Kafta, kofta, kifta, however you spell it, it amounts to the same thing; a ground meat kebab.
One more common variation on the theme is a blend of lamb and beef.
Whichever way you decide to go with your meat mixture, you will most likely be pleased.
Food in the Middle East is a big part of everyday life, friends come together for meals on a regular basis.
Very often it is some kind of grilled meat that makes it on the menu, and kafta is definitely my favorite.
This dish, in many ways, is the Middle Eastern equivalent of a hamburger.
Often wrapped in a thin flat bread with a hot tahini sauce, mixed tomato, cucumber, and onion salad; it is a very popular meal indeed.
What is Kafta?
Kafta is ground beef, onions, parsley, salt and pepper mixed with Middle Eastern spices.
Popular in the Middle East, kafta is often grilled over hot coals on flat metal skewers, with tomatoes and onions.
One favorite memory is standing in the kebab house with my dad as a kid watching the kebabs grilling over the long grill.
The orders being filled continuously, with the nonstop grinding of meat in the background.
The meat went on the skewers, and onto the grill in between shish kebab and shish tawook.
It was magical how they cooked the meat just right every time, knowing when to turn the skewers over the coals.
I couldn’t wait to get back home with warm fresh bread, hummus, and of course hot kebabs!
These kafta’s are an easy alternative to the traditional skewer of shish kebab.
They take minimal time to make and have the biggest impact in terms of flavor!
How to Make Beef Kafta
Starting with ready ground meat, or meat that you’ve ground fresh, placed in a large mixing bowl.
I like to use a meat grinder, but I know some people who like to use a food processor.
Either will give you the desired outcome of perfectly ground meat for this kafta recipe.
Combine the beef, parsley and spices in the large bowl and mix well, preferably with your hands.
Shape the kafta with your hand as you slide the meat onto the skewers.
Flat metal skewers work really well for making kafta since there is a wider surface for the meat to attach to.
Wooden skewers work fine as well, however, I would recommend you soak them in water for thirty minutes before using them so they don’t catch fire over the grill.
I like to brush the beef or lamb with olive oil before putting them on the grill.
Kaftas will take about fifteen to twenty minutes to cook on the grill, turning only once.
If you can set up your gill to give you varying degrees of heat by stacking the charcoal for different intensities, that’s ideal.
Start the skewers on medium high heat, then move to a moderate heat to finish cooking these lovely delights.
You can also cook the kafta using a grill pan which can disperse the heat evenly.
What to Serve with Kafta
There are so many choices when it comes to what to serve with kafta.
Whatever you think would go well with your favorite burger will go well with kafta.
Potato salad is one of my favorite acompaniants, along with a nice red cabbage coleslaw.
Let me know what you decide to try!
On a recent visit to Istanbul, our main mission was to try some traditional kafta (known as kofta there).
We had some of the best kofta I’ve had in a long, long time.
My favorite place was this very old establishment where the chef sat in the middle of the restaurant cooking the meat skewers fresh over very hot coals.
The skill and dexterity was impressive, watching as he churned out one beautiful meat skewer after another was a joy.
And while in Muscat this week, we ended up eating in a Turkish restaurant where I ordered kafta, and was not disappointed!
To me, there’s nothing better than freshly made food with the best ingredients; this type of dish can really showcase the natural flavors.
What’s With All the Different Names?
A question I get asked quite a lot is in regards to the numerous names we have in the Middle East for the same style of dish.
Simply, this comes down to regional differences and the way words are pronounced.
But depending on where you come from and your dialect, you will have a different pronunciation for a word that means the same thing.
Take this dish for example, I know it as kofta and I speak Palestinian Arabic.
However, my Lebanese friend knows it as kafta, but at the end of the day we are talking about the same thing.
You say tomato and I say tomahto!
- 1 lb Ground Beef
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Seven Spices
- ½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper
- ½ tsp Cumin
- ½ tsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Coriander
- ¼ cup Parsley finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC) or grill.
- Soak wooden skewers for at least twenty minutes so they don't catch fire in the oven.
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
- Using your hand make fist sized balls.
- Shape the kaftas as you put the meat on skewers.
- Place on a tray if going in the oven otherwise put the skewers directly on your grill.
- It will take roughly 20 minutes turning once. Maybe a bit quicker on the grill.