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Lebanese Kafta Recipe: A Flavorful Journey

Welcome to your journey in recreating the delicious, juicy, and flavorful Lebanese kafta! This well-loved Lebanese dish features a perfect blend of ingredients that create a mouth-watering and memorable culinary experience for enthusiasts and hobbyists alike. In this guide, you’ll learn about the vital components of a Lebanese kafta recipe, including ground beef or lamb, onions, parsley, and spices. Additionally, you’ll master the preparation, shaping, skewering, grilling, and serving techniques that come together to put this scrumptious meal on your table.

Understanding Kafta Ingredients

Lebanese kafta is a delicious and flavorful dish made from ground meat, typically beef or lamb, and mixed with fresh herbs, spices, and onions. The mixture is shaped into patties or skewers and grilled or baked to perfection. This dish is a staple in Lebanese cuisine and can be enjoyed with a variety of side dishes such as rice, bread, salads, or even stuffed into a pita sandwich. To successfully prepare and enjoy a Lebanese kafta recipe, it’s essential to have a good understanding of the key ingredients.

1. Ground Beef or Lamb:

The base of Lebanese kafta is usually made with ground beef or lamb, with lean or moderately fatty meat being the ideal choice. While you can use either beef or lamb, make sure to choose good-quality, fresh meat to ensure the best taste. You may also use a mixture of both meats if you desire.

2. Onions:

Onions are an essential ingredient in kafta, providing flavor, moisture, and texture to the dish. Finely chop the onions so they can be distributed evenly throughout the meat mixture. Yellow or white onions are commonly used for their sharp taste and ability to hold up well during cooking.

3. Parsley:

Fresh flat-leaf parsley is the herb of choice for kafta due to its mildly peppery taste and versatility. It adds a vibrant burst of color and flavor to the dish. Make sure to thoroughly wash the parsley, remove the stems, and finely chop the leaves. The amount of parsley can be adjusted based on your personal taste – some people like a lot of parsley in their kafta, while others prefer a milder flavor.

4. Spices:

Lebanese kafta uses a blend of different spices that work together to create a deeply flavorful and aromatic dish. Key spices include:

  • Allspice: This sweet and fragrant spice adds a warm, earthy flavor to kafta. It is made from ground berries of the pimento tree and is a staple in many Middle Eastern dishes.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon adds a hint of sweetness and warmth to kafta. The use of cinnamon adds a unique twist to the traditional recipe, differentiating Lebanese kafta from similar dishes.
  • Black pepper: Freshly ground black pepper adds a slight heat and kick to kafta.
  • Cayenne pepper (optional): For those who enjoy spicy food, a pinch of cayenne pepper is a great way to add some heat without overpowering the other flavors.
  • Salt: Use salt to season the meat mixture, enhancing the flavors of all the other ingredients.

5. Optional Ingredients:

Some kafta recipes may also include additional ingredients, such as:

  • Fresh mint leaves: For a refreshing touch, add some finely chopped fresh mint leaves along with the parsley.
  • Crushed garlic: Adding minced or crushed garlic can give an extra layer of flavor to the kafta.

Now that you have a good understanding of the key ingredients in a Lebanese kafta recipe, you can confidently prepare this flavorful dish and enjoy a taste of Lebanese cuisine in your own home.

A picture of different ingredients used in Lebanese kafta, such as ground beef, onions, parsley, allspice, cinnamon and black pepper.

Preparing the Kafta Mixture

Step 1: Gather ingredients
To prepare the Lebanese kafta mixture, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef or lamb (or a combination of both)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional, for added spice)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Step 2: Combine dry ingredients
In a small bowl, combine the ground allspice, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne pepper (if using), salt, and black pepper. Mix well to create the spice mix. Set aside.

Step 3: Combine meat and vegetables
In a large bowl, place the ground meat (beef or lamb). Add the finely chopped onion, parsley, and mint leaves (if using) to the bowl, followed by the minced garlic. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients until they are well-combined.

Step 4: Add the spice mix
Next, add the prepared spice mix to the meat and vegetable mixture. Gently mix the spices in, ensuring that they are evenly distributed throughout the meat mixture.

