of water (or use canned crushed tomatoes)
2 tbsp butter

Add the salt and pepper to the ground beef. Knead and give it a round shape, then place in the middle of the two pieces of tenderloin.

Cover in plastic wrap and leave in the freezer overnight. The following day remove it from the fridge 45 minutes before cutting. Use a knife, electric knife or meat cutter to shred it (picture). Then fry in a large pan (be careful not to over-fry).

Cut the pitas in bite size diagonal shapes and place on the plates (picture). Spread the beef over the pita bread pieces. Pour the tomato sauce on top and place a few spoons of yogurt on the side. Lastly, melt the butter in a small pan. When it starts bubbling, pour over the tomato sauce (picture).

Serve Iskender Kebab while still hot. This recipe makes 4 servings.

History of Döner:
The writings of Evliya Celebi tells us that it has been made first by Crimeans and prepared horizontally. Probably, the Döner was first cooked in vertical fire by Ottomans.

The final version of the current Doner is based on Iskender Effendi in Bursa in the years of 1800’s. Döner is prepared in different ways in various countries.

It is usually called Shawarma due to the similarity of the word (in Turkish it means "çevirme") in Arab countries. But, Döner’s and Shawarma's ingredients and tastes are not the same.

and more source is here.
Istanbul Eats:Döner: Heavy Rotation

Iskender Kebap



At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just returned from Istanbul and had this dish several times. Wonderful!

At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cok guzel bir yemektir! This is one great recipe!

At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would this possibly be like the Doener sandwiches that they have in Germany? I lived in Germany for 12 years and the one thing I miss the most is the Doeners (meat turning on a spit, served in a pita with tomato, a spicy red seasoning and a yogurt or cucumber sauce on top). At the time I was in Germany, I believe that the meat used was lamb but with the Mad Cow Desease scare, they have now started doing the Doener sandwiches using chicken. I would do anything to get a Doener sandwich like I had in Germany. Please Binnur, help me out!!

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was in Ankara, Turkey they also topped this dish with melted butter. On the side were thinly shaved onions, lettuce, and radish. Totally incredible.

At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to Sabrina:
I was in Turkey last summer and had iskender several times while I was there. While in Van the locals recommended going to a small restaurant there and getting the chicken(tavuk) iskender. Everyone said it was the only place they knew that served it. But friends told me that chicken iskender is more common as you move further west and get into larger cities. So you're Doeners might have some basis in traditional Turkish food.

At 10:06 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Mike,
Traditionally Iskender is made of beef, not chicken. I never heard of
chicken Iskender before, I think it is new! Chicken Doner (not
Iskender)is more populer in Arab Countries. We may have chicken Doner but beef Doner is the most popular:)

(by the way, I had replied to sabrina by email as she wrote me after her post)

At 8:42 PM, Blogger LeeBee935 said...

finally! somebody that has a recipe that actually looks and sounds like ( I have yet to find out if it tastes like) the iskender I had in turkey!

At 11:59 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Lee,
I cook Iskender almost every 10 days at home. This is the best
homemade Iskender, give it a try:)

At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Binnur,

You have said to knead the beef and give it a round shape, how thick should you make it? The iskender i have eaten in Australia is quite thin (the meat. Also with the tenderloins is it best to buy thin pieces of tenderloin or can you flatten the tenderloin with a meat tenderiser (meat mallet)?

Also is this how they make the meat for iskender in resturants/cafes?


At 6:50 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Jade,
It is quite thick. You are not going to cook it thick like that.
Instead after it's frozen, you'll slice it in thin pieces :) Read over
the second paragraph.

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Binnur :
I`m Mona from Syria , I was ammaized by your site!!!
thanx alot for sharing your recipes , I would like to ask you : what do you mean by tenderloin ???

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

another question ,i know that you had to use tahini with the Yogurt in this recipe ! and please tell me more about tomato paste .

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Mona,
Thank you very much:) Tenderloin is the tender boneless portion cut
from the inside of the breast. Usually the most tender part:)
Various names for tenderloin steaks include:
* Filet Mignon
* Tournedos
* Filet Steak
* Châteaubriand
* Bifteck

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Mona,
Please don't put tahini in the yogurt sauce! We never ever use tahini
for Iskender kebap. I think this might be another version of Iskender Kebap but not in Turkey:) If you don't have tomato paste use crushed tomatoes in a can. Or grate a few tomatoes and add salt and pepper (a little bit), cook and make your own home made tomato sauce:)

At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Binnur :
I will try it and tell you soon < thank you :):)

At 2:12 AM, Blogger Shantanu said...

