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Middle Eastern Lamb Kofta

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Lamb Kofta

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Made with fragrant spices, roasted nuts, herbs and aromatics, this lamb kofta will take your taste buds on an adventure.

middle eastern lamb kofta

Kofta is a Middle Eastern dish made from ground lamb or beef mixed with onions, garlic, and spices. The meat mixture is shaped into balls, patties or logs, and then grilled and served with pita, Israeli salads, hummus, and tahini sauce. There are endless variations of kofta throughout the Middle East — I have a fantastic recipe for Persian beef kofta in my first cookbook — but I learned this version from a kebab maker in the Old City of Jerusalem. His secret was to add minced vegetables, toasted nuts, herbs, and spices to the meat to give the kofta deep, complex flavor. Think beyond grilled chicken and steakhouse burgers; this is what you should be serving at your cookouts this summer!

What you’ll need To Make Middle Eastern Lamb Kofta

How To Make Middle Eastern Lamb Kofta

To begin, place the nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

Pulse until finely chopped but not pasty.

Transfer the nuts to a small dry skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes. Set aside to cool. (But don’t leave the nuts in the pan, as the residual heat may cause them to burn.)

Place the onion, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro in the bowl of the food processor (no need to clean it first).

Pulse until the vegetables are finely minced but not puréed.

Set a fine sieve over a bowl. Transfer the minced vegetables to the sieve and use a rubber spatula to press out as much liquid as possible.

In a large bowl, combine the minced veggies, nuts, lamb, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, salt, and white pepper.

Using your hands, mash the mixture together until evenly combined.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Form the mixture into patties about 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick (they will puff up on the grill to look like meatballs). Place on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and oil the grates. Place the kofta on the grill and cook, covered, until browned, about 4 minutes per side or until cooked through.

Serve the kofta with tzatziki and hummus, and enjoy! For more Israeli-inspired recipes, check out my hummus, sufganiyot, shakshuka and creamy whipped feta.

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Middle Eastern Lamb Kofta

Made with fragrant spices, roasted nuts, herbs and aromatics, this lamb kofta will take your taste buds on an adventure.

Servings: 6 (about 28 golf ball-sized meatballs)
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup each pine nuts, almonds, and walnuts (total ¾ cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped (see note)
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, gently packed (okay to substitute parsley)
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Heaping ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Heaping ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Heaping ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • Tzatziki and hummus, for serving

Instructions

  1. Place the nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until finely chopped but not pasty. Transfer the nuts to a small dry skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes. Pour the nuts into mixing bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients, and set aside to cool. (Don't leave the nuts in the pan, as the residual heat may cause them to burn.)
  2. Place the onion, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro in the bowl of the food processor (no need to clean it first). Pulse until the vegetables are finely minced but not puréed. Set a fine sieve over a medium bowl. Transfer the minced vegetables to the sieve and use a rubber spatula to press out as much liquid as possible. Add the strained vegetable mixture to the bowl with the nuts.
  3. To the veggies and nuts, add the lamb, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, salt, and white pepper. Using your hands, mash the mixture together until evenly combined.
  4. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Form the mixture into patties about 2 inches in diameter and ½-inch thick (they will puff up on the grill to look like meatballs). Place on the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, then refrigerate until ready to cook.
  5. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and oil the grates. Place the kofta on the grill and cook, covered, until browned, about 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Serve with tzatziki and hummus.
  6. Note: If you like your kofta spicy, reserve some of the seeds from the jalapeño pepper and add them with the vegetables. Also, be sure to wash your hands well after handling hot peppers, and do not touch your eyes while working with them.
  7. Make-Ahead: The patties can be made and refrigerated up to two days ahead of time.
  8. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The uncooked patties can be frozen for up to three months. (Freeze the patties on a baking sheet or plate so their shape sets, then transfer them to a sealable plastic bag for easy storage.) Defrost the burgers overnight in the refrigerator prior to serving and then cook as directed.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 4 meatballs
  • Calories: 438
  • Fat: 36 g
  • Saturated fat: 14 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4 g
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 23 g
  • Sodium: 382 mg
  • Cholesterol: 95 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

See more recipes:

Comments

  • Another knockout recipe! Spectacular flavor, and so healthy. My only issue was the heat setting & cooking time. Maybe my grill runs hot, but medium high for 4 minutes per side burned many of them. Next time I’ll use a lower heat and check on them more often. Rookie mistake. I made Jenn’s hummus and currant & almond basmati pilaf to accompany them, and it was an outstanding meal.

