Icli Kofte – Bulgur Balls With Meat and Walnut Filling

This kofte is not just crafty stuff but definitely an artistic touch to your dinner tables. In Southeastern Anatolia elongated icli kofte is usually served fried and boiled round icli kofte is enjoyed in Eastern Mediterranean towns like Adana and Kahramanmaras. The recipes for the stuffing and bulgur mix do not differ much throughout Turkey. Various Arab countries have bulgur balls, called kibbah. The only variation between these and the Turkish version is the use of spices I suppose.

My grandma was an icli kofte master and she was famous for it in the town we used to live, I even remember strangers (friends of friends of friends and so on) dropping by our house on the days she made kofte. Yes, it requires a lot of time and skillful hands, but it is totally worth it. Here we go:


3 cups of fine grind bulgur (parboiled cracked wheat, you can find it in the organic food section of your supermarket or at Middle Eastern grocery shops)

500g of lean minced beef or lamb (ask your butcher to double grind it, it’s crucial)

2 onions, finely grated

1 whole egg

2 tablespoons of flour

2 tablespoons red pepper paste (you can find it at Turkish shops)

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon blackpepper

1 1/2 teaspoons of powdered cumin

Boiling water

For the filling:

50g butter

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

3 onions, chopped finely

1 kg minced meat, with at least 7-8 percent fat content

1 teaspoon blackpepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon of redpepper flakes

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups parsley, chopped finely

2 cups of coarsely ground walnut

For the sauce:

50g butter

A dash of paprika

We’ll make the filling first and let it cool off before the assembling step. Cook onions in a deep pan with sunflower oil. Add minced meat (the fatty patch), brown. Add cumin, redpepper flakes (or paprika powder), salt, blackpepper, butter and stirfry for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add parsley and cover. Once it’s cooled off add walnuts. Keep it in the fridge.

Mix bulgur with 2 cups of boiling water. Add salt, redpepper paste, black pepper, cumin, onions, eggs, flour and double ground lean meat. Start kneading all these ingredients into a dough. Make sure you dip your hands into warm water before starting to knead and add small amounts of water into the dough several times as you go. In around 15-20 minutes of hard work, you’ll have a sticky soft dough, softer than pasta dough, but thicker when compared to bread dough.

The next step is assembling the kofte. I’ve added pictures below as describing it with words is not so easy. Besides, each and every cook has their own method of assemblingicli kofte. Whole point is making round, oval, elongated meatballs with the meat filling. Soaking your hands into icy cold water in between each kofte is a smart way to keep them cool so that the process does not turn into a sticky mess.

You can keep ready koftes in the fridge a couple of hours or even overnight prior to boiling or frying. 15-20 minutes before serving, boil 3-4 liters of water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt into water. Drop koftes one by one gently into boiling water and cook for 7-8 minutes until they begin to float. Remove from water. In a pan melt 50g of butter and add paprika. Place boiled koftes into this pan and lightly fry 2 minutes until covered with butter. Serve warm with fruit punch/compote or salad. A bowl of soup followed by 3-4 icli kofte with some salad/fruit compote would make a perfect meal.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i wanna try it this night. i hope it’s worth. 🙂

  2. I am so scared to make this but I am determined because its so nice. Wish me luck! Thanks for recipe.

    • Have you tried? Did it turn out well? Let us know! The best of luck!

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