Lentil Balls

Lentil Balls | giverecipe.com

This special appetizer is another popular dish among Turkish women. Just like Kisir, it is an  indispensable taste of their gatherings in the afternoon. Of course it doesn’t mean that men doesn’t love lentil balls. Thay also love it as a snack. But maybe because generally women meet at a friend’s house in the afternoons, and make it together, lentil balls are more popular among them.

As Kisir and Lentil Balls are both made of bulgur (pounded wheat), they are alternatives for each other. And it is both a tradition and a must to serve tea with or after them. Bulgur easily makes you full and if you can not dominate your appetite and eat much, you may feel bad, have some trouble with your stomach. In this case, tea is your life saver. It definitely relaxes your stomach.

Unlike Kisir, lentil balls have lentils in its ingredients besides bulgur. You’ll taste the perfect combination of bulgur and red lentil with these lentil balls. There are two types of bulgur; small grain and big grain. Bulgur with big grain is for pilaf. We need bulgur with small grain here just like kisir.

Mercimekli Kofte

Ingredients (servings: 4)
•    1 cup red lentil
•    2 cups bulgur
•    3 cups water
•    3 tsp salt
•    3 tsp cumin
•    1 tsp red pepper flaes
•    1 tbsp tomato or red pepper paste
•    1 tea cup olive oil
•    1 big onion, diced
•    3 scallions, chopped thin
•    Half bunch of parsley, minced
•    Lettuce and lemon for serving

Clean the lentil, wash it and drain. Pour 3 cups water in a pot, add 1 tsp salt and the lentil in it. Boil it over medium heat until  tender (about 20 or 30 minutes). Lentils should be easily mashed after boiled. Take the pot from fire.

Add 2 cups bulgur into the same pot, while it is still hot. Combine it with bulgur and put the lid on. Wait it for 15 minutes until bulgur absorbs all the water in the pot. Then transfer this mixture in a large tray.

Saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil until golden brown. Add pepper paste, 3 tsp cumin and red pepper flakes into it. Saute it for a few minutes more.

Pour the sauted onion into the lentil – bulgur mixture. Add 2 tsp salt and start to knead it. They should be combined very well. But be careful, if it’s too hot to knead with hands, just start mixing it with a spoon and then when it reaches the heat enough to touch, knead it with hands for about ten minutes. Then add finely chopped scallion and parsley into it, knead it just to combine these greens into it, do not work on it much.

To serve it, take a piece from the mixture and shape it in your palm (one hand is enough) in two or three movements. You’ll see a nice shape with your finger marks on them. Put some leaves of fresh lettuce and place these lentil balls on it. Serve it with lemon slices.

Note: There is a special style of eating these balls. Put one of it in a lettuce leaf, squeeze lemon on it and roll. Now you can have a bite and want more.

Lentil Balls | giverecipe.com


  1. says

    MMMMM…Zerrin, these look superb!!!! I like the combination of the lentils with the rest!!!

  2. says

    As usual, these look delicious! I love the idea of rolling them in the lettuce – the crispness and freshness of the leaf is perfect with the soft texture of the lentil balls. Marvelous recipe!

  3. Leesie says

    These look so healthy and delicious! I would love to give them a try one day. I’ve never had bulgur. I’ve learned how to “soak” grains overnight. For example, I soak my oatmeal with 2-3 tablespoons of Kefir and a small amount of nuts in enough filtered water to cover. It not only cooks up faster in the morning, the whole soaking process makes (any) grains easier to digest. I will have to ask around if the same goes for bulgur as I wonder if soaking bulgur could also help avoid stomach problems. Just a thought.

    Thanks again, Zerrin! I hope you enjoyed the Ramadan holiday. I enjoyed learning so much about it, and the Turkish culture. I truly appreciate the Turkish tradition and culture and mostly because neighbors still gather together to cook and eat.

  4. says

    yummy lentil balls! I love how they have a lot of great spices in it to give them a nice flavorful kick

  5. says

    My 3 1/2 year old and I made these today. We have made this several times and my daughter loves them. She really enjoyed mixing and squeezing and kneading with her hands! It is as fun as playdough….who says you can’t play with your food!

    Following your recipe, I found them to be a little pale and bland to my taste (I usually play around with seasonings since I like things a little spicy), so I use a tablespoon EACH of hot pepper paste AND tomato paste and I added the juice of a whole lemon directly to the mixture when I added the parsley and green onion. I sometimes don’t want to “bother” with the lettuce and lemon, so these spiced up ones are better “plain”. I use 1/3 cup olive oil. I wasn’t sure how much a “tea cup” was and I think the 1/3 of an 8 ounce cup worked fine. I do always have to work extra water into the mixture as I am kneading it—it is SO DRY! In fact, I used 4 cups of water to cook the lentils, but I STILL had to add more when I was kneading. I suspect that it will absorb as much water as you put in it if it sits long enough! I use disposable gloves to keep from staining my hands when I am doing the mixing. This is a super good food to mix up and keep ready for a quick lunch, and it is also easy to take on a picnic or just put in a insulated lunchbox when you are out running around….no expensive and unhealthy fast food for me when I am on the go!

    It definitely goes well with the onion salad! I used red onions the first time I made the salad, but when I made it the second time with yellow onions and the sumac my daughter’s aunt brought from Tarsus (much brighter than what I find in the store), after mixing it up, it was a pretty purplish color just from the sumac! Purple onions are more expensive here, but I guess they have extra phyto-nutrients, but I like being able to use the cheaper onions. I saw a friend roll up some onion salad along with the lentil ball, and that was a neat trick! Tasty!

    Thank you so much, Zerrin, for your great recipes and fantastic pictures and stories.


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