Kofta kebab is a classic Middle Eastern recipe that's packed with flavor. It calls for a handful of ingredients and is ready in no time. Learn how to make this dish with my step by step tutorial and video.
Every Middle Eastern dish is a feast of flavors! From shish kabobs and shawarma to the good old falafel, Middle Eastern food is always my go-to. This easy kofta kebab recipe is another classic recipe that you will love. I have included instructions on how to cook it in the stove, on the grill, and even in the oven. This is indeed one of my favorite Middle Eastern ground beef recipes!
I grew up eating kebabs regularly, as it is a common dish in Iran. When I moved to Istanbul, Turkey, I saw a form of ground meat kebab that I practically fell in love with: kofta kebab. After a lot of recipe testing, I created this delicious and juicy easy recipe that you can make at home using pantry staples.
Kofta kebab and its origin
Kofte kebab or kefte kebab is a type of meatball that is usually made with ground meat such as lamb, mutton, beef or chicken and a combination of spices. Onion is traditionally added to the mixture to keep it moist and flavorful. It's a common dish in the Middle East and the Mediterranean as well as parts of India and South East Asia. Kofta tends to take different forms when served in different regions of the world.
The word kofta comes from Persian verb koftan (کوفتن) which means "to pound" - which captures the idea that ground meat is compressed to make meatballs. Over time, the word blended into other languages and dialects with minor changes to pronunciation. Kofta is common in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries ranging from Iran and Turkey to Lebanon and Egypt. Each country has its own method of making koftas (take Greek keftedes as an example) and each cuisine uses a different combination of spices.
To make homemade beef kofta kebab, you need the following ingredients:
- Onion: We are going to use grated onion and its juice in this recipe. That's where all the flavor is!
- Stale bread: You can use white or whole wheat bread.
- Ground beef: I suggest using 85% or 90% lean ground beef. It's also possible to use ground lamb to make koftas. More on that in the FAQ section below.
- Parsley: Herbs add such nice and fresh flavor to these patties!
- Spices: You need cumin, coriander, cinnamon, dried mint, salt and pepper. You can find dried mint online or at any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean shop.
The secret to juicy koftas
The most important step in this recipe is to soak bread in onion juice. The bread absorbs all the onion flavor and will make the kofta even tastier. Some recipes call for soaking the bread in milk or water but after testing all methods, I can vouch that soaking it in onion juice gives the best results.
Making this easy ground beef kebab at home is very simple and doesn't take much time:
Soak the bread in onion juice
Grate the onion in a bowl. Squeeze the grated onion over a bowl to save the juice. Place the squeezed onion aside. Place a piece of stale bread in the onion juice and make sure all parts are soaked in the juice. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
Make the mixture
In a large bowl mix ground beef, grated onion, parsley and the spices. Add in the soaked bread and knead well until all the ingredients are fully combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.
Sear the patties
Place a pan over medium heat and brush with some olive oil. Form the meat mixture into patties and cook in the pan for about 4 minutes on each side until fully cooked.
If the weather permits, you can grill these on a gas grill. Turn the gas grill on to medium high and once it's hot, brush it with olive oil and place the kofta kebabs on the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes on one side, flip and cook for another 4 minutes on the other side.
It's also possible to cook these ground beef koftas in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and coat a baking sheet with non stick spray. Place the patties on the baking sheet and brush them lightly with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, flip halfway through.
You can serve kofta kebab in a few different ways. Traditionally, these is served with a side of mujadara or white rice or wrapped in a warm pita or lavash with some tzatziki, a simple classic Greek salad or fresh tomatoes, onion, parsley and pickles.
In Turkey, restaurants sometimes serve kofte with a side of cacik which balances the meal. You can also serve these homemade beef koftas with fattoush salad, some warm naan and drizzle with our tasty yogurt tahini sauce for a complete meal. This recipe also goes very well with Mediterranean roasted vegetables or easy Lebanese rice with vermicelli.
Frequently asked questions
Shish kebab usually uses chunks of meat, chicken or even seafood, and is always threaded on a skewer. But kofta kebab is always made with ground meat (usually lamb or beef) and either threaded on a skewer or formed into patties and grilled.
As mentioned above, traditionally these patties is made with ground lamb so if you like the flavor of lamb, you can use it in this recipe. I usually do a combination of 50-50 ground lamb and ground beef which is pretty tasty because you have the tasty lamb but it's balanced with ground beef. You can also use just ground beef as we have done in this recipe.
In some regions, chefs prepare this recipe using skewers. However, in other places like Turkey, you will find kefte kebab in the shape of patties and skewer kebab is a different recipe (we will cover that soon!).
If you would like to make this recipe using skewers, take a fistful of the meat mixture and form it into an oval ball. Insert a skewer (flat or regular) into the ball and then form the mixture into a flat log around the skewer. You might want to wet your hands a little bit so the meat doesn't stick your fingers. Make sure the kebabs are not too thick - otherwise they won't cook evenly.
Absolutely! If you're feeding a crowd or like to have leftovers, simply double or triple the recipe.
Make the meat mixture, scoop out the mixture using a cookie scoop and form it into small disks. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for one hour. Then transfer them into freezer safe bags and freeze for up to 2 months.
To cook, thaw the patties in the refrigerator overnight (do not defrost in the microwave) and follow the instructions in the recipe to grill them or bake them.
Notes and tips
- To make gluten free kofta kebab, use gluten free bread to soak in the onion juice.
- Don't be shy when it comes to kneading the meat. The stickier the meat gets, the better the flavor!
- The traditional way to prepare kofta is in a large bowl using one's hands. However, you can use your food processor to mix all the ingredients.
- It's best to use all the spices mentioned in the recipe if possible. The spices work very well together and create an amazing flavor in every bite.
Kofta Kebab Recipe (Video Tutorial)
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 slice bread stale
- 2 lb ground beef
- ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Peel the onion and grate it in a bowl.
- Squeeze the onion completely and save the juice. Place the squeezed onion in a large bowl.
- Soak the bread in the onion juice for about 10 minutes.
- To the grated onion, add ground beef, chopped parsley, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cinnamon and dried mint. Mix well to make sure all the ingredients are well mixed.
- Add in the soaked bread and mix well. Knead the meat mixture using your hands.
- Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and place the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Form the meat mixture into patties and sear in the pan for about 4-5 minutes on each side.
- Serve with warm pita, yogurt sauce, fresh tomatoes, onion and cucumbers.
- If you would like to make this recipe gluten-free, simply use gluten free bread.
- You can use all lamb, all beef or a combination of lamb and beef in this recipe.
- Turn the gas grill on to medium high.
- Once it's hot, brush it with olive oil and place the kofta kebabs on the grill.
- Grill for about 5 minutes on one side, flip and cook for another 4 minutes on the other side.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF and coat a baking sheet with non stick spray.
- Place the kofta kebab patties on the baking sheet and brush them lightly with olive oil.
- Bake in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, flip halfway through.