Beef Kofta

Beef Kofta with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Shaping the kofta
Kofta, Middle Eastern spiced, grilled meat

This is part of my May 2022 Times Union story, all about food and exercise and sharing with the people you love (it’s always better that way.) Read the whole story here.

Here’s a recipe for kofta, which is excellent party food (see above about food eaten with the people you love.) This recipe is based on traditional Lebanese grilled meat, formed into logs, pressed onto skewers and cooked over hot coals. You’ll see versions of kofta often made from lamb, and you can easily use lamb with good results. I made this version with meatloaf mix, because that’s what I had on hand. The meat can stick on the grill so the fattier, the better (lean meat like turkey can be tricky), and be sure to oil your grates very well. These are easy to prepare and big on flavor. Use the food processor to do all the heavy lifting, and you’ll have perfectly uniform chopped onion, garlic and parsley. I add the pine nuts in after the first process, so they don’t get too pureed and add little texture to the meat. The pine nuts are important, for both their buttery, sweet flavor and texture, so don’t leave them out. They’re notoriously expensive, but you only need a small amount. I like to toast them first, and those little buggers burn in a blink, so don’t turn your back. Seriously, let the phone ring and the dog bark until they’re golden brown, then turn off the pan and remove them to a plate to cool. It’s worth the extra effort. Kofta is street food and I always trust street food to be slightly messy and downright delicious. These are both of those things. 

Beef Kofta with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Recipe by Caroline Barrett




  • Wooden skewers

  • 1 cup plain parsley leaves

  • 1 small yellow onion

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 heaping teaspoon each cumin and cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper

  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts

  • 1 ½ pounds ground meatloaf meat

  • Neutral oil, for grilling

  • Serve with Lemon Tahini Sauce (recipe follows)

  • For serving: tomatoes, cucumbers and pita bread


  • Soak the skewers in water while preparing the meat.
  • Place all ingredients except the pine nuts and ground meat into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Scrape the bowl down and pulse again, until uniformly and finely chopped. Add the pine nuts and pulse 3-4 times, scraping down again if necessary. Combine the parsley mixture with the ground meat in a large bowl and using your hands, mix gently to thoroughly combine.
  • Press the meat mixture into 12 evenly shaped logs, pressing firmly, and refrigerate for an hour.
  • Heat a grill to medium hot. Skewer each log and brush lightly with oil, then brush the grill grates with oil as well. Grill the skewers, being careful when turning the koftas. Rotate only when the meat is very browned and lifts from the grate easily. Cook until evenly browned and the inside registers at 160 degrees, about 10 minutes total.
  • Serve with the bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and a drizzle of lemon tahini sauce.
  • Lemon Tahini Sauce (Makes about ¾ cup), large garlic clove, quartered, Juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup tahini, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, warm water. Combine the garlic and lemon in a glass bowl. Allow to marinate for about 15 minutes, then discard the garlic. Add the tahini, salt, cumin and water, about one tablespoon at a time, until smooth and creamy and your desired consistency. Keep whisking, even if it appears lumpy. It will smooth out to a creamy sauce.

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