Hi Binnur,
I left you a message in another post asking about this kebab - please ignore that message.

Quick question for this kebab - is it possible to substitute beef for some other meat. Its not very easy to find tenderloin in India but lamb/mutton is easily available. Also, is there a special way the meat should be cut/prepared prior to working on it ?

Also - you are on my favorites list now. I love your website.

Thanks a ton

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Shantanu,
Thank you:) Sure you can substitute beef with lamb. But you know lamb has more fat, trim all the fat first. You may not even use ground beef part of the preparation. Freeze the trimmed lamb piece, approx. 500
gr. the rest is the same. Enjoy it:)

At 5:02 PM, Blogger donnybrook said...

Thanks for such a great recipe. I'm going to try this soon, but just for some clarification, when you say "place in the middle of the two pieces of tenderloin", do you mean like, sandwich the ground beef in between the tenderloin? also would you be able to explain the importance of leaving the mixture frozen overnight? thankyou.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Aeron,
Yes it is a sandwich like you said:) If you don't freeze it, it won't be one piece and also you will not be able to cut them nicely. There is ground beef in the middle.

At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, when i was in Turkey, for one day i went to Soke, it was beautiful and i saw not one tourist!!! Everyone was Turkish! We found this small restaurant, unfortunately we had language communication problems so i just asked for anything!! And they gave us this kebab, it was amazing. But, is it just tomato sauce? or is there spices in it? I remember it was quite spiced.

At 7:41 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Harry,
Traditional Iskender Kebap doesn't have any hot tomato sauce. If the tomato sauce was hot it should be the chef's special:) Or maybe the chef added some hot pepper into the melted butter!

At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my name is amanda and i am 19. my partner, cengiz, is turkish and loves his food! as i enjoy cooking, i like to try as many new recipes as possible. although i must admit, ive never tried anything turkish!

he loves iskander but doesnt have it very often. the only place near to where we live that serves it is a beautiful authentic restaurant but it is expensive to go out to dinner on a regular basis.

i have decided to try and cook him an original turkish meal and have found your website extremeely helpful! your website has been amazing and i now have lots of ideas. (has been bookmarked and will be re-visitng for more ideas!) you wouldnt believe how difficult it has been finding a recipe for iskander!

i hope all goes well... im sure it will! :)

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Amanda,
Turks love to have their traditional dishes, especially Kebabs:D Do not worry about the result. If you follow the recipe step by step, your partner will have a very tasty Iskender Kebab:) If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me, love to help:)

At 11:25 AM, Blogger constance said...

In Istanbul, 1973(!) I had a yogurtlu kebab. Never got over this fabulous dish, never found it again anywhere either. All those ingredients blended so perfectly. PLEASE is there a recipe for that -preferably for somebody who is still learning to cook :-)

At 6:42 PM, Blogger Robbie said...

In the mid 80's I was in the US Air Force stationed in Turkey. One of the highlights of my visit was when we went into Bursa to shop and eat. We had a little cafe that we always went to the served the best Iskender Kabob. I remember that they served it with small grilled pepper. It was always exciting to eat the peppers because you never knew when you were going to get heat and when you weren't. Are the peppers a part of the Iskender Kabob plate or do you think that was a little twist that cafe added? I believe that traditionally, Bursa was the birth place of the Iskender Kabob.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Robbie,
Yes, Bursa is the birth place of Iskender kebab. And traditionally grilled sivri biber should be placed on top of the Iskender kebab:)

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you use mixture of Salca and tomato paste together , i remember when in Turkey I ate this and was wonderful but never knew nme until now .

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Rhonda,
Tomato Salca (Domates Salcasi) means tomato paste and Red Pepper Salca (Kirmizi Biber Salcasi) means red pepper paste in Turkish. We generally call tomato paste (domates salcasi) just 'salca' in Turkiye. Tomato Paste (salca) is already in the sauce:)
Take care,

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great recipe I am going to try it later this week - I just had a question if you didn't want to use the tenderloin (expensive cut of meat) is there any other meat you can substitue?? Or do you really have to use the tenderloin??

Cok tesekurlur

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Sian said...

Hi there, the kebab for this recipe is sitting in my freezer at the moment and I can't wait to have a look at it tonight, I think it will be yummy! My partner and I both love Iskender so to make our own will be interesting :) I'm curious to see how the two types of meat will be - does the ground beef somehow fuse together with the tenderloin around it? Or is it a separate piece still that will be cut up separately when making the small pieces?

