These super JUICY lamb koftas are the perfect centre piece 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 dish 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 totally 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 stove-top, 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 less dishes!
In this post – everything you need for making these koftas
- Ingredients you’ll need
- Step-by-step guide
- Your burning questions, answered
- Three ways to serve them
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.
- Lamb mince. A good lamb kofta is JUICYYYY. That means you want to use a lamb mince that has a decent percentage of fat. Stay away from anything marked ‘lean’ as it’ll just dry out.
- Spices. I absolutely 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. Go crazy with the chopping here! 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 mince into a large bowl or container. To cut down on dishes, 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 use 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 really the best way. Get your hands into the mix and squish it all together so that everything is distributed evenly throughout the mince.
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 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 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.
Once the oven is at 200C, get the koftas out of the fridge. Place an ovenproof skillet over medium heat, and add a tablespoon of rapeseed or sunflower oil. I like to use an oil with a high smoking point in this recipe rather than olive oil. I find whenever I do use olive oil, they’re much more likely to burn in the pan. 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 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 others spices. I’ve labelled it as optional in the recipe so if you’re worried about it just leave it out.
Three things to serve with the koftas
- Plate up with creamy super smooth hummus for a Middle Eastern-style feast
- Load into easy, soft garlic flatbreads and drizzle the yogurt tahini sauce on top
- Serve on top of rice with green tahini sauce
Like this recipe? Here are some others you might enjoy!
If you make this recipe let me know in the comments below! I love hearing how you get on with my creations.Print
Lamb Koftas with Tahini Yogurt Sauce
- Total Time: 26 minutes
- Yield: 15 koftas 1x
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 dish you’re going to love.
Remember, if you’re looking for US measurements, use the ‘Units’ section below and click on ‘US’.
For the lamb koftas –
- 1/2 a shallot (or white onion)
- 500g lamb mince
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sumac (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup finely chopped mint
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon sunflower/rapeseed oil (oil with a high smoking point, not olive oil)
For the tahini yogurt dressing –
- 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened or Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
To garnish (optional) –
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon dukkah
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
- Start by finely dicing the shallot (or onion). To do this, with the root facing away from you, slice thin strips down the shallot, without cutting through the root. Carefully make cuts through the cross-section of the shallot in the opposite direction. Then cut down the shallot from the top. This way you’ll easily get finely diced pieces.
- Mix the koftas. Get the 500g of lamb mince, the diced shallot, 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, smoked paprika, salt, sumac if you’re using it, ½ teaspoon of chilli flakes if you’re using them, ½ cup of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and ¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves into a large mixing bowl. Using a Microplane or fine side of a grater, grate the 3 garlic cloves straight into the bowl with the other ingredients. You can use a garlic press here if you prefer. There’s no getting around it – the best way to make sure everything is mixed really well is to get your hands in there and really scrunch the mixture together. You can wear disposable gloves if you have them. Mix until everything is well combined.
- Shape the koftas. Get a large plate ready. Wet your hands (this makes it easier to form the koftas without the mix sticking to your hands). Pick up about a tablespoon of the mixture, and form into a small oval shape in your hands. Pop on the plate and repeat with the remaining mixture. You should get 15 koftas from the mix. It helps at this point to refrigerate the koftas for around 30 minutes just so they have a chance to firm up before cooking. Heat the oven to 200C/390F fan.
- Make the tahini yogurt sauce. Add ½ a cup of yogurt, 2 tablespoons tahini, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of salt to a small bowl. Again using a Microplane, small grater or garlic press, grate the 2 garlic cloves directly into the bowl. Mix vigorously with a fork until a smooth, creamy sauce forms. Set aside.
- Cook the koftas. Remove the koftas from the fridge and get a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of rapeseed/sunflower oil, then add the koftas to the skillet. Depending on the size of your skillet, you might need to do this in batches. Cook them for 5 minutes on each side, until they’re golden brown. Try not to move them until they naturally release from the pan – if you go to rotate them and feel like they’re sticking, they’re not ready to turn. Once they’re brown all over, pop the skillet in the oven for 4 minutes. This way of cooking them makes sure you get that lovely crispy, golden crust and koftas that are cooked through without being burnt.
- Serve the koftas. Remove the skillet from the oven. To serve, spoon the yogurt tahini sauce onto a serving plate, then layer on the koftas. Finish with the optional garnishes of parsley, dukkah, chilli flakes and pomegranate seeds (or choose some of these rather than them all!). Eat right away.
If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, brown the koftas in a regular pan and then transfer them to a lined oven tray to finish off in the oven.
You can prepare the koftas up until you cook them the day before you’re planning to serve to get ahead. Just store them in containers in the fridge and then cook them when you’re ready. Alternatively, you can pan-fry the koftas, pop them in the fridge and then finish them off in the oven when you’re ready to serve.
They will also freeze well once cooked. You can then cook them straight from frozen in the oven at 200C/390F fan for 20 minutes, or throw them into a sauce and let them defrost as you’re cooking. You can also freeze the raw koftas. Get them on a lined tray in the freezer until solid, then store them in zip-lock bags. You’ll need to defrost them before using them, ideally in the fridge overnight.
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 16
- Category: meat
- Method: stove top
- Cuisine: middle eastern
- Serving Size: 3 koftas
Keywords: lamb meatballs, lamb kebabs
These were SO GOOD!!!! so easy – made them on the bbq