Kefta, seasoned ground meat, is one of Morocco's most popular street foods. Traditionally, kefta is washed down with a glass of sweet mint tea. It's delicious served with ratatouille.

EatingWell Magazine, September/October 2008; updated October 2022

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Credit: Christine Ma

Recipe Summary

active:
35 mins
total:
1 hr 35 mins
Servings:
4
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What Is Kefta?

Kefta is a flavorful mixture of ground meat, usually beef or lamb (or both), seasoned with a healthy dose of spices and fresh herbs. One of Morocco's most popular street foods, kefta can be shaped into patties, meatballs or shaped around skewers to make kefta kabobs before it's grilled or broiled.

Tips for Perfect Kefta

Use Lean Ground Meat

Kefta is most commonly made with ground beef or lamb. We use a combination of both in our kefta recipe. Finding lean ground lamb can be difficult, so adding 90 percent lean or leaner ground beef can help cut down on saturated fat and calories as well as help balance the flavor.

Flavor the Meat Generously

One thing that sets kefta apart from a standard meatball is the bold combination of flavors. We marinate the ground meat in lemon juice to give the meatballs some acidity. From there, a combination of onion, garlic and green olives is added to the mix along with cilantro, parsley and plenty of cumin for a flavorful punch. You can experiment with your own combination of herbs and spices as well. Fresh mint, cinnamon, paprika and cayenne pepper are all good options to add in. We like the briny flavor of green olives, but you can leave them out if you prefer. We recommend chopping additions like onion, garlic and olives together in a food processor to ensure the flavor is spread throughout while also helping the kefta stick together when they're shaped.

Cooking Kefta

Kefta can be shaped into patties, balls or around a skewer for kefta kabobs. Kefta is commonly grilled, but if you don't have a grill, you can easily broil them in the oven as we do here. Our kefta is shaped into patties to make broiling easier. If your kefta is shaped into balls or wrapped around skewers, they may take longer to cook on the grill or under the broiler. Kefta should be cooked until it's brown in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 155 degrees F.

What to Serve with Kefta

We like to serve our kefta with a side of harissa. You can enjoy these patties on their own or slip them inside pita bread for a delicious sandwich.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Place beef, lamb and lemon juice in a large bowl. Gently combine until incorporated. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

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  • Transfer the meat to a colander and press to squeeze out excess moisture. Place onion, garlic and olives in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add to the marinated meat along with oil, cilantro, parsley, 1 tablespoon cumin, salt and pepper. Gently combine until evenly incorporated.

  • Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack on it.

  • Using about 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture for each, form 12 thin patties, about 2 1/2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Place on the wire rack.

  • Broil the patties until brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with additional cumin and harissa, if desired.

Tips

Ingredient note: Harissa is a fiery Tunisian chile paste commonly used in North African cooking. Find it at specialty food stores, Mustapha's or Amazon. Harissa in a tube will be much hotter than that in a jar. You can substitute Chinese or Thai chile-garlic sauce for it.

Nutrition Facts

about 3 kefta
264 calories; protein 14.6g; carbohydrates 4.9g; dietary fiber 0.9g; sugars 1.3g; fat 20.7g; saturated fat 5.6g; cholesterol 55mg; vitamin a iu 234IU; vitamin c 11.9mg; folate 21.7mcg; calcium 32.4mg; iron 1.6mg; magnesium 18.3mg; potassium 258.2mg; sodium 581.3mg; thiamin 0.1mg.

3 1/2 medium-fat meat, 2 fat

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