Delicious and Nutritious Vegetarian Kufteh Recipe

Welcome to my kitchen where I will be sharing one of my favorite vegetarian Middle Eastern cuisines: Kufteh or Köfte – meatballs made out of red lentils and bulgur. In this particular recipe, we’ll make a vegan version of the köfte using simple ingredients that are easy to find in your local grocery store without compromising on flavor.

Among the many variations of köftes, this particular recipe draws inspiration from the Koofteh Tabrizi, a Persian meatball from Northwestern Iran. The Koofteh Tabrizi is typically made with ground beef and herbs like flat-leaf parsley, scallions, onions, and cumin seeds. However, this recipe uses red lentils instead of beef to create a tasty vegetarian kufteh that’ll leave you craving for more.

One of Turkey’s most beloved dishes is Kofta; a dish made up of seasoned ground meat grilled onto skewers. The same recipe is prepared in eastern South Asia as well, known as Kofta kebab. The Middle-Eastern version includes more greens in their meatballs and is usually cooked in a tomato sauce or curry.

These flavorful plant-based meatballs are perfect for serving family-style over roasted vegetables, with tzatziki sauce and lemon wedges on the side over a romaine lettuce leaf. I can’t wait for you to try out this delicious vegan kufteh köfte recipe. Let’s get started!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Vegetarian Kufteh / Köfte (Middle-Eastern Meatballs)
Vegetarian Kufteh / Köfte (Middle-Eastern Meatballs)

Welcome, foodies! Are you looking to add some delicious, Middle Eastern flavor to your vegan or vegetarian meals? Get ready to savor the taste sensation of my vegetarian kufteh/köfte (Middle-Eastern meatballs) recipe!

Here’s why you’ll love this creation:

Firstly, these kufteh/köfte meatballs are 100% vegan and packed with nutritious ingredients like lentils, onions, and bulgur that act as a perfect protein source for plant-based diets. If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, this recipe is the perfect way to get the essential nutrients without compromising on the taste.

Secondly, my recipe is inspired by Persian and Turkish traditional cuisine, which is famous for its distinct seasoning and spices. To make the dish more flavorful, I have added cumin seeds, flat-leaf parsley, scallions, Aleppo pepper, and extra virgin olive oil to give it an authentic Middle Eastern taste.

Finally, it’s easy to make in your kitchen! You’ll just need a few basic ingredients mixed up in a food processor and rolled into meatballs. These kufteh/köfte can be served with roasted vegetables or a tomato sauce for a full meal that will delight all taste buds.

Whether you follow a plant-based diet or not, this vegetarian kufteh/köfte recipe is definitely worth adding to your cooking repertoire. Once you savor these mouth-watering meatballs with a lemon wedge and romaine lettuce leaf alongside some yogurt tzatziki sauce, you’ll never look back! So grab your apron and let’s start cooking.

Ingredient List

 A Plateful of Middle-Eastern Delight: Vegetarian Kufteh!
A Plateful of Middle-Eastern Delight: Vegetarian Kufteh!

Here are the ingredients needed for this vegetarian kufteh/köfte recipe. Don’t worry, most of these can be easily found at your local grocery store or specialty Middle-Eastern market. These ingredients are enough to make 16 medium-sized vegetarian kufteh/köfte.

For the Kufteh/Köfte:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fine grain bulgur
  • 1 cup red lentil, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper (or paprika)
  • Salt (as per your taste)

For Serving and Garnish:

  • Lemon wedges or slices
  • Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and dried

Gather all of these ingredients and let’s start preparing our delicious vegetarian kufteh/köfte recipe!

The Recipe How-To

Here’s how to make these delicious vegetarian Köfte:


  • 1½ cup fine bulgur
  • 1 cup red lentil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch scallion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp cumin seed, ground
  • 3 tbsp Aleppo pepper, ground
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lemon wedges, romaine lettuce leaves, and additional parsley and scallions for serving


  1. Rinse the bulgur in cold water and drain well in a fine-mesh strainer.
  2. Place lentils, onion, water and salt into a pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for around 20 minutes or until very tender.
  3. Put cooked lentil and onion mixture into a fine-mesh strainer.
  4. Allow it to drip off excess liquids for around 20 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, mix strained lentil mixture with bulgur, parsley, scallion, cumin seed, Aleppo pepper, salt and extra-virgin olive oil.
  6. Knead the mixture with your hands or by using a stand mixer on low speed until all ingredients are well incorporated. The consistency should be thick but pliable.
  7. Using your hands or a scoop tool, shape the mixture into small balls or oval shapes (köfte) about the size of a golf ball.
  8. Arrange the köfte on your serving tray or platter with lemon wedges and romaine lettuce leaves.
  9. Serve with an additional drizzle of olive oil, parsley and scallions.

