Middle Eastern 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.
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, salads, dips, and sauces. 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 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.
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Make-Ahead: The patties can be made and refrigerated up to two days ahead of time.
- 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.
- 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.
Delicious! I made last night for hubby and myself. I halved all ingredients bec I only had 1 lb package of lamb (except garlic used 3 large cloves). I made Jen’s tzatziki (also tasty) and a tomato, cucumber and red onion salad with roasted beets. Yum! I have leftovers for another meal bec they are very filling. My homemade pita bread wasn’t too good but I’ll work on that. Overall a great meal which I’ll be making again.
We used an excellent meal kit company that, unfortunately, went out of business. One of our favorite recipes was for kofta, so as soon as I saw this recipe, I ordered the ingredients.
They were even better than the recipe we were using before – way more tender and tasty.
As a Greek-American, I have no tolerance for store-bought tzatziki, and this recipe instantly brought me back to all the summers I spent in Greece, sitting under the warm sun, gathered around the table with family.
Easy to make, this recipe has become part of our regular repertoire.
Prepare yourself for a tasty meal! My family loves this recipe. I make it with ground beef too- and the whipped feta- love it!
These are amazing and freeze really well!
This recipe is amazing! So easy to make and absolutely delicious!
Instead of grilling I decided to broil the kofta meatballs in the oven. The flavors are layered and meatballs were delightful and juicy.
Thanks so much for this recipe its a winner, have made it a few times now and everyone loves them. I have been cooking them over an open fire on skewers and they are so tasty. great recipe.
Made this last night – but I had only 1lb of lamb and wanted to feed my family of 4, so improvised by adding about 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs while keeping all other ingredients the same. It worked great though perhaps a bit milder in flavour than would be otherwise. It made 18 good sized kofta. Along with the tzatziki, I also served it with a fab tahini garlic sauce from the “Jerusalem” cookbook and feta and black olive rice. My fam loved it! I think the key to these kofta is the finely chopped veggie- I’ll use that trick again for all my meatballs. Thanks!
This recipe was fantastic! Minor notes: we used mixed nuts bc we didn’t have pine nuts. We also baked them at 375 for 18 mins. There were a tad dry so next time i’ll try cooking it at 350. We eat a lot of Turkish/Mediterranean so i was so excited to find a recipe i can make at home! We made a salad, couscous, and tzatziki sauce. Perfect meal, i highly recommend this recipe!
Loved the recipe. Easy and tasty and everyone who eats them likes them.
Wonderful recipe. Didn’t have any ground cloves but they were delightful without.
These were a great hit at a party last night. I cooked the kofta and then reheated them in the microwave.
Very tasty and everyone loved them. I added a little ginger to the mix.
Fantastic. We put them on skewers but other than that, followed recipe exactly. Had your tzatziki and a grilled eggplant, pepper, and onion salad with it. We will make it often.Thank you!
Hi Jenn – if frozen precooked, do I need to defrost before grilling or broiling in the oven?
Yes, I would defrost them first. Enjoy!
Excellent flavor – I felt like I was in Turkey as I smelled the grill. But I subbed beef for lamb which was much drier so I will add olive oil in the future so the meatballs stick together better.
So worth the effort. Unreal flavor
Tonight I made the Lamb kofta. It was delicious! I was nervous sending the patties out to the grill with my husband, thinking they would pull apart. I told him 4 minutes on each side. They arrived 8 minutes later absolutely perfectly cooked. Juicy and tender. So delicious. Wow !
I will share one thing I did that everyone commented on and it was a garlic sauce I made using the lovely juice extracted from the onion, garlic, pepper and jalapeño (vegetables from the kofta) use Greek yogurt, a little mayo, and a little sour cream. Add the drippings and extra garlic, some salt and lemon juice. I also added a full teaspoon of dried dill and let it sit in the fridge for a while.
So the lamb was served with naan ( made from my husbands sourdough ), hummus, and the Garlic dipping sauce
Five star meal.
Thanks Chef 💛
This is by far the best lamb kofta I’ve made. Served it with your tzadiki and hummus and red dal and pizza bread to dip. What a fabulous dinner-
Oh My Gosh !!! These are fabulous!!! I make them as often as I can and am now substituting ground chicken for heart health 🙂 I have frozen and used later, chopped up a couple, add some tabbouleh and voila, fabulous wraps! It lasts for a few days with only myself and my husband eating at home.
