Turkish Kofte Meatballs – Slender Kitchen

These Turkish Kofte Meatballs are made with a delicious combination of ground lamb, ground beef, fresh herbs, and spices for a tasty dinner that tastes like takeout. They are easy to make and freezer-friendly. Jump to Recipe


These Turkish Meatballs are exactly what I want to be eating for dinner every night. Every single bite is packed with flavor from a combination of ground lamb, ground beef, and tons of fresh herbs and spices. Serve with pita bread and a fresh salad for a meal you will make again and again. 

There is something about meatballs that makes everyone in our family excited to come to the dinner table and these Kofta meatballs have become one of our favorites. Normally, I like to set up the table with white rice, tomato and cucumber salad, toasted pita bread, Tzatziki or yogurt sauce, and extra fresh herbs. Everyone gets to build their own bowls or sandwiches. It’s always a hit and reminds me of meals at one of our favorite Turkish restaurants. The more stuff on the table – the better!

The other thing I love about this recipe is that you can prep a big batch and freeze them for later. They are a lifesaver for busy nights and so much tastier than store-bought meatballs.

Kofte Turkish meatballs on a wire rack with onions, garlic, and fresh herbs before being cooked..

What are Turkish Meatballs made of?

  • Ground lamb: Using lamb will give these meatballs an authentic flavor since that is how they are traditionally made. If you prefer to swap in all beef since lamb can be expensive, that will work as well. You can also use all lamb in the recipe and leave out the beef.
  • Ground beef: The ground beef balances out the stronger flavor of the lamb in this recipe.
  • Onion and garlic: These two ingredients add a ton of flavor to the meatballs and also add some moisture. If possible, make sure to use fresh since using onion or garlic powder will result in dry meatballs.
  • Spices: The spices are key to this recipe and add all the flavor. This version uses cumin, smoked paprika, coriander, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Aleppo pepper flakes are more traditional if you can find them or have them on hand.
  • Fresh herbs: This recipe uses both fresh parsley and mint. Dried versions can be swapped in if needed, but the fresh add more flavor. 

What is Kofte or Kofta?

Kofte is the Turkish term for meatballs and refers to many different meatballs or grilled meat patties on a skewer.  The most traditional Turkish kofte recipe uses ground lamb combined with onion, garlic, and spices. It can be made spicy with Aleppo pepper or sometimes that is left out for more mild meatballs. 

Kofta is also common street food in Turkey served with rice, salad, and pita bread or wrapped up as a sandwich. 

Side Dish Ideas for Turkish Meatballs

There are almost endless options for serving these meatballs from making a delicious wrap with pita bread or serving them on a big bed of greens. Here are some favorites. 

  • These meatballs are delicious with a yogurt sauce like Tzatziki. You could also make a more traditional Turkish yogurt dip called Haydari by coming Greek yogurt, garlic, dill, parsley, cream cheese, and a touch of mint. Turkish Cacik, a cold cucumber dip is also served frequently alongside these meatballs. Tahini is one more tasty option.
  • For something spicy, serve these meatballs with Harissa.
  • Make a Turkish chopped salad by combining tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, green bell pepper, red onion, parsley, and mint. Dress the salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar. You could also serve it with this Israeli salad.
  • Traditionally Kofte meatballs are served with rice, salad, and pita bread or lavash.
  • Another option for a side dish is potatoes. You could serve this with mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes
  • Making pita sandwiches or lavash wraps? Make some crispy Eggplant Fries or Zucchini Fries on the side.

Recipe Ideas and Tips

  • For a less spicy meatball, leave out the red pepper flakes. 
  • If you struggle with dry meatballs, consider using a high fat content beef in the recipe. Adding a teaspoon of baking soda is another great trick for making tender meatballs.
  • Although this recipe doesn’t use eggs or breadcrumbs, you can add 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1 whisked egg to the meat mixture if you prefer meatballs with breadcrumbs. 
  • If you don’t like larger pieces of onion in your meatballs, consider grating the onions instead of mincing them.
  • If you don’t have fresh parsley or mint, you can swap in dried. 

Storage and Freezer Instructions

  • Storage: Let the meatballs come to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. Reheat gently in the microwave or a saute pan over medium heat. 
  • Freezer: Prepare the meatballs, without cooking them, and then place on a plate in a single layer. Once frozen on the outside, after about one hour, place into a freezer-safe bag or container. These can be cooked frozen in a hot pan or oven.  They last up to 3 months in the freezer. 

Lamb Turkish meatballs on a plate with yogurt dip and tomato, cucumber salad on the side.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can these meatballs be made without lamb?

Traditionally Turkish meatballs are made with ground lamb or a combination of ground lamb and ground beef. If you prefer to use all ground beef, that will work as well. You could also swap in ground turkey, chicken, or pork.

Why are my meatballs dry?

There are a few different reasons meatballs can come out dry. One of the most common happens when the meat mixture is over-mixed. This recipe doesn’t use an egg or breadcrumb since the lamb has a higher fat content that should keep the meatballs moist.

If you find the meatballs come out dry, you can add some moisture with a whisked egg and 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. Grating the onions in another great trick for adding moisture to these beef and lamb meatballs.

Can these kofte meatballs be made on the grill? As a kebab?

Absolutely! For a traditional kofte kebab option, press the meatballs into a larger, patty shape and thread onto a skewer. Then grill until the meat is cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. 

What spice mixture is used for Turkish meatballs?

There are lots of different kofte seasoning blends out there. The most traditional includes grated or minced onion, garlic, mint, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and sometimes coriander, dill, or smoked paprika. There is another Turkish seasoning called Turkish Baharat. This spice blend can also be used but has a very different flavor since it uses black pepper, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin. 

Can these be served with tomato sauce?

Traditionally Kofte meatballs are traditionally served without sauce on top. However, there are some versions that do include a Turkish-style tomato sauce as well.  To make this style of sauce, you will want to flavor your tomatoes with garlic, onion, Aleppo pepper, and mint. 

Lamb and ground beef Turkish kofte meatballs on a plate with quinoa, red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lemon.

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