These tasty lamb koftas are a homemade version of the kebab shop classic. Enjoy this quick and lamb kofta recipe at any time, fragrant and delicious with basic spices from your kitchen cupboard.
Koftas are simply meatballs in the style of the Middle East, Caucasia and Central Asia. That description, however, doesn’t do them justice.
These spicy lamb meatballs are pressed onto skewers and cooked in the frying pan, BBQ or grill for the most delicious, juicy lamb you can imagine. They’re just full of flavour. If you don’t want skewers you can serve them as shaped meatballs.
Enjoy your lamb koftas in a wrap sandwich, kebab shop style, or served with rice or bread, salad and mezze dishes or other kebabs for a smarter meal.
This fakeaway lamb kofta recipe is easy to make at home, giving you all the control over what you add and allowing you to adjust the spicing to suit yourself, and of course just as good (if not better) as you would get from your local kebab shop!
Why make lamb koftas?
- They are easy – no fuss and no effort.
- They are fast! Barely 5 minutes prep, and about 10 minutes cooking time.
- They are delicious – juicy spiced aromatic lamb.
- They are adaptable – just add different spices and adjust the heat to suit you.
Lamb kofta ingredients
- Lamb mince – Much of the flavour, (and juiciness) is in the fat, so do not be tempted to get a low fat one. I usually buy lamb mince with 20% fat. Also a lot of fat will come out of the meat during cooking so don’t worry about your finished koftas being fatty.
- Fresh herbs – mint, parsley or coriander (cilantro).
- Onion – one finely chopped small onion
- Lemon – A little lemon zest lifts and brightens the koftas. Cut the zested lemon into wedges to serve with the koftas
- Spices – see notes for variations
- Cumin – a nice earthy note
- Ground coriander seed – optional if using fresh coriander leaf.
- Garlic powder – Garlic is delicious with lamb. I find a good powder or granule flavours the whole kofta nicely. Some brands are much nicer than others, so give it a sniff. A good brand will actually smell of garlic while the not-so-good ones can be a bit burnt and rubbery.
- Cinnamon – This adds that lovely Middle Eastern flavour note. You won’t necessarily identify the cinnamon, but you will miss if it it isn’t there. So don’t worry, it won’t taste of cookies!
- Chilli flake – This is made from dried red peppers (without the seeds), so don’t confuse it with crushed hot chillis. It adds a very gentle heat and lovely sweet flavour. I put it on everything. Buy it in your local Middle Eastern shop. You can also use (smoked) paprika, or hotter crushed or powdered chillies.
- Pepper & Salt – The koftas need a large pinch of salt. I add to the mix, and sprinkle extra when serving.
Koftas vs shish kebabs
Although the word ‘shish’ refers to a skewer, these koftas are not shish kebabs! Shish kebabs are chunks of meat cooked and served on the skewer. Koftas are made with seasoned spiced mince and can be cooked and served either on a skewer or as meatballs.
Although the seasoning is similar, there is a distinct difference in flavour and texture. They complement each other very well, and are fantastic as part of a mixed grill or kebab feast.
How to make lamb koftas – step by step
Before you start, read my step-by-step instructions, with photos, hints and tips so you can make this lamb kofta recipe perfectly every time.
Scroll down for the recipe card with quantities and more tips at the bottom of the page.
Step One – Put the lamb, spices, and the chopped onion (no need to fry first) into a bowl. Chop and add the fresh herbs, and use a fine microplane to zest the lemon.
Helen’s Pro Tip
Forget herb scissors, mezzaluna, and other fancy herb chopping devices, because you don’t need them and they clutter up the kitchen.
Pop your herbs into a mug and use a regular pair of kitchen scissors to chop.
If you need a really fine chop, you can cut on a board with a knife, but the scissor and mug method works for this recipe.
Step Two – Mix everything together. The easiest way to do this is to get your hands in and give it all a very good squish.
Helen’s Pro Tip
At this stage, you can pack the kofta mixture into an airtight box in the fridge for a day before using. As long as the lamb has not been frozen before, you can so freeze it to make koftas another day.
Step Three – Divide the mixture into 8 evenly sized balls. It helps to have damp hands to do this.
Step Four – Next, roll each ball into a sausage shape, and poke a skewer through it. Firmly press the mixture around the skewer, shaping it as best you can.
I find flat metal skewers are probably the best as koftas will not rotate on them. Mine are round, however, and work very well.
If you use bamboo skewers, these need soaking in water before use, so that they don’t burn. These do not conduct heat to the centre of the meat as quickly as metal ones so cooking time will be a bit longer when using them.
Step Five – Add a little oil to a heavy frying pan and fry the koftas over a medium heat, turning every few minutes until browned all over. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan.
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
Lamb is fatty and spluttery. Either pour off the fat as the koftas cook, or use an inexpensive splatter guard to keep the fat in the pan and off your stovetop, worktops and hands.
