These super JUICY lamb koftas are the perfect centrepiece for a barbecue or Middle Eastern style feast. Served with a zingy yogurt tahini sauce and cooked quickly in one skillet, they make the ultimate easy and delicious bite you’re going to love.
I cycle through desert island dishes, but one that constantly comes up is a Middle Eastern feast. And for me, these gorgeous lamb koftas feature front and centre in that feast. It’s the combination of the spices – cumin, coriander, paprika and cinnamon are the core – with the juicy lamb, fresh herbs and garlic that make these koftas so delicious. I’m serving them with a deliciously creamy yogurt tahini sauce that I really recommend, though it’s of course optional.
There are different ways you can cook them (stove-top, griddle pan, grill, barbecue, baked in the oven) but I’m sharing the way I use the most – starting on the stove and finishing in the oven. This way, you get the lovely golden crust with a perfectly cooked centre. Whenever I try to cook these fully on the stovetop, more often than not the outside will burn before the inside is cooked through. This technique takes that problem away. Plus, using an ovenproof skillet means fewer dishes!
In this post – everything you need to make these koftas
The spices are the key to this dish, so there are quite a few included. But none of them (aside from maybe the sumac but that’s optional) are hard to find and you probably already have them in your cupboard.
- Ground lamb mince. A good lamb kofta is JUICY. That means you want to use ground lamb mince that has a decent percentage of fat. Stay away from anything marked ‘lean’ as it’ll just dry out.
- Spices. I love this combination of spices. Ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon and paprika are the core four – cinnamon is crucial as it provides that gorgeous sweet fragrance you get with Middle Eastern cuisine. I’ve added sumac, a deliciously tart, citrussy and vibrantly violet spice, but it can sometimes be tricky to find so leave it out if you can’t find it. I’ve also included chilli flakes for a bit of heat but again, leave them out if you’re worried about it being spicy.
- Herbs. I’m using flat-leaf parsley and mint, and they’re chopped super finely so they mix cohesively in with the lamb. You could use dried herbs if you don’t have any fresh – use 1 tablespoon of dried parsley or mint in place of the fresh herbs. Or use all fresh parsley or all fresh mint if you don’t have both.
How to make them
Start by finely chopping the parsley and mint – you want this very finely chopped so the leaves don’t stick out when you’re shaping the koftas.
Finely dice the shallot. The easiest way to do this is to use the half with the root attached. With the root facing away from you, make long, thin slices straight down the shallot without cutting into the root (if you do, it’ll fall apart and make it a lot harder to slice), then make three cuts through the cross-section. Finally, make fine cuts down the shallot (as pictured below). This will result in the small, diced shape you’re after for this recipe.
Get the lamb into a large bowl or container. To cut down on washing up, I like to grate the garlic cloves straight into the lamb mince in the container (I like using a microplane, but you can use the fine side of a grater or a garlic press). Add the diced shallots, all the spices and the finely chopped herbs. This is where it gets a little messy, but it’s the best way. Get your hands into the mix and squish it all together so that everything is distributed evenly throughout the meat.
Now it’s time to shape the koftas. This recipe should give you 15 but don’t get too hung up on the amount or the size here. You can shape them however you like – you could roll them into small meatballs, or longer logs – but I’m doing small ovals here. Take about a golf ball size of the mixture into your hands, then press and roll it into a rough oval shape. Set aside on a plate and continue with the rest of the mixture. Pop in the fridge to firm up while you make the sauce.
While the koftas are firming up in the fridge, get the oven heating to 390F/200C fan and make the yogurt tahini sauce. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt into a lovely, creamy sauce. Set aside.
Place an ovenproof skillet over medium heat, and add a tablespoon of oil. Arrange the koftas in the skillet and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown all over. Try not to be tempted to flip them too early – if you try and it feels like they’re sticking to the pan – leave them for another minute or two and try again. When they’re ready to flip, they’ll release themselves. Once they’re golden brown all over, transfer them to the oven and cook for 4 minutes.
PRO TIP: If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, just use an ordinary pan and then transfer the koftas to a lined oven tray to finish them off.
Cooking them this way means you’ll get a charred, golden crust without burning the outside as you’re waiting for the middle to cook. After 4 minutes, remove them from the oven. They should be golden, sizzling and looking and smelling unreal.
To serve, pile the yogurt tahini sauce onto a serving plate and layer on the koftas. Finish with the optional garnishes – more parsley, along with pomegranate seeds (that pop of colour is so beautiful on the plate!), chilli flakes and dukkah. Serve any leftover sauce on the side.
Got a question?
You can! You can make and form the koftas, then store them in the fridge in sealed containers a day before you’re ready to cook them. You can also brown them in your skillet, before storing in the fridge and finishing them off in the oven when you’re ready to serve them. They’ll last for 5 days in the fridge once cooked.
Yes! The koftas freeze really well. You can either freeze them once cooked or freeze them raw. In both cases, arrange them on a lined tray and freeze until solid, then pop them into zip lock bags. You can defrost cooked koftas straight from frozen in the oven at 390F/200C for 25 minutes, or throw them into a sauce on the stove if you’re using them that way. You’ll need to defrost the raw koftas before cooking them, ideally overnight in the fridge.
You can switch out the lamb for beef, chicken or even turkey mince. Or you could use half lamb and half beef if that works for you.
They have a little bit of heat from the chilli flakes, but it’s a small amount in comparison to the other spices. I’ve labelled it as optional in the recipe so if you’re worried about it just leave it out.