Moist and flavorful, kafta is a type of homemade Lebanese kebab made with ground meat and spices. It’s an easy, healthy dish that can be made on the skillet, BBQ, or in the oven.
What is kafta?
Kafta is a Lebanese meat dish made with ground beef, onions, parsley and spices. It’s kind of like a mix between a meatball and a kebab. It’s a healthy dish that is very simple to make.
Kafta vs. kofta
Kafta is the Lebanese version of kofta. Kofta is a more general term for a variety of similar Middle Eastern ground beef dishes.
Types of kofta
Depending on the country, kofta will differ in the way they are prepared and served. The meat that is chosen and/or the spices that are used tends to vary by region. In the Balkans and India, fish and seafood are sometimes used. Other countries will use local common meats including everything from beef and lamb to even goat. Islamic countries don’t tend to use pork.
The way they are served also differs from country to country. Some places serve kofta in more of a meatball shape. Others make more of a patty, like a hamburger. In India, they are even made into large meatballs that are stuffed with hard-boiled eggs.
Lebanese kafta is served more like an oblong meatball that is skewered and cooked like a kebab. It uses simple, fresh ingredients, and is easy to make. I love the spice blend and the ease of making them. That’s why it’s one of my favorites.
Feel free to experiment with other meats, spices, and presentations, though.
The main ingredients for kafta are meat, onions, fresh parsley, and spices.
I generally use a small, mild flavored yellow or white onion for this dish. For an even milder flavor, though, you could also use shallots or even leeks instead.
As for the parsley, you’ll want to choose fresh parsley, vs. dried, in this dish for the best results. fresh parsley adds color, moisture, and flavor.
Meats to use
Ground beef is what is generally used in kafta. I also normally choose ground beef because it’s the easiest high-quality ground meat that I can find in my area. My local supermarket sells organic ground beef without any other additives at a great price.
That said, kafta can also be made with other meats. Using ground lamb, or a combination of ground lamb and ground beef, are also wonderful alternatives for making these. You can also experiment with using other meats like pork or even chicken or turkey.
For seasoning kafta, salt, black pepper, and allspice are generally used. While that simple blend is delicious on its own, I also love adding cumin to mine. For a spicy kick, I also add a bit of cayenne.
Other spices that can be used are some of the same ones that I use in my chai tea recipe. Cardamon, coriander, or even cinnamon can also add great flavor to this dish.
Using a food processor, this recipe is very simple to make.
If you have any spices that need grinding, like the allspice and/or black pepper, add those to your spice grinder with the salt and other spices. When using a high-powered food processor like mine, you can add the spices directly to the food processor that you will be using.
Once you’ve ground the spices, rinse and dry the parsley. Add the leaves to the food processor along with the ground spices.
Peel the onion and cut it in half several times, cutting it into smaller pieces which can be handled by the food processor. Add the onion pieces to the food processor and process them with the parsley and spices until they are finely minced and well combined.
Once the onions are finely minced, add the ground beef to the food processor and process all of the ingredients together, just enough to fully combine all of the ingredients.
Form the meatballs
Divide the meat mixture into 24 equal-sized meatballs. Roll each of the portions into oval-shaped, oblong meatballs.
To form the kebabs, add two meatballs to each skewer. Poke the skewer through the center of each meatball lengthwise.
Cook the kafta
Preheat the skillet or grill and cook the kafta for several minutes on each side. Use a spatula to help flip the kafta without breaking them. Keep rotating until all sides are fully cooked.
Can kafta be baked?
While I prefer grilling these, they can also be baked in the oven at 375ºF/190ºC for around 10-15 minutes.
For better browning in the oven, you can also use your broiler. Preheat the broiler and place the kafta on a tray underneath the broiler. Keep an eye on them and flip them as they brown on top. Keep rotating until all sides are fully cooked.
While I prefer grilling the kafta, I do like to use the oven to re-heat any leftovers. I especially like to use this method when cooking other foods, like grilled veggies, in the oven. Normally, while grilling veggies in the oven, I add the pre-cooked kafta to the tray in the last 5-10 minutes of cook time to help re-heat them.
Once cooked, the kafta can be served like other kebabs. I like wrapping these in my homemade paleo pitas. The pitas are really quick to make and are soft, pliable and delicious.
I like to wrap them with lettuce and other sliced veggies. Roasted red peppers are also a delicious addition to the wraps.
If you don’t want to wrap these, they can be served with rice, couscous, or other cereal-type sides like millet or quinoa.
If you want a lower carb alternative, though, you can also serve them over zucchini noodles or other cooked veggies. (Or you could wrap them in my vegan flaxseed tortillas or my flaxseed tortillas with eggs.)
Best Sauces for serving with kafta
While kafta are nice and moist and flavorful, they can still benefit from adding a sauce to them.
I like serving them with any of the following:
- Hummus (Or even zucchini hummus)
- Baba Ganoush
- Greek yogurt
Similar kebab recipes
If you love kebabs like I do, why not try one of my other kebab recipes?
Souvlaki is a Greek dish that is packed with citrus and herb flavors. It’s a simple combination that is surprisingly delicious! While I chose to make my souvlaki with pork, the marinade can be used for lamb or chicken too!
Pork Souvlaki Marinade Recipe
From a different part of the world, Puerto Rican pinchos de pollo, are a healthy, delicious way to eat either chicken or pork.
Puerto Rican Pinchos de Pollo
- 600 g ground beef
- 1 onion
- 1 bunch fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Grind any spices that are in whole form (black pepper, allspice, cayenne peppers) in either a spice grinder or a high-power food processor. Grind all spices and salt together until ground finely and well combined.
- Rinse and dry the parsley and add the leaves to the food processor. (There is no need to remove the spices if you have ground them in the food processor.)
- Peel the onion and cut it into small pieces, adding them all to the food processor.
- Process the onions and parsley together in the food processor until they are finely chopped and well combined.
- Add the ground beef, salt, and spices to the food processor with the onions and parsley. Process them together just long enough to combine all of the ingredients together.
- Divide the mixture into 24 equal parts and form each of them into oval-shaped meatballs. Optionally, place two of the formed kafta onto each skewer to form kebabs.
BBQ or grill skillet
- Pre-heat either the barbecue or a grill skillet (or other skillet) over medium to high heat.
- Cook the kafta on the grill or skillet, carefully turning them while cooking, until all sides are cooked evenly. (Use a spatula to help turn the kebabs without them breaking.)
If using oven
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC.
- Bake the kafta for around 10-15 minutes, until fully cooked.
- Alternatively, bake the kafta under the broiler, turning each kebab until each side has browned and the meat is fully cooked.
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