Kafta is a traditional Lebanese dish of grilled seasoned ground beef or lamb. Use this recipe and watch the video to learn how to make this flavorful summer meal!
Whether you live in a subtropical climate like Lebanon or a frozen tundra in the midwest United States, everyone looks forward to outdoor grilling when the weather is nice.
Grilling ground beef or lamb can go far beyond a basic burger when you have unique and flavorful dishes to make with it, and Lebanese kafta is a great example.
What is Kafta?
This group or family of ground meatball or meatloaf dishes is known as kafta in Lebanon, but in other parts of the Middle East, India, and North Africa, it’s spelled kofta.
The Meat Mixture
More often than not, Lebanese kafta is made by seasoning ground lamb or beef with finely grated onion, garlic, and Lebanese 7 spice.
Typically, the meat mixture is formed into patties, balls or thick logs, and it’s usually cooked on an outdoor grill. If you prefer, you can cook it in an oven, on an indoor grill, or in a skillet or grill pan on the stove top.
The Difference Between Kofta and Kebabs
Because of the different shape options, kafta (kofta) are typically rolled or shaped and cooked directly on the surface of the grill rather than being skewered for kebabs.
This doesn’t mean you can’t make them as kafta kabobs though; you’ll just have to shape the mixture around the skewers.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Ground meat- Beef kafta is a popular choice but ground lamb, chicken, or any other ground meat can be used.
Be sure that the meat you use isn’t too lean, especially if you want to make kafta kabobs.
Some people have difficulty getting ground meat to stick onto skewers for kebabs, and/or the meat falls off the skewer while it’s on the grill.
This can happen when the meat mixture is too dry. When you use fattier ground meat, it tends to stick together better.
- Grated onion- For an authentic recipe, the onion should be finely grated rather than minced. Grating it makes for a smoother texture. I prefer making mine with little bits of onion, as shown in my photos.
- Spices- The primary seasoning for kafta is Lebanese 7 spice, which is a mixture of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, fenugreek and ginger. I use it to season a lot of dishes, even if they aren't necessarily Lebanese. You can buy the blend, or make your own with my Lebanese 7 spice recipe.
Feel free to adapt the seasonings to your liking as well. Change up the flavor entirely by adding North African (Moroccan) ras el hanout, or give them a bit of Greek flair by adding fresh mint and oregano!
Video: How to Make Lebanese Kafta
Be sure to watch the video in the recipe card below to see how easy it is to make this dish!
The calories in the dish will vary depending on the size and shape you make. One pound of 80 percent lean ground beef grilled and serving 4 people, each kofta has 307 calories.
Absolutely! Treat these just like you would regular meatballs or hamburger patties. The meat mixture can be frozen raw or cooked, for up to 3 months. Before cooking or reheating, you’ll need to allow the meat to thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Serving Suggestions for Kafta
Kafta (Beef or Lamb)
- 1 lb lean ground beef or ground lamb
- 1 cup diced yellow onion (See Note 1)
- ½ cup chopped parsley leaves
- 2 teaspoon Lebanese 7 spice
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil only if cooking in skillet
- 1 large tomato or 2-3 Plum or Romas sliced
- Put the ground beef in a large bowl with the chopped onion, parsley, Lebanese Spice Blend, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly using hands.
- Divide the meat mixture into 6 to 10 patties or long fat fingers depending on the size you prefer. Feel free to use skewers if you like or grill without.
- If grilling, clean and oil the grill. Grill on medium heat for 10-12 minutes. Make sure to keep turning the kafta to get grill marks on all sides (See Note 2). If using a skillet over medium heat, cook and brown on all sides (8-10 minutes).
- If desired, add sliced tomato to the grill and cook along with the meat for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- For a smoother kafta feel free to finely grate the onion and squeeze excess liquid out before adding to the meat.
- If cooking in a skillet, add the oil to the pan and saute in a large skillet on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Turn the kafta over and cook for another 5 minutes.
*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.