These Köfte can be accompanied by a spicy or mild tomato sauce or yogurt sauce such as Tzatziki which are both great options that will enhance their flavor. These vegetarian köftes can certainly be enjoyed just on their own or as part of an entree such as vegan Kofta kebab recipe alongside roasted vegetables or meatball curry recipe for those who like curry dishes.


Substitutions and Variations

 These Köfte (meatballs) have a twist: Here's how to make them meat-free!
These Köfte (meatballs) have a twist: Here’s how to make them meat-free!

When it comes to cooking, there are always many substitutions and variations that you can try to customize your dishes. The same goes for this Vegetarian Kufteh Köfte recipe. Here are some ideas to change things up!

If you’re looking for a meat substitute, I highly recommend trying out Beyond Meat or any other plant-based beef alternatives. They have a similar texture and can be easily seasoned to taste just like real meat! You could also try making this recipe with roasted vegetables instead of lentils for a lower-carb option.

For a different flavor profile, try adding some curry powder or garam masala to the mixture, which will give it an Indian flair. Additionally, using red onions instead of yellow ones is also a great way to add a pop of color and extra sweetness to the dish.

If you’re looking for additional toppings or sides, consider pairing the kufteh köfte with a side of tzatziki sauce or tomato sauce for additional flavor. Romaine lettuce leaves work well as a fresh topping, as do scallions and flat-leaf parsley.

Lastly, if you want to change up the texture of the kufteh köfte, swap out bulgur for finely chopped cauliflower, parsnips, or sweet potatoes. These vegetables will add extra vitamins and minerals to the meal while delivering a delightful crunchiness.

Remember that cooking is all about experimenting and finding what works best for you! So go ahead and give these substitutions and variations a try until you find your perfect Vegetarian Kufteh Köfte recipe.

Serving and Pairing

When it comes to serving vegetarian kufteh, there are many options available due to its versatile nature. You can serve it as an appetizer, a snack, or a main dish. One of my favorite ways to enjoy it is to serve it with a refreshing romaine lettuce leaf, topped with scallion and a squeeze of lemon juice for a zesty kick.

For a heartier meal, try pairing your vegetarian kufteh with roasted vegetables such as carrots or eggplant. You can also serve it with a side of fluffy bulgur pilaf or red lentil soup for a Middle Eastern-inspired feast.

If you are looking to switch things up, why not try adding a dollop of tzatziki or hummus on top of your kufteh? The creamy sauce complement the flavors of the meatless meatballs perfectly.

Finally, if you are feeling adventurous and want to spice things up even further, add a pinch of Aleppo pepper or cumin seed to your dish. These spices add depth and complexity to the dish, taking it to new levels of deliciousness.

No matter how you decide to serve your vegetarian kufteh, be sure to experiment with different accompaniments until you find the perfect combination that works for you.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 Falafel-watching-your-back vegetarian Köfte on the menu!
Falafel-watching-your-back vegetarian Köfte on the menu!

Planning ahead is essential when it comes to cooking, and this recipe for vegetarian kufteh/köfte is no exception. Luckily, this dish is perfect for making ahead of time and storing in the fridge or freezer for later use.

To make ahead, simply prepare the kufteh/köfte as directed in the recipe and allow them to cool completely. Once cooled, store the meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to three months.

When re-heating kufteh/köfte that has been stored in the fridge, gently reheat it on the stovetop over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until heated through. Alternatively, reheat them in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until heated through.

If reheating from frozen, allow the kufteh/köfte to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating as instructed above.

For a quick and easy meal at any time, try making a larger batch of kufteh/köfte than you need for one meal and freeze some for later use. That way, you’ll always have something delicious and satisfying on hand whenever you need it.

Remember to keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer, so they stay fresh and delicious until you’re ready to enjoy them again. And with its hearty flavor and vegan-friendly ingredients, this vegetarian kufteh/köfte recipe is sure to become a staple in your meal rotation.

Tips for Perfect Results

If you want to enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal with vegetarian kufteh köfte, then follow these helpful tips to ensure perfect results every time.