Thanks for the recipes! :)

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

The ground beef between the tenderloins will stay as one piece after sliced and cooked:)

At 3:50 AM, Blogger Malbatt said...

I tried Iskender Kebab in Bursa and Istanbul. I liked the one in Bursa the most.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

merhaba binur hanim
pleas i want to ask you about the ground beef shall i make it round like a disk,and i didn't understand how to put the ground beef in the middel of the two tenderloin do u mean to put the beef over one tenderloin and cover it with the another one would u pleas put a photo
and for the tomato paste in my cuntry we squeez tomato in summer and let it dry under the sun until it thick can i use this paste
i fineshed the tarhana powder and i cooked some 'it was yummmy
thank you very much

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Merhaba Sevgili Sousou,
Put one tenderloin on the counter, then put the ground beef over it, then cover the ground beef with the second tenderloin. I mean you will make a sandwich with the ground beef in between two tenderloins. Yes, you can use the tomato paste. Just add some water until it has the right consistency:)
I am glad you liked Tarhana Soup:)
Take care,

At 2:22 AM, Anonymous Azhar Farooq said...

Dear Binnur,

I come frm dubai and ate iskander kabab at a Turkish joint.It was yummy! But i have 2 questions to ask:
1. your recipe doesn't use cumin powder and garlic paste....does we have to avoid or we cn put these 2 ingredients?
2. Also small pieces of bread were present together with the shredded meat inside the iskander.......what was that?

Please answer cz i'm eagerly awaiting to make them.

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Traditionally there is no cumin or garlic in Iskender Kebab. If you wish to add the ingredients that you asked for is totally up to you:)
Spread the shredded beef over the Pide (pita bread) pieces.
Sooner or later I always answer all the mails and comments:)

At 7:06 AM, Anonymous Azhar Farooq said...

Thanks Binnur for your prompt reply. I avoided cumin pwdr and garlic paste. But i made it without the Pita bread as i dnt know whr to find it in Dubai!

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Azhar,
You can check it with the Kebab houses. They should know where you can find it. If you still can not find it you can use diced bread slices.

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Khadija S said...

I am going to try this tomorrow! I love love love iskender kebabs...had them last year when I went to turkey.
I love your website, it's awesome! thanks for all the great recipes...will definitely try more after this coz my family loves turkish food :)

At 1:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had Iksender Kebab when I was in Bursa and Istanbul last year and I loved them. I thought that Iksender was the name of the restaurant, not the kebab itself. Anyways, the kebab I had looked more like sliced meat, like a Gyro, not ground beef. I guess I am just a bit confused by the recipe. Do you put the ground beef between the tenderloin, freeze, and then slice them together?? I would love to make this for my family, but I am very confused. And I also had hot butter poured over the top with mine and no tomato sauce. Which was is the traditional style, or is it personal choice??

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Binnur said...

I never had before Iskender Kebab without tomato sauce:) Please follow the recipe don't be confused you will see it is going to be perfect. Please also read the answers that I wrote under the comments.

At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Seja said...

Hi Binnur, thanks for your recipes. I tried the mixed kebab bursa in our local take-away in Scotland, but they make it with a white yogurt sauce and no tomato sauce. Do you have any idea how to make this?
Thanks again!

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

It is a plain Turkish Yogurt. If you like you can add 1-2 mashed (with salt) garlic cloves in it.

At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Seja said...

Alright I thought it was an actual sauce. Thanks very much for your help Binnur :)

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Jennifer Herrick said...

I lived in Ankara Turkey back in the late 90's, and this was one of my favorite dishes!!! Loved it! Also, the carpet guy we used to buy from, had a cook at his store, and she would cook a tomato minty kind of soup. I was wondering if anyone had heard or eaten this type of soup before and if there was a recipe for it....

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Meagan,
You can use any kind of tick cut beef for this recipe. At the end, the
taste will be the same with tomato sauce, yogurt and butter:)
Afiyet olsun!

At 10:39 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This is one of my favorite Turkish cuisines! I had been craving this dish so I attempted the recipe. I'm not a cook by any means, but this recipe is fool proof!! Very good! Thank goodness for this site!

At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is iskender the same as doner?