    • — Julia H on January 16, 2024
    • Reply
  • Every time I make this, we just love it. Great flavor. Easy to make.

    • — Nancy S Dressel on December 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • We use impossible meat for this recipe and it is a family favorite!

    • — Melissa on November 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • This was really great, a “restaurant meal” as my husband says! Served with hummus, (your recipe , yum!),tzatziki, tomato feta salad, sautéed asparagus and pita. I also broiled instead of grilled and omitted the nuts due to allergy. Absolutely delicious!

    • — Shari on October 31, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi, Jenn – Any suggestions for making these with ground chicken or turkey rather than lamb? I usually have no issues with substitutions, but just thought you might have some pointers.
    Thanks in advance.

    • — Priya Morganstern on September 21, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Priya, I haven’t tried it but turkey might work — just don’t purchase the extra lean as the kofta will turn out dry. If you try it, please LMK how it turns out. 🙂

      • — Jenn on September 22, 2023
      • Reply
  • Haven’t tried this yet – but I am allergic to tree nuts. Do the nuts help bind the meat or otherwise absorb moisture? Could you substitute breadcrumbs or just omit from recipe?

    • — MELISSA on September 17, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Melissa, you can just omit the nuts – they’ll still be delicious. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 18, 2023
      • Reply
  • I would love to make this dish, but do not have an outdoor grill. How about oven baked or broiled? Would this work out well or would modifications be necessary?

    Thank you.

    • — E. Nussbaum on September 17, 2023
    • Reply
    • You can absolutely broil these – the cook time would be about the same. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 17, 2023
      • Reply
      • Sorry, Jenn! Didn’t see that you’d replied! So won’t baking (not broiling necessarily) also work?

        • — Joy on September 17, 2023
        • Reply
        • Yes baking will work, too, but you won’t get that nice color that you’d get from the grill or the broiler.

          • — Jenn on September 18, 2023
          • Reply
    • I too don’t have an outdoor grill, but imagine it can easily be done in the oven. I would guess at 350 F for about 20 to 30 minutes. We’ll see what Jenn says, but it works for most other meatballs!

      • — Joy on September 17, 2023
      • Reply
  • Made three batches for a party and everyone was duly impressed! Used a 50/50 mixture of lamb and beef.

    • — Liz Drake on September 17, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hey, Jenn! Have you seen the cost of pine nuts lately (for the kofta). What’s a good substitute? Yours is my goto site for truly tasty cooking.

    • — Anna on September 17, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! You can just replace the pine nuts with more almonds or walnuts. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 18, 2023
      • Reply
  • Thank you Jenn — again — for adding a new recipe to my ‘go to’ list! We made this recipe with ground beef instead of lamb, but otherwise followed the recipe and it was delicious. Will definitely make again!

    • — Ashlea on August 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • My boyfriend hates me for coining the term “JTJ” i.e. Just Trust Jenn. But Thank you for another incredible recipe, and your cookbook just arrived so I greatly look toward to trying the the Persian kofta version!

    • — Ty on August 4, 2023
    • Reply
    • LOL — I’m so flattered! 💗

      • — Jenn on August 7, 2023
      • Reply
  • I loved this.Very delicious.

    • — Tina Shaheen on July 14, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi, I can’t find ground cardamom anywhere – what would you suggest instead please?

    • — Julie on April 20, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Julie, you can replace it with more cinnamon. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • Do you think this would taste ok with ground venison?

    • — Linsey on April 15, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Linsey, I’ve never made these with venison so I can’t say for sure, but I think they’ll come out nicely. 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 17, 2023
      • Reply
    • Hey Linsey – I was planning to make these with Venison this week – did you try it? How did it come out?

      • — NRH on September 24, 2023
      • Reply
  • She can call it Israeli if she was inspired by Israeli people or recipes. It doesn’t matter.

    • — Jamie on March 30, 2023
    • Reply
  • So delicious! I did not have almonds so I used pistachios instead and it worked great. I will definitely use this recipe again!