First, I recommend using high-quality ingredients, especially when it comes to the spices. Don’t skimp on the cumin seed or Aleppo pepper as these ingredients will add robust flavor to your kufteh köfte.

Next, take care during the preparation process. When cooking the bulgur and the red lentils, make sure they are fully cooked and not overcooked as they may become too mushy.

When shaping the meatballs, keep in mind that size matters here. It’s best to make each ball perfectly round and about 2-3 inches in diameter so that they can cook evenly without falling apart.

Be sure to chill the kufteh köfte prior to cooking as this will help them retain their shape during cooking.

When it comes to frying or baking, do not overcrowd the pan with too many kufteh köfte. Give each meatball enough space to cook evenly and for the crust to form properly.

Finally, don’t forget about the toppings! A squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of aleppo pepper can elevate your dish further, while a romaine lettuce leaf, scallion or flat-leaf parsley can add a pop of freshness.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to make flavorful and satisfying vegetarian kufteh köfte that will be adored by everyone who tries them – even if they’re meat-eaters!

Bottom Line


Now that you have all the information you need, it’s time to get cooking! Whether you follow the recipe as is or make some substitutions and variations according to your personal preferences, I promise that you won’t be disappointed. The vegetarian kufteh/köfte recipe is a savory and flavorful Middle-Eastern dish that satisfies the taste buds of meat lovers and vegetarians alike.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your apron and head to the kitchen! With a little bit of effort, you can create a delicious and healthy meal that your family and friends will love. Explore the world of meatball recipes with this vegetarian version, filled with lentils, onions, herbs, and spices. Surprise your guests with a new take on the traditional kofta and serve them with lemon wedges, romaine lettuce leaves, and scallion garnish on top.

And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try some of the variations we’ve suggested? From kofta kebab to meatball curry recipe or roasted vegetables, there are so many possibilities to explore. Once you get a taste of this dish’s exceptional flavor, I’m confident you’ll be hooked!

In conclusion, the vegetarian kufteh/köfte recipe is a true gem in Middle-Eastern cuisine. It’s packed with nutrients and flavor, easy to make, and versatile enough to adapt to any palate. So don’t hesitate – start cooking today and enjoy!

Vegetarian Kufteh / Köfte (Middle-Eastern Meatballs)

Vegetarian Kufteh / Köfte (Middle-Eastern Meatballs) Recipe

Kufteh (Persian), köfte (Turkish) and kibbeh (Arabic) are round, walnut-sized patties usually made from pounded meat but sometimes from fish or vegetable pulp, which then is mixed with fine bulgur, herbs and spices. Serve this vegetarian version as an appetizer or a side dish. This recipe is from Martha Rose Shulman and was printed in the New York Times (January 2, 2009).
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Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle-Eastern
Servings 30 kufteh
Calories 33 kcal


  • 1/2 cup red lentil, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup bulgur (fine or medium, #1 or #2)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large onions or 1/2 medium onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • aleppo pepper (optional)
  • scallion, for garnish
  • 1 small romaine lettuce leaf, for garnish
  • lemon wedge (to garnish)


  • Combine the lentils and water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, skim off any foam, reduce the heat, add salt to taste and simmer 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and most but not all of the water is absorbed.
  • Place the bulgur in a bowl, mix with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pour in the lentils with their liquid. Stir together, then cover and let sit for 30 minutes, until the bulgur is tender and has absorbed all the liquid.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the onion. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden and very tender. Stir often. Add the ground cumin and stir together for about 30 seconds, then stir into the lentils and bulgur.
  • Moisten your hands with water and knead the mixture in the bowl for 3 to 5 minutes. Each time it begins to stick to your hands, moisten them again, and this will moisten the mixture. If it seems very dry and crumbly, add a tablespoon of water. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 cup of the minced parsley, and for a spicier mixture add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper. Taste and adjust salt.
  • Moisten your hands and shape the mixture into walnut-size balls (about 1 inch). You’ll have to moisten your hands again whenever the mixture begins to stick to them. Place on a platter and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Garnish with scallions, romaine lettuce leaves and lemon wedges, and serve, or chill for several hours. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 823gCalories: 33kcalCarbohydrates: 4.1gProtein: 1.2gFat: 1.5gSaturated Fat: 0.2gSodium: 2.3mgFiber: 0.9gSugar: 0.1g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Asian, Beans, Grains, Healthy, Kid-Friendly, Kosher, Lentils, Low Cholesterol, Middle Eastern, Onions, Savory, Turkish, Vegan, Vegetable
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