Last Updated on May 26, 2021
The Middle Eastern specialty kofta is a grilled, spiced meat served on skewers that can be found at nearly any food stall in the region. Its intoxicating smell perfumes the streets of many countries and is guaranteed to entice locals and tourists alike. Every region has its own version of kofta, but the key ingredients remain the same. These include baharat (spices), ground beef and or lamb, parsley, ginger, and garlic.
The baharat used in kofta can vary, but the key players are allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and black pepper. If you don’t have all of these on hand, a “pumpkin spice” blend found in many cupboards generally includes all of these spices, which is why we’ve used it here.
Sumac, a less familiar spice for many cooks, is also commonly used in kofta—especially in Syrian versions. Sumac’s tart, fresh, lemony flavor, can be substituted with a pinch of citric acid if need be (although it’s widely available online). Aleppo pepper, too, is a common Syrian staple—it has a mild heat level and bright fruity notes, but can be substituted with cayenne in a pinch.
This kofta recipe is a blend of Syrian and Lebanese adaptations and can be cooked on the grill or in the oven. Need to feed a crowd or make sure there are leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch? This recipe can be easily doubled.
- 2 miniature rounds of pita bread or two pieces sliced bread; you can also use breadcrumbs if desired (about ⅓ of a cup)
- ½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion cut in half and peeled
- 1 pound ground Butcher Box beef
- 1 tablespoon baharat blend Substitute: "Pumpkin Spice"—typically a blend of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, star anise, fennel, black pepper or allspice. If you don't have the blend, use what you have from this list
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or cayenne
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ tablespoon fine sea salt
- Soak eight wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or use metal).
- If you plan on grilling your kofta, clean the grill first, then lightly oil grates. Preheat to medium-high for about 20 minutes.
- Cover bread of choice with just enough water to submerge and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain excess water from the bowl and squeeze out as much as you can from the bread.
- Add soaked bread and parsley to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
- Add the garlic and ginger to the food processor and pulse until a smooth paste. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
- Finely grate the onion with a box grater. Place grated onion into a towel, squeeze out excess moisture, and add the onion to the bowl with the ginger and garlic. Add the beef, the remaining spices, and the salt.
- Work in the spices and incorporate by hand until the meat is smooth and ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Form eight oblong patties around each skewer. Close your first around meat and squeeze to help it adhere to the skewer. Your koftas should be roughly 1 inch thick.
- Skewer each patty and place on a tray lined with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper.
- If grilling, place kofta on grill and cook on medium-high for 3-4 minutes on each side or until internal temperature reaches 150 F.
- If cooking in the oven: preheat the oven to 400 F. Insert tray onto top rack and cook kofta for 15 to 20 minutes, turning halfway.
- Serve with rice, pita bread, a mint/tomato/cucumber salad, hummus, and tzatziki for optimum flavor (and shareability).
Janelle Lassalle is a recipe developer, writer, artist and idea machine based in Portland, OR. Her writings have appeared in a number of top tier publications including Forbes, Rolling Stone and VICE. The recipes she creates are bold and internationally driven, representing different cuisines from all over the globe. You can find more of her work on her website, Lassalleworks, or follow her adventures on Instagram @jenkhari.