    • — Hailey D on January 20, 2023
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  • I made the lamb kofta/meatballs for a Greek themed party last night. Lots of recipe requests!
    Delicious!

    • — Teresa Valeri on January 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made this for the first time last night. It was a great starting point for me to try a second time. I found the spices and vegetables did not shine through as I would have liked, so will up the quantity next time.

    • — Rod on September 5, 2022
    • Reply
  • Incredible texture and taste.

    • — Amanda on August 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Many of Jenn’s recipes are my go to, but this one is quite special. We love it at home and I have wowed even the pickiest eaters. I usually serve it with the spiced basmati rice recipe and a fattoush salad.

    • — Paulette on August 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! I made these last night for dinner for my husband and me. I halved the recipe since we were only 2 people, but we couldn’t stop eating them. I made 14 of the patties-only 3 are left. The tzatziki was so good with it. I served it with cilantro rice and steamed green beans. Restaurant worthy.

    • — Nancy Dressel on August 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made these tonight, and they were delicious! I subbed all beef because we were going to be bringing some to a friend who doesn’t eat lamb, and they were still extremely flavorful and juicy. We’re big lamb fans here (being Greek myself) so I’m looking forward to trying the recipe as written. I found the recipe easy to put together because you only have to rough chop everything. My only difficulty was turning them on the grill fast enough 🤣 I served these with (store bought) pita and hummus. I think I’ll add a tomato/cucumber salad next time, too. Thanks for another great recipe, Jenn!

    • — Alex S. on July 18, 2022
    • Reply
    • I made these again with lamb, and WOW!!

      • — Alex S. on August 23, 2022
      • Reply
  • I made these the other day and they were fantastic! I skipped the almonds (not a fan!). I didn’t want to grill or broil them, so I browned them in canola oil in a skillet than baked them at 375F on a baking sheet for about 8 minutes, until they were 165F. Enjoyed them with homemade hummus, they were amazing. Sadly, I forgot to take pix, they were beautiful. I will next time! And will make your recipe for naan.

    • — Michael Kane on July 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    I just made your Persian kofta with tzatziki from your cookbook Once Upon a Chef, the cookbook. I love it and look forward to making the full recipe with naan bread for company. I’m sorry but I have no where else to ask this question.

    I only made half the recipe and used 2 Tbls. oat milk instead of milk (need dairy free).

    They were so good, but fall apart moist. Do you have any recommendations to firm them up?

    • — Cheryl on June 26, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Cheryl, glad you liked the kofta but sorry you had a problem with them falling apart! If you make them again, I’d omit the gelatin and cut the milk back to 3 tablespoons. Hope you have better luck next time!

      • — Jenn on June 28, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, Do you have the recipe for the awesome looking salad shown in the picture of this recipe? The prep and the picture makes this look soooooo inviting. LOL

    • — lawrence J schwarz on June 24, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Lawrence, That’s not an actual recipe of mine — it’s just a combo of tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion mixed with olive oil, lemon, cilantro, salt, pepper, and za’atar. You could give that a try. This would also be good with my Israeli salad.

      • — Jenn on June 24, 2022
      • Reply
  • My sister is highly allergic to bell peppers. Is there anything else I can use to substitute or should I just omit it?

    • — Vicki on June 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Vicki, I’d substitute one large or two medium carrots. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 27, 2022
      • Reply
  • Fabulously tasty, especially on your naan with your tzatziki and some tomatoes, onions, and greens. We love gyros, and this is a great substitute that we can enjoy at a moment’s notice. Extras are wonderful for snacks. (we cook ahead so there are quick heat-ups from the freezer for drop in guests and fast meals on dog tired nights. That way, grilling can be done when the sun shines and the flavor is preserved for rainy days.)

    The old saying “never make a new recipe for the first time when cooking for guests” has been put to the lie now that I am regularly cooking your recipes. Not one recipe has been a miss. I have been singing your praises to my friends, and those who’ve shared meals with us are onto your site in a flash. Thank you so much for your careful recipe trialing and instructions which ensure success, if people follow them without question. You are a skilled teacher, and from what I have read in comments, VERY patient.

    • — Barb on March 22, 2022
    • Reply
    • 💗

      • — Jenn on March 23, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hands down the best Kofta I have ever made. I was super skeptical about the cinnamon and ground clove, but boy they were perfect. I didn’t have any cardamom on hand so I substituted coriander because that is what I had on hand. I also made the tzatziki and hummus to go with it and they were amazing as well. I should have tried this sooner.

