Kofta, Kafta, or Kafka is often characterized as the Middle Eastern version of a hamburger. Yes, it’s made with ground beef, ground lamb, or both, but that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. Kofta is more like a sausage without the sausage casing. Sure, you can make this into patties like a burger and eat it on a bun and I guess that would be a burger, but generally, you eat kofta as is or in the occasional pita roll-up. I recently had Kofta as meatballs for the first time in a Moroccan restaurant in Paris, but they were over-spiced, overcooked, and the texture was all wrong, so don’t let bad preparations turn you away.
At my house, we might make kofta at any time, but it’s mostly for special occasions. Nonetheless, it’s a great food for grilling out in the summer. The flavors are best over a wood charcoal grill because that gives you the most authentic flavor, but the spices in the meat are so good that any grill will do. There are some recipes where the kofta is steamed/boiled or fried, but I don’t think they’re anywhere near as good as grilled. You tend to lose the tender texture when you aren’t grilling.
Once you’ve made the kofta it’s really pretty versatile. Eat it as is, in a sandwich with fresh vegetables and a cucumber yogurt sauce, or dip it into some hummus or barbecue sauce for a completely different blend of flavors.
Makes 24 pieces of Kofta at about 106 calories per piece.
Egyptian Grilled Kofta Recipe
Grilled Middle Eastern ground beef with spices.
- 2 pounds of 85/15 ground beef (about 1920 calories respectively)
Note: You can also use half ground beef and half ground lamb (or even all lamb), but make sure the lamb is really fresh or it can ruin the flavor.
- 1/2 cup of pureed onion (about 20 calories)
Note: You can also use very finely diced onion, but pureed is the way to go.
- 1/4 cup of diced parsley
- 1/3 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs (about 110 calories)
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil (about 480 calories)
- 1/8 teaspoon of Lebanese Seven Spice
Note: This is NOT the same as Chinese Five Spice and if you don’t have it, don’t worry about it because the recipe is pretty forgiving.
- 1/2 tablespoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Juice of half a lime (about 5 calories)
Note: If you don’t have a lime, it’s ok to skip this ingredient.
- Optional Spice Alternative: Instead of the Lebanese Seven Spice, parsley, salt, black pepper, and lime, you can use this stuff called “Spysi” that you can find at some Middle Eastern stores. It contains a packet of a lot of dried onion and mysterious spices (I’m serious, there’s very little description), but it gets you most of the flavors you need. Even with the dried onion though, you should still add pureed onion on your own.
- Large bowl for mixing
- Two large plates
- An outdoor or indoor grill
- Food processor for onions and parsley
- Cup, tablespoon, and teaspoon measurements
- A wooden spoon
- Puree an onion or two in the food processor.
- Using a food processor or very sharp knife, chop up some fresh parsley into very small pieces.
- Dump out two pounds of ground beef into a large bowl.
- Add the parsley, onion, oil, breadcrumbs, lime juice, and all of the other spices to the ground beef.
- Mix all of the ingredients using your hands (use latex gloves if you need to) by folding them over and over. Don’t mash the meat too much if you can avoid it. Just fold and churn until everything is well mixed. At this point the meat should smell delicious, but don’t eat it yet!
- Once mixed, grab a little bit of the meat (just enough to fit in the palm of your hand) and roll it into a ball.
- Then skewer the meatball with the handle of a clean wooden spoon and start to work the meatball into the shape of a sausage or hot dog. Make sure the meat is evenly distributed around the wooden spoon so that no side is too thick or thin. The Kofta will shrink when they cook, so don’t make them too short.
- Carefully remove the kofta from the wooden spoon handle and place aside on a plate. The kofta should have a hole through the middle, so don’t try to seal off the ends or anything. Repeat this process of rolling the kofta until all of the meat is finished.
- Set the grill to high heat if it’s an indoor grill or medium-high heat if it’s an outdoor grill and when the grill is hot, start grilling the kofta. Of course, I recommend using a wood charcoal grill for maximum flavor, but any grill will do in a pinch.
- After five minutes on one side, rotate the kofta onto the other side and grill for another 5 minutes. Then grill it a couple of minutes more on the un-charred sides. At this point, you can determine how you like the meat. I prefer it medium, but if you like it well done or medium-well, then just keep checking the meat until it’s where you want it.
- Place the kofta aside when cooked and remember that if you stack them together on a plate that they’ll cook a bit more even after you take them off the grill. Serve them immediately for the best taste, but they can also very easily get reheated in an oven or even the microwave.