Step Six – The koftas are ready after about 8 minutes frying time, or when starting to brown all over. They will have shrunk a little.
What to serve with lamb koftas
Alternatively, make them part of a barbecue or hot and cold mezze spread, with a classic Greek salad or on a bed of rice.
- Meatballs – You don’t need to cook the koftas on skewers. If you prefer, you can make them into balls and fry without the skewers instead.
- Flavour – Play with the spicing to suit your taste.
- Herbs – Add different herbs to the mix. Try thyme, chervil or oregano.
- You can use other meats aside from lamb in this kofta recipe. Beef and turkey mince both work well.
Storage and freezing
You can store the meat mixture in a sealed box in the fridge for 24 hours if you want to make it up in advance.
You can also freeze the mixture. I don’t recommend freezing the cooked koftas. They are better fresh from the pan.
OTHER COOKING METHODS
- BBQ – Light a charcoal or gas barbecue half an hour before you want to cook. Once hot, or when the charcoal is white, cook for 6–8 minutes each side. Oil the grill to stop sticking,
- Electric Griddle – Switch on the grill and leave it to heat up. Cook the kebabs in the closed grill for 5–8 minutes, depending on the power of the grill and how you like your meat.
- Oven Grill (Broiler) – Light the grill/broiler and leave it for 5 minutes to heat. Place the kebabs on a lined baking tray and grill for about 6 minutes each side. Keep a close eye on them if your grill has any hot spots, and move downwards if needed.
- Airfryer – Follow the instructions for my chicken teriyaki kebabs.
Hints and Tips
- If you are buying from the supermarket, you will find that pack size varies for meat and you may find lamb mince in 450g or 500g packs. I used 500g here, but it won’t make much difference to the recipe.
- If you want to make the meat go a little further, you can add half a cup of breadcrumbs (fresh bread or panko) to the mix.
You can do this, but in general the advice is to cook minced meat through, rather than serve pink.
The crucial thing is a decent fat content, as much of the flavour and juicy texture come from the fat. I use a 20% fat lamb mince.
Absolutely, and in fact, you can cook this lamb kofta recipe in any way you would normally cook a kebab. Just make sure that the meat is pressed together well.
Our word ‘kofta’ is ultimately derived from Farsi but koftas exist across Central and Southern Asia, Eastern and Southern Europe and the Middle East. The names (keftedes in Greek, köfte in Turkish, kofta in Urdu) and spices vary a little. The core of the dish remains the same.
More Kebab Recipes
- Lamb Shish Kebabs – Turkish style lamb shish kebabs, easy, tender and full of flavour
- Chicken Tikka Kebabs – If you like Indian spices, try these tandoori style skewers.
- Chicken Shish Kebabs – Tender, spicy and delicious chicken shish kebabs in a yogurt marinade
- Falafel Kebabs – Fast veggie kebabs with ready-made falafels
Lamb Koftas Recipe
- 500 g lamb mince (15–20% fat)
- 1 small onion (finely diced)
- 2 tbsp fresh herbs (chopped)
- 1 lemon (zest only)
- 2 tsp cumin (ground)
- 2 tsp coriander seed (ground)
- 1 tsp garlic powder / granules
- 1 tsp chilli flake
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- salt & pepper to taste
- ½ cup breadcrumbs (optional to make the mix go further)
- Finely chop the onions and roughly chop the herbs. Then put all ingredients together in a bowl, zesting the lemon over the mixture.500 g lamb mince, 1 small onion, 2 tbsp fresh herbs, 1 lemon, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander seed, 1 tsp garlic powder / granules, 1 tsp chilli flake, 1 tsp cinnamon, salt & pepper to taste
- Mix all the ingredients together until well combined. It is easiest to use your hands for this and give everything a really good squish.
- Shape the meat paste into 8 evenly sized balls. It can help to have damp hands to stop the mince sticking to them,
- Roll the balls into sausage shapes and thread onto skewers, give it a good squeeze so it is tightly packed around the skewer. You can use metal or bamboo skewers, but the bamboo ones need to be soaked in water for 30 minutes first.
To Pan Fry
- Put a little oil in a large frying pan. Add the koftas to the pan and fry over a medium heat, turning occasionally.You can avoid splatters of hot fat by using a splatter guard for the pan.
- The koftas are ready when they are cooked through, this takes about 8 minutes, and browned on the outside. Serve immediately.
To Grill / Broil
- Light the grill/broiler and leave it for 5 minutes to heat.
- Place the kebabs on a lined baking tray and grill for about 6 minutes each side. Keep a close eye on them if your grill has any hot spots, and move downwards if needed.
- Light a charcoal or gas barbecue half an hour before you want to cook. Once hot, or when the charcoal is white, cook for 6–8 minutes each side. Oil the grill to stop sticking,