At 7:16 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Doner Kebap and Iskender Kebap are different kebabs. But the meat part is the same, presentation is not:) Here is the Doner Kebab;

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried this recipe yesterday and it's greeat!!
Thank you so much Binnur

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the mid-80's I was stationed with my family (Air Force) in Izmir, Turkey. I have an unbelievable amount of good memories from living there, but the most indelible is the iskender doner we would eat at a restaurant (whose name now fails me) located in what we called "doner alley." I literally DREAM about that dish at least once a month, awaking to the sad fact that I am actually NOT in Turkey enoying the dish. The sizzling butter the waiter would bring to your table in a copper container to pour over your dish was always a bit scary as you never knew if you would be scalded by it. Aman yavroum, iskender doner cok guzel!!!!!

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Lesley said...

I lived in Bodrum ,Turkey for 7 years,in the early ninetys,and travelled alot while i was there...Iskender is made with lamb traditionaly,and i never ate a chicken one...its something that has evolved over the years,and is nothing like the original,also the pide bread used is not like a pitta bread,its more similar to a flat bread or naan.

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I'm attempting to try this for my very first time & I'm hoping it turns out wonderful, but as I read some comments posted I was suppose to put the ground beef between the tenderloin ( which I couldn't find beef tenderloin @ my market where I buy meat because it's halal, I instead bought thick steak meat that I cut into thin slices & tenderized it) like a sandwich ; tenderloin,beef, tenderloin - have I already made a mistake? I instead put the steak meat( that's now tender & thin ) flat then the ground beef on top & that's it, so i suppose just one sided. Should I improvise & fold it in half to give it a double cover that it needs or does it matter?

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Binnur said...

You have two thick pieces of tenderloin and you also have ground beef. Give an oval shape to the ground beef and place it between the
two pieces of beef. It is not complicated. After it is frozen, you
can slice it up.
Btw, what did you cut the beef in thin slices for? It is not in the

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The steak meat I got was very thick that's why & I know iskender meat is thin so I thought it was suppose to be thin

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

"The beef+ground beef+beef "sandwich is supposed to be thick. After it is frozen, it is to be cut in thin slices and then cooked:)

At 11:57 PM, Anonymous Bill said...

Teşekkür ederim, Binnur hanım!
The closest I've found to what I (quite frequently) used to eat in Adana and Iskenderun.
More than 25 years I've looked for this!

At 1:03 AM, Blogger Binnur said...

Rica ederim Sevgili Bill:) Afiyet olsun!

At 3:54 AM, Anonymous Riccardo said...

Is the meat for the Iskender to be marinated? Is it to be "spiced"?

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Riccardo,
I don't marinate the tenderloins, I only season the ground beef with salt and pepper:)

At 2:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better using beef or lamb? I was told in Bursa they originally used lamb. If I do not find pide, what could I use?

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Binnur said...

Yes, originally lamb was used to make doner. But you can use both beef and lamb. You can use lavash bread, pita, or bread, etc:)

At 11:54 PM, Anonymous Riccardo said...

Binnur: I need your help.
I am wondering how to make Iskender at home. I live in Italy and never tried the real thing. A Turkish friend of mine told me it is impossible to make at home, because I need dÖner cooked meat.
I think it is true and that yours is an adaptation to go nearer the possible to the real thing. Anyway.
I found many many many recipes on the internet for a homemade Iskender or dÖner: but none has fully made up my mind. First of all: in some recipes they marinade the meat, or add spices... yours is the simplest. So that is the first point: what is the most authentic for a turkish flavour?
Second point: how can be possible that a simple meat (or ground meat) cooked in a skillet on some bread and seasoned with yogurt can taste good? I have great respect for turkish food: so I think that Iskender must be far more than that. These are just questions I got on my mind. I am not judging recipes.
I mean: if I cook a piece of fermented dough in a skillet and top it with cheese and tomato it won't ever taste like pizza. Pizza is a dish thought to be cooked in a wood oven... its taste comes from it.
I hope you will help me. I am looking forward to make Iskender at home. I made lots of turkish recipes at home and loved them all.

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Binnur said...

Hi Riccardo,
Turkish cuisine is not heavy on herbs and spices. The main spices are black pepper, paprika, crushed pepper, allspice, sumac and cinnamon.

The pide (bread) will not cook with the meat in the skillet. Since it is already baked, just cut in bite sizes. Arrange on the serving platter. Meanwhile cook the meat in a pan, spread on the bread pieces. Serve it with plain yogurt and tomato sauce. This way, it is quite easy to make home-made Iskender kebap.

Take care,

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Ms.C said...


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