Homemade Turkish Meatballs known as kofte are the best things to happen on your dinner table. These are spicy, tender and perfectly juicy. It’s not a secret any more to make meatballs at home that are much tastier than store-bought ones.
Turkish meatballs turn a dinner table into an authentic feast when served with sumac onions, Turkish bean salad called piyaz and Turkish cold cucumber dip aka cacik. They are easy to make and make a perfect family dinner. That's why this is one of our most popular Turkish food recipes.
We learnt how to make such scrumptious meatballs from a small meatball restaurant (Small ones are always better than the big ones at making meatballs). One day, we just couldn’t wait any longer to ask for their kofte recipe when we were enjoying Turkish baklava as an after dinner treat. The chef was so kind. He said “I’ll give my recipe provided that you won’t tell it to other chefs.” And added "You’re not planning to open a köfte restaurant here, are you?"
What Is Kofta or Kofte?
Kofte is the term used in Turkish cuisine for meatballs. It is a ball shaped ground beef dish. In a basic kofte recipe, ground beef, lamb or a combination of these two is combined with bread crumbs, onion, garlic and spices. Then shaped in balls and cooked over grill, stove or in oven. There are zillions of varieties in the country, one of which is spicy kofta kebab.
And we are sharing the most common kofta recipe here. You can serve these either on a plate with some pita on the side or in a sandwich bread or in a wrap using lavash or flour tortilla.
Turkish Kofta Spice Mix
Although what spices to add in a kofta mixture is up to your taste, the best Turkish kofte has the following spices: salt, cumin, black pepper and dried thyme. In addition to these, some kofta recipes include a few more spices such as chili powder, red pepper flakes, Urfa Biber or Aleppo pepper. These are basic spices we use when making Turkish kofta, but you can get creative and add your favorite spices as well. We sometimes add a pinch of cinnamon or curry powder when we need a change, but these are not included in an authentic Turkish kofta recipe.
Turkish Kofte Recipe Ingredients
We mostly make it with ground beef, that is 80% lean. If you like the flavor of lamb, you can use a combination of lamb and beef. It will become even moister that way.
Besides ground beef, we use kofte spice mix, onions (finely chopped or pureed), garlic and bread crumbs. You can substitute 2 slices of bread (crumbled) for bread crumbs. Mom adds finely chopped parsley in the mixture and we love it too. It makes a wonderful twist on classic meatballs.
Key Ingredients For The Fluffiest Turkish Kofte
Besides the ingredients above, there are three ingredients that will help you have fluffy meatballs. These are: baking soda, lemon juice and water. Mix these in a small bowl and pour in the ground beef mixture. Combine them all and let the mixture sit in the refrigerator at least 2-3 hours for the best result.
How To Make Kofte Recipe
This is the best kofte recipe we've ever made. If we can make it, you can too. It has five easy parts:
First, in a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, onion and garlic.
Add in spices.
Second, in a small bowl mix baking soda lemon juice and water. Pour it in the ground beef mixture.
Third, using your hand, mix everything well. Knead it for about a minute and chill in the refrigerator covered for 2-3 hours.
Fourth, roll the mixture into balls. Brush a large plate with a little olive oil and place each meatball on it. Olive oil will prevent them from sticking on the plate.
Fifth, cook the meatballs in a cast iron pan in batches. Heat a little oil in the pan and place the meatballs in it. Cook them over high heat first for about 30 seconds, flipping them over. Then bring the heat to the lowest and keep cooking until done, shaking the pan occasionally.
Tips On Turkish Meatballs
It is simple and easy to make these at home but has some secrets. You feel that there is always something missing in your homemade koftes. When you make Turkish meatballs from scratch, you need to know some tips to make them as tasty and juicy as the ones you eat out.
- What makes Turkish meatballs that tasty is the type of meat used. You need to buy the right ground beef for flavorsome meatballs. Forget about lean ground beef and ask for 20% fat, which means 80% lean. You need fat to keep your meatballs moist on the inside.
- Another thing when buying ground beef is asking for freshly ground. Don’t buy packaged ground beef, you can never be sure the type of beef inside those packages.Also, it’s not good when it sits for a long time. Finally, have it double ground.
- The key ingredient for oh-so-good meatballs is baking soda. It helps them have that tenderness.
- You need to prepare the meatball mixture and let it rest in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Overnight is the best.
- You should dice the onions super finely or puree it.
- If you are at home and don’t have a grill or barbecue, the best way to cook Turkish meatballs is in a cast iron pan.
- Start cooking them on the highest heat, flipping them over so that all sides equally change the color, for 2 minutes. Then bring it to the lowest heat and continue cooking until done, for about 10 minutes.
What To Serve With
Meatballs are probably the best Turkish fast food you can either eat out or make at home. You can find its several varieties in each city around the country. Turkish meatballs are grilled and served with a traditional coban salad and pilaf with bulgur and lentils on the side.
Turkish cacik (Greek tzatziki) gives a nice refreshment when served with meatballs. Other sides to serve with meatballs are herbs, pickles, hot tomato sauce, roasted onions or fried oyster mushrooms, garlic or peppers. These are accompanied by yogurt drink ayran, which is a cold drink that goes well with any meat dish.
