Turkish Köfte Recipe
If you visit Turkey, you’ll see köfte—balls of ground meat (or sometimes ground vegetables) seasoned with onion, herbs, and spices—everywhere. The recipes vary from region to region and town to town. Some köfte are made with bulgur, rice, or breadcrumbs; others are meat only, mostly lamb, but sometimes a combination of beef and lamb. They are served with flatbread, onions sprinkled with sumac, and yogurt.
Special equipment: Roll your köfte meat around wide, flat wooden skewers. If you use thin skewers, your köfte will likely fall into the grill.
You’ll also need four standard 4-1/2-pound bricks. Wrapped in foil and placed in pairs on opposite ends of the grill, they hold the ends of the skewers aloft so that the köfte float well above the flames as they cook. Bricks can be purchased at most hardware stores.
Game plan: To prepare the köfte indoors, set the broiler to high and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Form the lamb mixture into flat meatballs (no skewers) and place them on a baking sheet, making sure they’re not touching. Broil until the köfte are no longer pink in the middle, about 10 minutes.
This recipe was our featured Gateway Dish for Turkey.
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup grated red onion, grated on the small holes of a box grater
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 2 teaspoons ground sumac
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
- Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium high (about 375°F). Arrange 2 foil-covered bricks on one side of the grill grate. Place 2 more foil-covered bricks opposite the others, about 10 inches away. Soak 8 wide, flat wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until evenly incorporated and the meat appears sticky, about 5 minutes.
- Check the seasoning by forming a small, thin patty. Pan-fry until the center is no longer raw. Taste and add additional seasoning to the meat mixture as desired.
- Fill a medium bowl with warm water and wet your hands in it. Divide the meat mixture into 8 portions, wetting your hands as necessary to prevent sticking. Starting at least 3 inches from the sharp end of a skewer, form the meat around the skewer into a sausage shape about 4 1/2 inches long. To secure the meat on the skewer, open and close your fingers along it, moving up and down the skewer and flattening the meat, creating consecutive grooves. Refrigerate the skewers until the grill is ready.
- Once the grill is ready, place the ends of each skewer on opposite bricks so that the köfte are suspended in the air above the flames and grill grate. Cover the grill and cook, turning the skewers occasionally, until the köfte are no longer pink in the middle, about 8 to 9 minutes. Serve over flatbread with sumac and onion salad, yogurt, and pickled vegetables.