International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Kefta meatballs with yogurt sauce

(Middle Eastern spiced meatballs)

Image by tvol

Average: 3.8 (63 votes)

Spiced meatballs are common in one form or another from Morocco in the west through the Middle East (kefta or kufta), to Greece (keftedes), Turkey (köfte), Armenia (kufta), Iran (kufteh, or koofteh) and all the way to India (kofta) in the east. All names for these little balls of wonder derive from the Persian verb kuftan, which means "to grind."

4 to 6 servings, or about 20 meatballs


  • Ground lamb or beef, or a mixture of the two -- 2 pounds
  • Onion, minced -- 1
  • Fresh parsley or mint, finely chopped -- 1/2 bunch
  • Ground cumin -- 1 tablespoon
  • Cinnamon -- 2 teaspoons
  • Allspice (optional) -- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt and pepper -- to season
  • Oil -- 1/4 cup


  1. Place the ground beef or lamb, onion, herbs, spices, salt and pepper in a large bowl and knead together well. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 to 2 hours to allow the flavors to mingle and make the meat easier to handle.
  2. Form the meat mixture into balls, patties or ovals the size of a small egg.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium flame and, working in batches, sauté the meatballs until browned on all sides and cooked through. Browned meatballs can also be finished in a 350ºF oven.
  4. Serve as is or in pita bread as a sandwich with tzatziki sauce.

Kefta Variations

  • Keftedes (Greece): Add some breadcrumbs and a little red wine to the meat mixture.
  • Köfte (Turkey): Add some breadcrumbs and form the meat into a sausage shape on skewers. Oil the meat well and grill over hot coals.
  • Kofta (India): Use ground lamb. Simmer the meatballs in a curry sauce.
  • Before frying, you can roll the kefta in some flour and shake off the extra to help them brown.
  • Experiment with different seasonings: coriander, cayenne, sesame seeds.


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