If your family already loves pasta and meatballs together, serve these with Fettuccine In Easy Creamy Tomato Sauce.
Can Kofte Be Frozen?
Moms in Turkey have always meatballs in the freezer and these are their number one option whenever they feel stuck to decide what to cook for dinner. It’s for sure that their family will devour it. They can cook these kofte meatballs in several different ways: Simply fry them, grill on an iron pan, cook meatball stew with vegetables and tomato sauce made from tomato paste or make a Middle Eastern eggplant kebab in oven.
How to Freeze
Form the ground beef mixture into patties. Lay them over a large plate in a single layer. Let them sit in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the freezer and put them in freezer bags. They don’t stick to one another this way.
You can take the meatballs straight from the freezer and cook. No need for defrosting. You can imagine how time and life saving it is when you have starving people running around you on a busy weekday.
You won’t want to buy meatballs from stores anymore once you try this recipe. I highly recommend you to make a big batch of these kofte patties and freeze them for busy weeknight dinners. Sometimes I form the patties larger, just as big as burgers and turn my Turkish meatballs into amazing hamburgers.
More Meatball Recipes
- Gluten Free Meatballs
- Chili Sauce Meatballs
- Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake
- Meatballs and Potatoes
- Meatballs With Cheese Center
- Sweet and Sour Meatballs (Slow Cooker) from Dinner At The Zoo
Other Turkish Recipes
As always: If you make this recipe, let us know what you think by rating it and leaving a comment below. And post a pic on Instagram too—tag @give_recipe so we can see!
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Homemade Turkish Meatballs Kofte Recipe
Spicy and juicy Turkish meatballs from scratch. You can use the same recipe to make hamburgers.
- Prep Time: 8 hours
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
- Yield: 50 meatballs 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: Turkish
- 2 pounds ground beef, 80% lean
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 2 onions, finely chopped or pureed
- 4 cloves garlic, mashed (optional)
- 1 and ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper, optional
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon chili powder, optional
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef, breadcrumbs, finely diced onion and mashed garlic.
- Add in the spices.
- In a small bowl, mix baking soda, water and lemon juice. Pour this into the ground beef mixture. Mix well with your hand. Knead it for about a minute so that everything is combined well.
- Cover and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight or at least 2-3 hours.
- Roll them into meatballs.
- Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan or any non-stick pan. Cook the meatballs over high heat, flipping them over or shaking the pan occasionally so that all sides are cooked for about 3 minutes. Don't overcrowd the pan, cook the meatballs in batches until they finish or save some to freeze.
If you can’t find 80% lean beef, use a mixture of lamb and beef (50% lamb, 50% beef).
Prep time includes waiting the meatballs in the refrigerator.
- Serving Size: 6 meatballs
- Calories: 332
- Sugar: 2.1 g
- Sodium: 865.2 mg
- Fat: 23.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 9.1 g
- Protein: 20.8 g
- Cholesterol: 80.2 mg
Keywords: kofte recipe, turkish meatballs, kofta recipe
Ah çok harika ya. Lived in Türkiye for 7 years while in the Air Force. Went back and forth a couple of times. Love everything about Turkish cuisine. Found this recipe, made a few tweaks from what I remember. Could not be happier. Çok lezzetli. Added a little çoban salatası and it was heaven. Her şey çok teşekkür ederim!!!
Zerrin & Yusuf says
We are so glad you liked our köfte recipe. It is one of the classics in Turkey, right? And it goes really well with çoban salatasi. Thank you for letting us know what you think about the recipe.
Bir şey değil. It’s weekly now. Kesinlikle en iyi güzel!!!
To quote my husband, "Wow. Wow. Wow." Forget the five stars. I'll take three Wows any day. Absolutely delicious. Served with the cacik from this site. Tomorrow I'll try with the lavash. Thank you so much.
Zerrin & Yusuf says
Such a great compliment! This is music to our ears. We are so glad you guys enjoy our kofte recipe. It is one of our go-to dinner recipes and we always have some in the freezer. They go really well with cacik and lavash.
Delicious! An extended family favorite! Thank you for sharing
Zerrin & Yusuf says
So happy to hear that you all liked it!
Glenda Roberts says
Thank you. This was a very delicious recipe & I shall be making them many times over!💝👌
Zerrin & Yusuf says
Hi Glenda! We are so happy to hear that you liked the recipe. It is one of our go-to dinner recipes, so we always have some uncooked kofte in the freezer 🙂
We would really appreciate if you could give a rating (star rating) to the recipe in the comments section.
Lydia Strong says
My son did a study tour in Turkey as part of his college degree. He recently asked me if I could make some Turkish meatballs for him, he had eaten so many when he was in Turkey and really liked them. I followed your recipe with some red pepper flakes -- the meatballs turned out a bit spicier than he preferred. Second batch: no red pepper flakes, but I used a cayenne pepper instead of black pepper. Not quite spicy enough. Nevertheless, he liked both batches, so I'm still looking for the exact spice mix to suit our family's tastes.