These were delicious!!! I figured out the tomato, cucumber, red onion salad from the picture before I saw the ingredients in the comments. That was so delicious too with fresh summer tomatoes. I plan to make them again next weekend, will add a little more jalapeño – I like them spicy! Fabulous and super easy to make!
Made tonight for the third time! We love this recipe!!
These look amazing. I will be surely giving this recipe a whirl soon. Could you share the details of the delicious tomato & cucumber salad in the main photo?
Hi Ambra, 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.
I thought these were pretty good, but a bit bland. I followed the recipe precisely, but left out the walnuts. I will make them again, but will probably double the spices.
How do you recommend reheating these kofta? They are delicious and we have some leftovers. I am worried that they may dry out when heating them the next day. Thank you.
I’d probably just microwave them briefly to heat through. Glad you liked them!
Hi there ! Love all your recipes !
Quick question : I don’t have a grill. It would be ok to bake this in the oven ? Thanks! Regards from Lisbon, Portugal.
Hi Cristiani, I would broil it to get a little browning and color. Hope you enjoy it!
I’ve now made this a few times as it has become my go to recipe for middle eastern kofta. You cannot go wrong with the mix of ingredients & blends of spices. I would have anarchy in my home if I used cilantro, so I use Italian parsley instead and this time only had almond meal and no other nuts. Regardless of the changes, my family loved the authenticity of the taste (including my picky eater). Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. It is a keeper!
Lots of ingredients but really easy to source (nothing I’ve never heard of or can’t find in my local store) and they take a bit of time, BUT they are definitely worth it. These are the most delicious home made koftas I’ve ever tasted. A no fail, authentic middle eastern recipe. Thank you for sharing it.
These were sooo good. Hubby & I both loved them!! I will admit that I swapped in ground turkey for the lamb. Neither hubby nor I care for lamb. I made them with the Israeli Salad with Feta, Tzatziki, and Zucchini Fritters with Feta – all from this site. Everything was wonderful!!
I have never cooked with lamb but always enjoy lamb at restaurants. I am very inspired by your recipes and now you have me cooking things I would have never thought of on my own to try or even search up a recipe for. All your recipes have been 5 star recipes. If anyone is debating on making this, don’t, make this and you will not regret it!
Absolutely delicious and enjoyed every bite! We grilled them and would like to try baking next time. Jenn-what temperature do you recommend Baking these at and time?
So glad you enjoyed them! You can broil them in the oven — cook time will be about the same.
I actually shallow fried them and then baked them in a hot oven for 7 mins 🙂
Made this last night, first kofta attempted they are absolutely amazing. Used half the amount of mince, and only had almonds (used 45g) and also used parsley instead of coriander. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Will be doing them again and again, and next time will try coriander and the different nuts.
This was my first time to cook lamb at home. I love Kofta at restaurants, but I was afraid it would taste gamey at home. Thanks to all those wonderful spices it came out SO GOOD w your carrot salad and other vege on the side. I’ll have to repeat. Next time with pine nuts and home made tzatziki sauce. Husband raved about it. Thank you!
Certainly the best kofta recipe I’ve ever made and possibly the best I’ve ever eaten – and this even with cooking them on a grill pan indoors rather than bbq’ing them! The spicing was intriguing, the vegetables added a marvellous juiciness and the nuts brought a whole new dimension to the flavour. Served them on pita with an Israeli salad, tahini and roasted aubergine and we were in East Med culinary heaven!
Omg best kofta recipe. I use my gowise USA kabob rotisserie with this recipe. I didn’t put the nuts in it and it turned out great! I cooked until internal temp at 145 degrees and they were so juicy!! Thank you!! I also added a little sumac in ground meat mixture. It was wonderful. Everyone loved it
Made this for dinner last night. I used half ground lamb half ground beef. I might grind the nuts a little finer next time. Used a pan grille indoors but they browned nicely. Great flavor! With tsatziki sauce and pita. I also made the Israeli salad with feta. (I swear by Bulgarian feta) My wife said she could eat this salad everyday. I also ordered your cookbook on Amazon. Thanks so much for your Mediterranean recipes.
You’re welcome (and thank YOU for your support with the cookbook)! 🙂
Fab fab fab!!!! I baked them for 20mins 200degreesC and they were delicious! Only thing I would do better next time is more salt 😆
These were great! I used vegan beef (Beyond Meat brand) instead of lamb, baked them instead of grilling, and served with a simple coriander chutney (cilantro, lime, olive oil, salt). Highly recommend!
