Palestinian Fish Meatballs include flaky cod, fresh herbs, aromatic spices and red chiles. Make fish kofta for a delicious starter or a light meal!
Middle Eastern cuisine can be as much a delight for your sense of smell as it is to your tongue! Palestinian seasonings are rich and earthy, with aromatic spices like sumac, and fresh herbs like parsley and mint.
Combining those seasonings with an otherwise bland food like chickpeas transforms it into delicious and vibrant dish of hummus. The same applies with mild proteins like chicken or codfish. Jordanian Roasted Chicken and fish kofta meatballs are perfect examples of this!
Ingredients for Fish Meatballs
- Olive oil- This is for frying the pan fried fish balls. Feel free to substitute it with any neutral flavored cooking oil of your choice.
- Onion- Both red and white onion are needed. The sweetness of red onion compliments the sharp bite of the white variety.
- Fresh garlic cloves- You’ll be mincing the garlic, so fresh cloves provide the best flavor. Otherwise, jars of minced garlic will work.
- Codfish- Any mild whitefish may be substituted for the cod.
- Red chiles- I like to use fresno chiles or red jalapeño. For spicier heat, you could use use Thai chiles or even fiery scotch bonnets.
- Spices- The sumac, cardamom, cumin, paprika, and turmeric in this dish add earthiness and an intoxicating aroma!
- Fresh herbs- Both fresh dill and parsley compliment the flavor of the fish without overpowering it.
- Lemon- You will never go wrong adding a splash of bright citrus juice or zest to a fish balls recipe!
- Egg- This ingredient acts as a binder for the other ingredients, preventing the meatballs from falling apart as they cook. Unlike beef or lamb kofta meatballs, fish isn’t as watery when it’s ground up. Therefore, you shouldn't need to add any breadcrumbs, crackers, or bread to help bind the meatballs together.
Video: How to make fish kofta
You can watch us make this dish in a video, located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!
- Preheat the oven. Although we start with pan fried fish balls the meatballs will finish baking in the oven.
- Saute onion and garlic to soften. Cook the vegetables just to soften them, you don't want to caramelize them. After cooking, be sure to let them cool before you process them in the food processor.
- Process the fish meatballs mixture. Add all of the ingredients to your food processor and pulse to combine.
IMPORTANT: Do not overprocess the fish mixture! You need to grind everything, but you don't want a mushy paste.
- Pan fry the fish balls. Before you add the kofta meatballs to the pan, be sure that the oil is hot. Otherwise, they'll absorb the oil and become greasy.
- Finish baking them in the oven.
- Plate and serve! Spread some Greek yogurt or homemade labneh onto each plate and serve the kofta on top, garnished with a wedge of lemon and sprinkling of sumac, if desired.
Make ahead instructions
Fish kofta can be made up to a day in advance, up to the point where they are about to go into the oven.
Once cooked, they can be eaten immediately or refrigerated and served the next day. Serve either at room temperature or warm them through in the oven.
What to serve with fish meatballs
Palestinian Fish Meatballs (Kofta)
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 1 ¼ cups large red onion diced (1 large)
- 1 ¼ cups large white onion diced (1 large)
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 ½ lbs cod fillets skinless, boneless, cut into 1 ¼ inch chunks
- 2 red chiles fresno or red jalapeño, 1 diced, 1 sliced into rings
- ¾ cup fresh parsley chopped
- ¾ cup fresh dill chopped plus few sprigs for garnish
- 1 lemon 2 tsp zest then cut into 6 wedges
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp Fish Spice Blend ingredients below
- 1 tbsp sumac
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ⅔ cup plain Greek yogurt or Labneh
Fish Spice Blend
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika smoked or sweet
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp cayenne powder
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Put 3 tablespoons of oil into a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- In a food processor, pulse the chunks of fish a few times until broken down a bit. Add the cooled onion mixture, chopped chile, herbs, lemon zest, egg, 2 teaspoons of the fish spice mix, sumac, salt and black pepper. Process again until finely chopped but not a complete paste.
- Using a 3 tbsp scoop or your hands, shape the mixture into about 16 meatballs.
- Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan and place on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the kofta and brown all over in batches of 2 or 3 and fry for about 4 minutes, turning often.
- Transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray and bake for 4 or 5 minutes, until just cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes to slightly cool.
- To serve, spread the labneh or yogurt evenly on plate and top each with 3-4 cod meatballs. Sprinkle the kofta with sumac, dill sprig and sliced chile. Drizzle last tablespoon of oil over and serve, with a lemon wedges.
Fish Spice Blend
- Whisk together in a small bowl to combine. Store in an airtight container if not using right away. I like to blitz this mixture in a spice grinder to make the salt powdered and thoroughly mixed, but this is optional.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.