Easy Authentic Lebanese Beef Kafta made with ground beef, parsley, onion, and simple spices. Cook it in the oven or on the grill, and serve it with Lebanese Vermicelli Rice and a side of yogurt for a complete meal!
Do you love kafta? I know I do. Like, really love it. If there’s a middle-eastern restaurant around, you can be sure I’ll be ordering some kafta off the menu. It’s just so darn good. And while it might seem intimidating to make at home, trust me when I say it’s a lot easier than you think.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to make beef kafta using ground beef (though lamb is also a popular choice). So get ready to enjoy one of my favorite dishes – homemade Lebanese style beef kafta!
What is Kafta?
If you’ve never had kafta before, it’s basically just seasoned ground meat (usually beef or lamb, but chicken can also be used) in the form of a Middle Eastern meatball that’s grilled or cooked in the oven. It’s often served with rice and vegetables, a dollop of hummus, and sometimes yogurt or Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (Khyar bi Laban) on the side.
Kafta is the Lebanese name for the meatball, in the rest of the Middle East it’s referred to as Kofta or kefta, or Kofte in Turkey.
There are many different ways to make kafta, but the basic ingredients are always the same: ground meat that is not too lean, yellow onion, parsley, and spices (I use Baharat 7 spice, cumin, and cinnamon). You can add other seasonings to taste, but those are the essentials.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
How to Make Beef Kafta
Making Lebanese kafta is really easy – it’s just a matter of mixing all of the ingredients together in a bowl and then shaping them into oblong shapes (with skewers or without). I make mine around 3 inches long, and 1 inch thick. To do this, use your hands and form the patties while pressing the meat (you don’t want the meat to be loose).
Want more flavor? Add a pinch of sumac, lemon zest, or a touch of cayenne pepper to your meat mixture!
You can cook kafta in a number of different ways, but my favorite is to cook them on the grill because of the grill marks and the crust that the meatballs develop. If you don’t have a grill, you can also cook them under the broiler in your oven.
Whichever method you choose, just be sure to cook the kafta until they are nicely browned and cooked through.
If you choose to use skewers, and you’re using bamboo skewers then be sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before using.
- Use High Quality Ground Beef. If possible go for grass fed organic beef, it tastes much better and totally worth the price difference.
- Avoid Using Lean Meat. I usually go for 85/15 as you need a bit of fat to keep the meat nice and juicy. Traditionally, ground beef can be mixed with ground lamb to achieve this. In the Turkish version of kafta, an egg is added to the mixture to help bind the ingredients and keep them moist.
- Grate the Onion. You want the onion to be diced really small, so I just use a box grater to do the job and drain the onion before adding it to the mixture.
- Spices. I love adding spice to my food, so for kaftas I use Baharat 7 Spice Blend, ground cinnamon, and ground cumin. You can either buy baharat blend from a Middle Eastern store, or order it online. You can also make your own blend, and I have a great recipe for you! Another option is to substitute it with allspice or just omit it altogether. I mean, I know people that season kafta with just salt and pepper.
- Use a Food Processor. To make the job easier, you can use a food processor or a small chopper to chop up the onion and parsley and add the meat to mix it all in. Be sure to add in the spices separately after removing the mixture from the food processor.
- Form the Kaftas into Even Shapes. Use your hands to press the kaftas into oblong shapes, I like to be precise and use Digital Kitchen Scales and do 1.7oz/50 grams each. So make sure that the meatballs are even in size for even cooking.
- If Your Kitchen is Hot, I recommend placing the meat mixture in the fridge as you preheat your grill. This makes the shaping of the meatball and skewering much easier.
- Do Not Overcook the Kaftas. Keep an eye on the kaftas as you cook them, you’re looking to cook them to medium and keep in mind that the cooking process will continue as you remove them from the grill/oven.
- Add Vegetables. For the full Middle Eastern experience, don’t forget to throw a few halved tomatoes and onions on the grill. They soften and char as they’re grilled and make a great side to your kafta meal.
Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Gently reheat in the oven or air fryer until warmed through.
What To Serve With
Kafta is usually made with beef or lamb or a mix of both, it’s also made with chicken but that’s a less popular option.
Kafta can either be served with a side of basmati rice or vermicelli rice, a salad, and yogurt. Or turned into a wrap using flatbreads and fresh cut vegetables and tahini dip.
Yes! Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C, place the shaped kaftas on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and browned.
I recommend freezing kafta raw after it’s shaped into meatballs. Freeze on a sheet pan for 1 hour then transfer to a Ziploc bag and freeze for up to 2 months.
Now you’re ready to add some spice to your life, and you’re a pro at making delicious beef kaftas! Let me know if you try this and make sure to Pin this recipe so more people can enjoy it too!
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, parsley and spices. Mix well to combine.
- Using skewers or without, shape the kaftas into oblong shapes about 1 inch in thickness.
- Preheat on medium-high heat or 375℉ (190℃). Be sure to clean the grill grates, and oil them with a high smoke point oil before placing the kaftas.
- Place the kaftas on your preheated grill, and cook for 6-8 minutes per side. You want to cook them to medium. Remove from the grill and serve immediately.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C, place the shaped kaftas on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and browned.
- Garnish with additional chopped parsley before serving.
- Baharat Substitute: You can either buy baharat blend from a Middle Eastern store, or order it online. You can also make your own blend, and I have a great recipe for you! Another option is to substitute it with allspice or just omit it altogether. I know people that season kafta with just salt and pepper and it works fine but won’t be as aromatic.
- Meatball Size: I did each kafta meatball around 1.7oz/50 grams, 3×1 inches/8×2.5cm and got 15 kaftas in total. Make sure that you shape the kaftas into even sizes for even cooking.
- Storing. Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Gently reheat in the oven or air fryer until warmed through.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
© Little Sunny Kitchen