THESE were the BEST!!! The flavors, your recipe ….intense BUT well worth the time!! Made this for Thanksgiving, along with some of your other recipes Jenn, we LOVED it!! Thanks much!! I’m a brand new fan!
I have never made kofta before, but tried this recipe today and my husband grilled them on the bbq. It was relatively easy and ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! I will definitely do this again soon!!! Thank you
The first time I made this was soon after you posted it. I had never had, much less made, a kofta before. Thank you very much for introducing it to me! It is delicious! And making it goes much faster than one would think given a long ingredient list. Grilling is a hassle at my house, so I have broiled them and sometimes I bake them. I served this dish to a friend in her 80s who had never had lamb before. She loved it, too.
I want too make these for a party but am aware that a couple of people have nut allergies. Can nuts be excluded from the recipe without changing the flavor of the finished kofta too much? I could safely use the pine nuts but what can I substitute for the almonds and walnuts?
Thanks! I’m looking forward to making these!
Hi Sandra, You can definitely replace the almonds and walnuts with more pine nuts.
I cannot say enough complimentary things about your recipes, many of which have become beloved staples in our household.
I want to make the lamb kofta ahead of time for a cottage vacation and then freeze them. Do you think they would freeze well for a week or two?
Yes, they will freeze nicely. (And thanks for your nice words about the recipes — so glad you like them!!)
I’d love to bring these to a picnic. Could I grill them at home and serve them at the picnic at room temperature?
Sure, Liz, that would work. Just from a food safety perspective though, I wouldn’t let them go for too long. Hope the picnic is fun!
Made a few modifications (1/2 Beef 1/2 Lamb) and omitted the Jalapeno.
The flavors in this were amazing! Probably the best Kofta I’ve ever had, and will absolutely be addd to our regular rotation. Thanks for sharing!
This was fantastic will make again. Everyone one of your recipes are a keeper, love the cookbook.
Glad you enjoyed the kofta and like the cookbook! 🙂
Delicious! I found 4 mins per side too much cooking time though at the heat of my BBQ, so will reduce next time. I halved the recipe but forgot to half the nuts yet it turned out great and had the benefit of sneaking in nutrition that my 7 year old otherwise refuses to eat.
Tried this out the other night for something different. I omitted the jalapeno to accommodate the sensitive palates of our 5 & 7-year-olds. Even so, we all loved it! It was great to enjoy the flavourfulness of the koftas – no carriers needed. It was a resounding, let’s make this again!
Absolutely loved this recipe. I made it ‘as-is’ except that I halved it as I only had 1lb ground lamb and I didn’t have propane to grill so I baked in the oven for about 18 minutes at 350 and they turned out great. Don’t skimp on the spices! It’s a wonderful, full flavor experience with nuts, veggies, and spices. I also made the hummus (amazing!) and served together with whole wheat pitta. This has been my favorite meal in the last month and that includes all of the holiday meals. Simple, good food! Thank you for sharing the recipes!
These were the BEST!!!! My grocery store was out of ground lamb, so I used ground chicken breast. It was wonderful! The ground nuts definitely put these over the top. Don’t skip the roasting step. I cooked these in the frying pan with olive oil and served these with tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and warm pita with garlic yogurt sauce. My whole family loved these. They are a keeper. Thank you for this recipe!
Loved these! The combo of herbs and nuts is amazing!
Delicious! I Made a salsa of finely diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion. Seasoned with salt, pepper, Olivie oil and oregano. Served with small naan rounds and topped with the tatziki, salsa and Kofta.
A winner with the kids
I made these on Sunday and my husband grilled them. They smelled just as good as they tasted. I thought we had frozen pine nuts but was wrong so made up the difference with an even mix of walnuts and almonds. Still incredible. Next time I think I’ll grind nut types separately as the almond chunks were bigger. We’re planning a holiday party and these will be served. Another excellent recipe. Thanks, Jennifer!
Top 5 flavor bombs ever. Sooo yummy. I followed recipe to a T and made the sides. We love lamb and always looking for new ways to prepare. I don’t think very many restaurants could top this one. Outstanding.
I’m very lucky to have a source of lamb from a great little family farm north of Detroit. I’ve been looking for a recipe to do justice to this amazing meat.
Your recipe was – stunning. Flavors just explode. I just got another 2lbs of fresh lamb, and I’m making it again tonight.