    • — Deanna Street on March 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • I accidentally grabbed a pound of ground lamb instead of pork and was at a loss for what to do with it. This kofta recipe was a bit labor intensive but the taste was worth every minute! Shaped the meat into 8 ovals and baked at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, served with tzatziki…. tastiest mistake I ever made!

  • Can these be made in advance and reheated ?
    Thanks

    • Sure, Anne – these reheat well.

      • Thanks Jen

  • This was outstanding! I made this last night in a grill pan and already passed the recipe along to a bunch of friends and family. This is definitely company-worthy, and as good as (if not better than) a lot of Middle Eastern lamb dishes we’ve had at restaurants.

  • Im not a lamb lover so I made these with half pork & half beef. I rolled them into golf ball size balls for an appetizer and served with tzakziki. They were soooo flavourful. Thanks for another great recipe!

    • — Joanne McLennan
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, do you think parsley could be subbed for the cilantro? I am one of those people who dislikes cilantro in anything. Thank you!

    • Definitely. Hope you enjoy!

  • I’d like to make this but don’t have a grill. Can I bake in the oven? If so what temperature and time would you recommend?

    • Hi Stephanie, You can cook these in the oven but I’d broil them — cook time will be about the same. Hope you enjoy!

  • This dish is, in a word – DELICIOUS! We were hosting several people for dinner last night and I served the Kofta with (my homemade) Pita, and Jenn’s Tzatziki and Hummus as suggested. Everyone LOVED this meal. Will make again and again!

  • I used Impossible meat to make this, my vegetarian son loved it and now I make it often, thanks for sharing a great recipe!

  • Hi Jenn,
    Can I make this recipe with beef instead of lamb?

    • Sure – enjoy!

  • I know OUAC recipes are fool proof and always better than good but every time I make these I am blown away at how good they are. The combination of nuts and veggies with the ground lamb and wonderful spices gives them a juicy, complex flavor that is unique. I make them all summer long in double quantity, slightly larger (slider sized) and freeze them. I don’t vary or substitute anything because perfection is not to be tweaked with.

  • This is such a great recipe, thank you! Very tasty. We serve it with sautéed cherry tomatoes and spinach, couscous and hummus, babaganoush or tzatziki. I’ve made this several now. One of our new favourites.

  • Jenn, your recipes are sure-fire winners all the time – thank you! We plan to make the lamb kofta for a picnic with friends but cannot use garlic (due to an allergy). Should I just omit the garlic or substitute with something else? Many thanks, Carroll

    • Hi Carroll, So glad you like the recipes! I’d just omit the garlic and add a bit more onion. Hope everyone enjoys!

  • These were delicious. Served with hummus and Tzatziki from your recipes. Also homemade pita and a Greek style salad. Definitely worth a repeat!

  • I am making these tonight!!

    Too cold to stand outside and grill so maybe I’ll use stove top grill pan!

    • Great recipe, even though sunflower seeds are all that I had!

  • hi Jen, I am looking forward to making this recipe but I don’t have a barbecue. If I want to bake these, what temperature should I bake them at, and how long should I bake them for? (and thank you, I really love your recipes)

    • Hi Cathleen, So glad you enjoyed the recipes! You can cook these in the oven. I’d broil them — cook time will be about the same.

  • Great recipe! One of my teen sons said it was “fresh and flavorful”. We made our own pita bread and the hummus.

  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon for 2lb of meat :D. How’s that going to enhance the flavour? Ha ha ha

  • Wow! These are delicious!! Especially with Jenn’s naan and hummus. 🙂 I make these on the weekend, then freeze them to be grilled or broiled after work. I highly recommend making these!

  • Another winner! Great meal tonight with the tzatziki, Israeli salad and hummus. Not having a grill, I baked them like the Vietnamese “flavour-bombs” but would also like to try broiling them. I’d love any advice. Thanks again for the lovely recipes.🥰

    • Glad you enjoyed them! You can definitely broil these in the oven; the cook-time will be about the same. (And so glad you like the recipes!) 🙂

      • Thanks! And super excited that there’s a second book coming out. Good luck.

        • Thank you!! 🙂

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