I am making these for friends today! I prefer to use oven. Do you happen to have baking instructions? Thank you!
Zerrin & Yusuf says
Hope this is not a late answer for you. You can bake these at a preheated oven to 180C (350F). Place the meatballs in a single layer on a large baking tray lined with parchment paper. And bake for 30-40 minutes. It is important to put them in a single layer, otherwise they might release too much water.
I baked for 40 minutes and they turned out perfect!! They were delicious. In fact, will be making them again for my husband tonight. Thank you so kindly for responding!
Zerrin & Yusuf says
We are glad you liked the result. Thank you for coming back and sharing your experience. Hope your husband loves them too.
Made these as per recipe, except I have no red pepper flakes so missed out. I also formed into patties as I think they cook better and it’s more authentic to what we’ve had in Turkey. I didn’t have time to leave before cooking but they were still absolutely delicious! I print all recipes I try and write any comments from my partner as he’s a fussy so and so! This one says ‘5* blooming lovely’! This was his favourite meal in Turkey 🙂 will be done again!!
Zerrin & Yusuf says
Your comment made our day! So happy to hear that your partner and you loved these meatballs.
Thank you for coming back and sharing your thoughts with us.
I'm just watching Alex, the French food guy, in Istanbul learning to make kofte from a Turkish woman, who says beef, pork, lamb, all good, should be 30 percent fat. And she definitely includes cinnamon in her version of traditional kofta. But then she is Turkish. And these "meatballs" are rarely round like what we call a meatball. More flattened with an edge that can get crispy (and cancer causing, I guess, but I don't care!). Crispy meat edges taste good.
Recipe is classic pretty much. There is surely room for improvements..
Baking soda - absolutely unnecessary does NOTHING for the fluffiness of the end meatball product but only contributes to possible major health problems. Baking soda is something that should be used sparingly, occasionally or best avoid altogether in cooking and baking. There are millions of ways to do without it.
The easiest method to fluff the ball is already in front of you! Bread crumbs. But use it wisely, don't just dump dry crumbs because they dry all the juices out of meat causing dry end result.
Instead take crumbs, add milk, let sit until all milk is absorbed and until you have fluffy paste so be generous with milk. Once ready, just drop it into the meat and incorporate.
Soon you will realize that soda is inadequate method.
Who in their right mind would poison family with packing soda into every meatball deal. Also do try those two methods and blind folded offer to friends, see what they will like better.
Even if you skip soda in your original method and make two batches, one with it and one without it you will see that the soda does nothing to fluff the heavy meat.
What’s wrong with baking soda?
The baking soda is NOT there to make the meatballs "fluffy". The backing soda is there to raise the pH on the meat's surface, making it more difficult for the proteins to bond excessively, ie prevents them from getting tough and helps in browning.
Like you suggest, a bread crumb panade will help keep meat moist and tender too, just note that adding too much will give small meatballs a bready mouth feel and taste. (Think of bad diner/cafeteria meatloaf with so much bread put into it as an extender – tender yes - but meh)
The small amount of baking soda allows a panade to keep things moist without going the point of having to use it to teh point of being an extender.
If you wish to start spouting off information like baking soda "contributes to possible major health problems" PLEASE cite/link to specific scientific medical data that has been peered reviewed and accepted by people that have spent their life studying the effects of what we eat - I am DONE with people starting stupid rumors about this or that being bad for your health and the only place they have been getting their information is some random person on a facebook or twitter feed. (side note to the editors of the site - please remove this type of stuff, the world is bad enough without bad data)
Hi guys! The kofte turned out perfect, thank you so much. So juicy and full of flavour. My family loved them. I chopped up some parsley and mixed it in with the meat as well
So happy to hear that your family is happy with the result! Parsley adds a nice flavor, we sometimes use it too.
Thanks for the recipe can you make it without leaving it to marinate if you dont have the time. IE make it and cook immediately.
Yes, you can cook these immediately. We sometimes do it so especially when we don't have enough time. When marinated, the meatballs turn out puffier and softer. But these are delicious both ways.
Look great! Want to try for our Christmas meatballs as a snack. Any suggestion for dipping sauce?
Hi Pat! You can use Turkish yogurt dip cacik or a tahini sauce would be great too. You can just leave turmeric out if you are not a fan of it.
I didn't have lemon juice or thyme, I substituted apple cider vinegar, and a za'atar mix (which had a little sumac in it), came out awesome! Served it with cucumber salad, roasted cherry tomatoes, and spanakorizo. Then headed out to play Balkan music lol.
Hi Dizzy! Great twists on the recipe. Thanks for sharing! And we love Balkan musinc, let's dance together lol!
This looks so delicious! How would you suggest to cook them in the oven instead of pan frying?
You can place the koftes on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake them in a 200C preheated oven for about 30 minutes or so.
Would it be recommended to cover with foil while baking?
Zerrin & Yusuf says
No need to cover them. They will be steamed if covered. If you want to give them a grilled or fried taste, bake them uncovered. Hope these help.
so easy and so phenomenal! these will rotate into my family favorites.