Tender Izmir Kofte

This kofte recipe is inspired by the city of Izmir here in Turkey. Juicy meatballs crafted with tiny balls of bulgur, baked with a spiced tomato base alongside sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, peppers, and onions. It’s the perfect dish to feed a hungry family.

kofte in a baking dish

Reasons to Love This Recipe

  • This hearty dish feeds a crowd and all of the ingredients fit in one large baking dish for an easy clean-up.
  • Also, it’s very Economical. If you are from Turkey, you’ll already know that meat is expensive. That said, one very useful solution is to bulk up the meatballs by adding tiny balls of bulgur. Cleaver, right?
  • I’ll have you know, this kofte is Baked not fried. Less oil is used and more veggies are incorporated.
  • As mentioned before, this dish has many tasty veggies baked alongside the kofte. Also, if you don’t want to add tomatoes or potatoes don’t worry. This recipe is very versatile. Use what you like and what you have on hand.

How to Make Kofte

First “cook” the bulgur

  • Add the bulgur to a heat-safe bowl. Pour boiling hot water over the bulgur and cover the bowl with a cloth or saran wrap for 20 minutes.
  • It’s important to use a 1:1 ratio when “cooking” the bulgur. If you add too much water, it will be too soggy and unpleasant.
  • When ready, fluff the bulgur with a fork until nice and fluffy.

Season the meat

  • Add the meat, fluffy bulgur, diced onion and peppers, garlic, and spices together and mix well until combined.
  • Marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • I like to create meatballs by using a cookie scoop. This will ensure each ball is about the same size, thus ensuring all kofte is evenly cooked through at the same time.

Create a spiced tomato sauce

  • All you have to do is grab a heat-safe bowl and add the tomato paste, spices, and hot water. Give it a whisk until fully incorporated and there you have your perfect sauce to pour over everything just before baking.

Put the potatoes under the meatballs

  • First, put all of the potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. Toss them in olive oil and salt to season and to ensure no sticking. Place the meatballs directly on top. You see, the meatball dripping is going to flavor the potatoes immensely. So tasty!

Tips and Variations

If you don’t want to use bulgar, swap for breadcrumbs, or simply omit the ingredient altogether.

Chop the green peppers and onion as finely as you can. This will help the meatball to hold its shape.

Marinate the meatballs for a minimum of 30 minutes for optimal flavor. Also, the longer the marination, the better.

Finally, You can make the kofte ahead of time, freeze them, then use them when you need to.

Serve Alongside These Sides

This dish would go perfectly alongside my Avocado Cacik, Roasted Spiced Celery Root with Jasmin Rice, or Garlicky Cabbage and Carrot Yogurt Meze.

Can I Make This Dish Ahead?

Yes! Simply prepare the recipe as usual and instead of putting it straight into the oven, wrap it in foil and bake when you are ready. I would keep it in the fridge for no longer than 1 day. Keep it in the freezer for up to a month.

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Tender Izmir Kofte

This kofte recipe is inspired by the city of Izmir here in Turkey. Juicy meatballs crafted with tiny balls of bulgur, baked with a spiced tomato base alongside sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, peppers, and onions.

Prep Time 30 min Cook Time 45 min Rest Time 20 min Total Time 1 hr 35 mins Servings: 6



Spiced Tomato Sauce



  1. First, add the bulgur to a large heat-safe bowl. Pour the boiled hot water over the bulgur and seep for about 20 minutes. When ready, fluff with a fork and set aside. 

  2. Next, add the meat to a large mixing bowl, along with the fluffy bulgur, tomato paste, spices, chili, onion, and garlic. Mix well with your hands to combine. Then use a cookie scoop to roll the meat mixture into meatballs (or kofte shape). Set aside. 

  3. Next, make the spiced tomato sauce by adding the tomato paste, oregano, sea salt, olive oil, and boiling hot water to a heat-safe glass and mix until a thick tomato sauce forms, set aside. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F while we put everything together.
  4. Grab your favorite baking dish. Place the diced potatoes, sea salt, and olive oil on the bottom of the dish and toss to combine seasoning. Spread the potatoes out evenly. Then, add the meatballs, wedges of tomato, onion, and chili/pepper. Pour the seasoned tomato sauce over everything. Cover the baking dish and bake for 45 minutes.
  5. Once the meat is cooked through and the potatoes are nice and tender, serve with buttery rice, artisan bread, your favorite side, or enjoy as is.
Keywords: baked kofte

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