Cumin and cinnamon add Middle Eastern flavor to grilled goat kebabs

by Terry B on June 10, 2009

Goat is a mild-mannered stand-in for lamb in these flavorful kebabs marinated in cumin, cinnamon, oregano and pomegranate molasses. Recipe below.


What is it with Americans and goat? Goats were one of the first animals domesticated by humans, 10,000 years ago or so. An amazing 70 percent of the red meat consumed in the world is goat. But while goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, for some reason, it’s been slow to catch on in the United States.

So what do Asian, Middle Eastern, Latino, African and Caribbean cooks know that we don’t? Well, for starters, goat meat’s slightly sweet flavor is lighter than beef and more interesting than pork. While it’s often compared to lamb or mutton, goat is generally less fatty and more subtle in taste.

It’s good for you too, rich in iron, potassium and thiamine. And it’s naturally lean, so it’s lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than beef, pork and even skinless chicken.

Perhaps just as important, goats are ideally suited to small, sustainable farming. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, “Raising goats can be a valuable part of a sustainable farm. Integrating livestock into a farm system can increase its economic and environmental health and diversity, thereby making important contributions to the farm’s sustainability. Goats often fit well into the biological and economic niches on a farm that otherwise go untapped. Goats can be incorporated into existing grazing operations with sheep and cattle, and they can also be used to control weeds and brush to help make use of a pasture’s diversity.”

The goat for these kebabs came from the highly sustainable Mint Creek Farm in downstate Illinois. When owners Harry and Gwen Carr started the farm in 1992, they added sheep as part of a plan to enliven and enrich the soil that had been so depleted by modern mainstream agricultural practices. Eventually, though, 100% grass fed sheep became their focus. If you go to their website, you’ll only find lamb listed for sale. But at farmers markets in Chicago, they sell goat as well.

I’d been thinking about doing something with goat for a while—and about trying to buy more sustainable meats. So when we saw goat at the Mint Creek Farm booth at Green City Market recently, we picked some up. I knew I’d figure out something to do with it later. After looking at Asian, Mexican and other goat recipes, I decided to adapt a Middle Eastern-inspired appetizer recipe for lamb from Bon Appétit and turn it into a main course. You can switch back to lamb, if you like, but I encourage you to try some goat. I think it will win you over.

Grilled Goat Kebabs with Pomegranate-Cumin Glaze
Makes 6 kebabs, serving 2 to 3 people

1 teaspoon cumin seeds [or 1 teaspoon ground cumin—see Kitchen Notes]
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses [see Kitchen Notes]
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound trimmed goat meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 zucchini, sliced thin

6 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 1/2 hour [or metal skewers]

Heat small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and stir until aromatic and lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Grind cumin in mortar or spice mill. Mix pomegranate molasses, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, cinnamon and cumin in 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add goat; chill at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove goat from marinade. Thread goat piece, red pepper chunks and zucchini slices on skewers. Can be made up to 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Prepare grill [medium-high heat] or preheat broiler. Cook, turning often, about 5 minutes for medium-rare. I grilled over charcoal, covering the grill for part of the time to impart more smokiness, then finishing the kebabs uncovered. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Notes

Cumin seeds or ground cumin? We are major users of ground cumin, but we also keep cumin seeds on hand. I toasted cumin seeds and ground them because the recipe called for it, but wasn’t expecting a huge difference. Boy, was I wrong. The freshly toasted, freshly ground cumin was so wonderfully aromatic in ways that even the freshest pre-ground cumin is not. For everyday use, ground cumin is fine. But if you have cumin seeds and a little extra time, grind your own.

Here we go again with the pomegranate molasses. Yep, Marion used it last fall to make a delicious Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges and Blue Cheese. It’s frequently used in Middle Eastern cooking and gives a fruity, tart liveliness to dishes. Pomegranate molasses is available at some supermarkets, at Middle Eastern markets and at Or you can make your own, using this recipe by Elise at Simply Recipes.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

heather June 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm

amen – goat rocks! this looks absolutely fantastic!



Alta June 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I love goat. Haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy it much though. This looks delicious!

