Wine and Kebab? It Works Better Than You Think

For those living in the United Kingdom, the kebab isn’t exactly the sort of food that you’d think to pair with wine. In fact, many in that country see it as a late-night treat after an evening of alcohol consumption. Granted, this may seem a little bit excessive. But the kebab is a fast food staple in the country and doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that you’d mix with something as cultured as wine.

That representation of the kebab is by no means universal. In many other countries, kebab is a catch-all phrase that covers a number of variations of a particular type of meat and vegetable dish.

Even then, it may not immediately jump to mind as a prime candidate for eating alongside a glass of Italian wine.

But we’re going to bust those misconceptions. As with most types of food, there are wine pairings that work surprisingly well with a kebab.

Here, we’re going to take a closer look at the food before examining a few of the wines that work surprisingly well with it. After all, you need to know what a kebab has to offer before you can choose a wine to complement it.

What is a Kebab?

Generally speaking, you can boil kebabs down into two different categories.

First, there is the traditional kebab. Finding its origins in Turkey, it involves a combination of meats and vegetables that have a skewer running through them. They’re a particular favourite at barbecues as they’re easy to cook. Just pop the ingredients onto a skewer of some kind, pop them onto the grill, and rotate until cooked.

Lamb is the most popular meat to use when creating this traditional type of kebab. However, it’s not uncommon for people to use other meats, such as beef. It all depends on your preference.

Then there’s the kebab that’s a favourite of the late-night English reveller – the donner kebab.

There are certain similarities between donner kebabs and traditional kebabs. For one, there’s a skewer involved. However, where traditional kebabs see the use of chunks of meat that are grilled and then eaten directly off the skewer, donner kebabs involve a much large skewer. A huge chunk of lamb meat is impaled on a large skewer, which is then placed in a special rotating apparatus. The meat rotates as it’s cooked and then shaven off in strips to create the actual kebab.

Serving is also completely different for this type of kebab. The skewer is a means for cooking the kebab only. It’s not a part of the eating experience as it is with a traditional kebab.

Instead, as mentioned, you shave strips of the lamb meat off the large block. You then pack these strips inside a piece of pitta or naan bread alongside onions, lettuce, and other vegetables. A coating of sauces, most popularly mayonnaise, gives you the donner kebab.

You can think of it more as a sandwich dish. Interestingly, these types of kebabs also often include chicken.

So as you can see, the variety in the different types of kebab can make it a difficult dish to pair with wines. The commonality tends to be the use of lamb meat and vegetables, often of the spicier variety. As a result, the wine pairings we choose will assume that you’ve used these ingredients.

Without any further ado, here are a couple of suggested wine pairings for kebabs.


The typically kebab includes a lot of fatty and rich meats alongside a host of spicy vegetables. The greasiness of the meat also presents a challenge when choosing a wine pairing. After all, it basically creates another barrier that the wine has to work to penetrate.

As a result, it’s best to choose a powerful red that has some strong fruity tones. This ensures that the richness of the meat doesn’t overpower the wine, while also providing an interesting contrast to the spiciness of the dish.

Merlot is an excellent example of just such a wine. Though often seen as a French wine, there are plenty of Italian Merlots that you can choose from. That’s without considering the many other varieties made all over the world. It’s one of the world’s most popular wine grapes, after all. So, it should come as no surprise that you have plenty to choose from.

Merlot’s strong characteristics make it a perfect counterpoint to the richness of a kebab.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Sticking with the theme of powerful and fruity red wines, we have Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has an intensity that means it’s more than capable of standing up to the richness of the typical kebab dish. And like Merlot, it has a powerful bouquet of fruity notes that offer an interesting contrast to the spiciness you get with a kebab.

Interestingly, you don’t have to choose between the varieties grown in warm or cooler regions. Both have the characteristics needed to go well with the dish, which means you can pick the Cabernet Sauvignon that most suits your tastes.


You may not immediately think that the more delicate wine known as Barbera would be a good match for a kebab. And if we’re talking about the donner kebab, you probably would want to go for something a bit more robust.

However, Barbera is an excellent choice to combine with the more traditional kebab, especially if you’ve gone the less spicy route. The wine’s interesting flavours offer an interesting contrast to the richness of the lamb meat. Just make sure that you don’t overpower it with heavy use of peppers as the vegetable accompaniment. Go for slightly sweeter options, such as tomatoes, alongside the mushrooms that many combine with kebab meat.

The Final Word

The English readers of this article may not have assumed that a kebab would be a good dish to combine with wine. But there are several Italian wines that work surprisingly well. Give these examples a try to see what we mean. Of course, we also recommend experimenting further to find a few wines that suit your particular tastes.


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