What is Kefta?

Mary McMahon

In the Middle East, kefta is a food which is made by grinding meat and mixing it with an assortment of spices. The resulting seasoned meat can be shaped into meatballs or cylinders of meat which can be cooked in a wide variety of ways. Variations on kefta are common street foods in the Middle East, and they may also be served as appetizers or as a more central part of a meal. It is easy to make kefta at home, and many cooks enjoy making this simple dish at home since it allows them to adjust the spices as desired.

Different types of kefta are eaten in many parts of the Middle East.
Different types of kefta are eaten in many parts of the Middle East.

Beef and lamb are two common choices of meat for kefta, since cheap cuts of these meats can be readily obtained. Lean meat is preferred so that the kefta do not become too oily. Spices such as garlic, onions, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and harissa may be added to kefta to make them savory, spicy, or even slightly sweet, depending on the region and the taste of the cook. Some cooks also make their kefta lighter by blending the meat with rice, vegetables, or bulgur wheat.

Kefta is usually seasoned with ground coriander seeds.
Kefta is usually seasoned with ground coriander seeds.

Once the meat mixture is made, it can be formed as desired and grilled, roasted, baked, broiled, boiled, fried, steamed, or poached. The cooked kefta are served with a wide variety of sauces ranging from cool yogurt and cucumber sauce to spicy sauces which are intended to burn a fiery trail into the consumer's stomach. Sides such as breads and vegetables often accompany kefta, which may be molded on sticks so that they can be eaten easily, or wrapped into various breads to make sandwiches.

Harissa is a spicy pepper paste.
Harissa is a spicy pepper paste.

There are a number of alternate names for kefta, including kofta, kufta, kafteh, keftes, cuftah, and kyuftah. This common Middle Eastern food can be found from Greece to India, as far south as Morocco and up through Eastern European countries like Romania. Ingredients beyond beef and lamb can be found as well, including seafood, eggs, goat, and vegetables like cabbage. As a street food, kefta tends to be generally dry with mild sauce, while restaurants may serve platters of kefta in a rich, liquid sauces which need to be sopped up with bread of rice.

Turmeric is often added to kefta in some regions of the Middle East.
Turmeric is often added to kefta in some regions of the Middle East.

Making kefta at home is very easy. Ground meats can be found at many markets and butchers, as can Middle Eastern spice mixes. Small kefta make great appetizers for Middle Eastern themed meals, and you can also make larger varieties to use as entrees, perhaps wrapped in a Middle Eastern bread or served on rice or lentils.

Garlic, which is often used in making kefta.
Garlic, which is often used in making kefta.

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Discussion Comments


Roll kefta into small balls, dip each ball in beaten egg then coat with bread crumbs and fry in some olive oil---delicious!


I had the most interesting, but also very tasty kefta at my friend's house. I asked how she made it and she said it is made with mince meat, rice and spices. The major difference from regular kefta is that it has boiled rice in it and that it is dipped in egg before fried on the pan. The rice and egg gave a really different flavor to it but I liked it. It was more like meatloaf and the balls were flatter and bigger.

I saw another recipe for kefta that has things like almonds and raisins in it. I've never had anything like that. I wonder what sweet kefta would taste like. Has anyone heard of this or had it before? Where can I get some?


I think kefta originated in Persia (Iran) because in Persian, kefta means ground meat or meat that is pounded. But it probably spread all across the region because meatballs are made in Asia and Europe too.

I read that when it was first founded, kefta was not made with minced meat. It was made with the leftover cooked meats from a previous meal. Meat was a luxury then and they didn't want to waste any of it. So they took leftovers and added other ingredients to make kefta. I guess different kinds of spices got added to it as spices were traded and found more easily.

I think the coolest part about kefta is that it is so different in different countries. It may look similar in shape, but it always tastes different. I have probably tried tens of different kinds but my favorite is spicy lamb kefta and Persian kubideh kefta.


My family is from the Middle East. My mom's kefta recipe has ground beef, parsley, grated onion, spices and breadcrumbs. She puts eggs in it too sometimes. Kefta is my favorite food since childhood. When we were kids, my brother and I were very picky about food. But we never refused kefta and pasta with ketchup. We still love it and when I have it, I feel like a kid again.

I do make different meals with it now though. It's really good if you make it with tomato sauce and add cubed potatoes, peas and carrots in it. I have this with bread or white rice. It's such a filling meal, the best thing after a long and tiring day at work. I also like to have it during Ramadan. After fasting, I need something that has everything- meat, veggies and a carbohydrate. Kefta makes a great meal after not eating all day.

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