Laura June 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Love the sound of that marinade…you had me at pomegranate molasses! I must admit my past experiences with goat have not been inspiring. I’ve always had gristle and bone flecked pieces swimming in a greasy sauce while sitting in some restaurant with questionable hygiene. You’ve convinced me that it’s time to take matters into my own hands and seek some out and cook it myself!

Chris June 11, 2009 at 3:14 am

Goat tastes great.

My grandparents had a couple of farms (still do) and I grew up on home grown meat, including goat & rabbit. The Mexicans love it, seems like the only place I ever get it.

Served up some BBQ goat ribs at a big birthday party once, though.
“Best ribs I ever had….” Etc..
Never told them it was goat! My grandmother used to get the same for the fried rabbit. “That was great chicken….”

We’d just laugh, shake our heads, and smile.

Nishta June 11, 2009 at 3:43 am

I love me some goat! grew up eating it Indian-style, cooked by my mom…yum. I’m impressed you managed to keep these kabobs from drying out on the grill, and I love anything with pomegranate molasses (it is super-easy to make! along w/ homemade grenadine).

did you read last summer’s Gourmet article about goat tacos? I was glad to see them talking about this meat. and to see you doing it, too, of course!

Allison Lemons June 11, 2009 at 5:50 am

Great tip on the cumin seeds. I’m definitely going to try that, I use cumin all the time. You’ve convinced me to pick up some goat at the market tomorrow too

Terry B June 11, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Goat does rock, heather. We hope to do more with it here.

Thanks, Alta!

Laura—Those restaurants of with questionable hygiene were probably using cheaper cuts of goat from older animals. It can apparently be strong tasting and tough. If you find goat at one of NYC’s green markets, it will probably be wonderful.

Chris—When our older daughter was little, she was convinced that fried chicken was the only kind of chicken she liked. So however we prepared chicken, we just told her it was fried. Worked every time.

Nishta—Interestingly, I read that most Indian lamb recipes you find in the US are more correctly prepared with goat in India. Keeping the kebabs from drying out was helped by quick cooking. I missed the Gourmet article—will have to look it up. As Chris pointed out above, goat is big in Mexican cuisine, so I’m sure the tacos would be great.

Allison Lemons—I think you’ll find the freshly ground cumin pretty amazing.

Toni June 11, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Haven’t eaten goat since I lived in New Mexico, and a friend called us up and asked my husband (the best cook!) if he could come up with a goat marinade. He had never marinated a goat before, but said “sure!” That was my only taste of goat, but I remember thinking it was delicious.

Didn’t know all those facts about goats being ideal for sustainable farming. It makes me happier that when I tapped my family last Christmas to go in together on a gift for Heifer International instead of giving gifts to each other, we collectively chose a goat. Smiling.

Christina June 12, 2009 at 12:10 am

Goat is AMAZING. I’ve had it most frequently as birria, spicy, rich, and f-ing phenomenal in tacos. The combination of flavors you use here is one of my favorites.

Must make this as soon as school gets out. ONE WEEK! Woot woot!

Jennifer Hess June 12, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I’ve only had goat on a couple of occasions but I loved it. I’ve heard that one of the farms around here is raising meat goats in addition to their beef and I keep hoping we can get our hands on some. Your gorgeous kebabs have me even more motivated 😀

Terry B June 12, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Toni—Heifer International is a great organization, isn’t it? We’ve teamed up with Marion’s sister to make donations too. And if you’ve only had goat once, I think it’s time to try it again.

Christina—I taught for a number of years, so I know exactly what you mean with “Woot woot!” It was interesting to me that I don’t think students realize that teachers anticipate the end of the school year as much as they do.

Jennifer—I’m totally looking forward to seeing what you’ll do with goat.

Greg June 13, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Amen on the goat. I really like goat tacos and curried goat.

Sumac is an interesting addition to a lot of Middle Eastern food added at the table.

Salmon Cabin June 21, 2009 at 2:14 am

Goat meat’s been getting a lot of press these days and is definitely becoming quite popular in the Bay Area. I attended a goat butchery workshop in Berkeley back in February that was very well-attended. To learn more about it (and get some great recipes from Cafe Rouge) check out:

bob May 23, 2010 at 9:44 pm

im cooking this right now. wish me luck!

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