Bold, spiced lamb skewers, aka lamb kofta, make a delicious anytime meal. Easy enough for weeknights yet unique enough for company, this recipe is a true delight. Serve the crispy lamb kofta skewers on a large platter with chewy naan, garlicky yogurt sauce, sliced cucumber, and tons of fresh herbs.
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What is Lamb Kofta
Lamb Kofta is a Middle-Eastern ground lamb dish featuring a handful of warm spices, onion, and herbs. Depending on region and cooking technique, kofta can be found made as skewered logs, unskewed logs, patties or meatballs.
I opted for the more recognizable form—skewered logs—but feel free to form these however works best for you. When it comes to serving, Lamb Kofta is often served with naan, yogurt-sauces, vegetables, and lots of fresh herbs.
Where is Kofta From?
Many assume kofta is strictly Middle Eastern, but kofta can actually be traced back to a variety of cuisines. It’s even credited for being the original meatball.
Some say Kofta traces back to the Persians who then passed it on to the Arabs. Kofta recipes can even be found in some of the earliest arabic cookbooks. From there, it’s likely that kofta was passed along trade routes to Greece, North Africa and Spain.
Historically kofta is made with ground beef, pork, chicken or lamb mixed with rice, bulgur or mashed lentil. Lamb, however, is particularly popular in the Middle East.
Greek or Balkin varieties tend to use a mix of ground beef, pork or lamb. Alternatively, Indian kofta tends to made vegetarian using potatoes, paneer or even bananas and are served with a curry or gravy.
How to Make Lamb Kofta
- Cook the shallots until softened, then add the pine nuts and cook them until toasted. Add the spices and cook briefly to bloom them.
- Combine the shallot mixture with ground lamb and fresh herbs.
- Form the lamb mixture into logs then push a skewer lengthwise through each log.
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet, broiler or grill and cook the lamb skewers until well-brown (basically charred) and cooked through. Ground lamb is pretty fatty, so you won’t need added oil to cook the skewers.
How to Serve Lamb Kofta
The combination of lamb, bold spices, garlic, shallot and fresh herbs makes for a filling and satisfying meat dish. Two kofta served with naan or rice, fresh vegetables, yogurt sauce and herbs can easily be a serving. If you don’t anticipate serving these with a starchy side dish, you may want to consider doubling the recipe if you’re serving four.
Serve kofta with:
- Naan or rice
- Sliced cucumber
- Shredded cabbage dressed with olive oil and lemon juice
- Greek yogurt mixed with garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper. Tzatziki would also be a great option.
- A lot of fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley and mint
I like to pile the skewers on a large platter with all the fixings, that way everyone can make their own plate and enjoy the kofta however they prefer.
- Use onion and garlic instead of shallots and garlic.
- Serve with pita bread instead of naan.
- Use a combination of lamb and pork or lamb and beef.
- Swap the cayenne for red pepper flakes.
- Serve slices of tomato and cucumber on the side with the naan and yogurt sauce.
Middle Eastern-Inspired Dishes
A handful of Middle Eastern dishes or Middle Eastern-inspired recipes that pair well with this kofta recipe.
Lamb Kofta Platter
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots, chopped (or ½ yellow onion)
- ⅓ cup pine nuts, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 pound ground lamb, 70% or 80% lean
- ½ cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 8 wooden or metal skewers
- Zucchini Tzatziki or Greek yogurt mixed with a bit of garlic, *see notes
- Shredded cabbage tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, *see notes
- Sliced cucumber
- Lots of herbs such as mint, cilantro and parsley
- Ground sumac sprinkled over platter
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large cast-iron skillet or nonstick skillet until shimmering. Add shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add pine nuts and cook until starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, and cloves; cook 30 seconds. Transfer shallot mixture to a large bowl with lamb, parsley and mint; mix to combine.
- Divide mixture into 8 even portions.
- Form each into a 4-inch-long log. Push a skewer through the length of each log, leaving a 4-inch tail on one end and a 1-inch tail on the other; form meat around skewer to secure.
- Cook according to directions below using the stove, grill or broiler.
- Stove: Preheat a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium high heat for 5 minutes (just wipe out the skillet you used to cook the shallot and spices). Add 4 lamb skewers and cook, turning every 2–3 minutes, until well charred and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the centers registers 145ºF (*see recipe notes below), about 8 minutes total. Transfer skewers to a platter and repeat cooking process with remaining 4 skewers.
- Grill: Preheat a grill to medium-high for 5–10 minutes; brush grill grate clean. Arrange lamb skewers over grate and grill, turning every 2 minutes, until charred and an instant-read thermometer registers 145ºF (*see recipe notes below), about 6 minutes total.
- Broiler/oven grill: heat broiler to high with rack set 10-inches from element (middle rack). Arrange lamb skewers on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil, turning every 3 minutes, until well-browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 145ºF (*see recipe notes below), 10–12 minutes.
- To assemble a platter: arrange skewers on a large platter. Place a small bowl of yogurt sauce in the middle then arrange naan, shredded cabbage, cucumber, and fresh herbs around the rest of the platter. Sprinkle sumac over top.
I had never heard of kofta before until I found this on Pinterest. Such a unique and flavorful recipe! I can’t wait to make this for my extended family. What a great dinner to serve a crowd.
I. Love to cook Greek and Middle Eastern dishes – all was good except the cayenne. I noticed my other recipes did not call for this amount or any cayenne. My family voted to withhold it next time or drop down to a pinch, as it added a heat that took away from the other spices. Served it with traditional garnishes and enjoyed.
A great note for other readers should they prefer to skip the heat!