Step 5: Knead the mixture
Use your hands to knead the kafta mixture for about 3 to 5 minutes. This helps to create a smoother texture and allows the flavors to meld together. Be sure not to overmix, as this can result in a tough final product.

Step 6: Rest the mixture (optional)
For optimal flavor, cover the kafta mixture with plastic wrap and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight. This step is optional, but it allows the flavors to meld and deepen, resulting in a tastier final product.

Step 7: Shape the kafta
Once the mixture has rested (or immediately after mixing if you’re short on time), use your hands to shape the kafta into your desired form. You can form the mixture into oblong patties, meatballs, or even mold it onto skewers for grilling.

Now your kafta mixture is ready to be cooked. You can grill, bake, or pan-fry the kafta to your desired level of doneness. Enjoy your homemade Lebanese kafta with sides like pita bread, hummus, or tabbouleh.

A woman preparing Lebanese kafta mixture by combining ingredients and seasoning meat.

Shaping and Skewering the Kafta

Master the technique of shaping the kafta into logs or patties and threading them onto skewers for easy grilling.


  • 1 lb ground beef or lamb
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before use)


  1. Prepare the mixture: In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat, onion, parsley, mint, garlic, and spices. Mix well, using your hands or a fork, until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors meld together.
  2. Shape the kafta: Once your meat mixture has chilled, it’s time to shape the kafta. Wet your hands with cold water to prevent the mixture from sticking to them. Take a small portion of the meat mixture, about the size of a golf ball or a bit larger. Shape the portion into a log or patty, about 4-5 inches long and 1 inch thick. Keep the shape consistent for even cooking. Repeat this process with the rest of the meat mixture.
  3. Skewer the kafta: Thread a skewer through the center of each kafta log or patty, ensuring the skewer is well-positioned and the kafta is stable. Press the meat mixture gently around the skewer to secure it in place. If you have flat metal skewers, these work especially well for holding the kafta firmly.
  4. Get ready for grilling: Prepare your grill for medium-high heat, making sure the grates are clean and well-oiled to prevent sticking. Once the grill is ready, place the skewered kafta on the grates, maintaining an even distance between each skewer.
  5. Grill the kafta: Cook the skewered kafta for 4-5 minutes on one side, then carefully flip them and cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until they’re fully cooked through and have a beautiful, even char on the outside. Monitor the heat to avoid burning, as the fat from the ground meat may cause flare-ups.
  6. Serve and enjoy: Once the kafta is cooked to your desired level, carefully remove them from the skewers using a fork or tongs. Serve alongside your favorite Lebanese side dishes, such as tabbouleh, hummus, and pita bread.
  7. Get creative: Experiment with different meat combinations or add your favorite spices to make the kafta recipe your own. Happy grilling!

A skewer of cooked kafta, with browned and crispy meat on the outside.

Grilling Techniques

Preparing the grill:

For gas grills, set half of the burners to high heat, leaving the other half on low heat. For charcoal grills, place a chimney start filled with charcoal briquettes to one side, igniting them and waiting until they’re covered with white ash before spreading over half the grill. This will create a hot zone for searing and a cool zone for indirect cooking.

Preparing the kafta:

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 pound of ground beef or lamb, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Mix the ingredients thoroughly, then form the mixture into 1-inch-wide, elongated, oval-shaped patties.

Skewering the kafta:

Optionally, thread the kafta patties onto metal or wooden skewers. If you’re using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling to prevent burning.

Preheating the grill:

Preheat the grill with the lid closed for 10-15 minutes. Clean the grill grates using a grill brush to remove any residue or debris.

Oil the grill grates:

Fold a paper towel into a small square and dip it into vegetable oil. Using tongs, carefully wipe the paper towel over the hot grill grates to create a non-stick surface.

Searing the kafta:

Place the skewered kafta or patties on the hot side of the grill, searing them for 2-3 minutes per side to develop a nice crust.

Indirect cooking:

Once seared, move the kafta to the cooler side of the grill. Close the lid and continue cooking for an additional 8-10 minutes, turning the skewers occasionally for even cooking. For gas grills, adjust the heat to maintain a consistent 350°F temperature inside the grill.

Using a meat thermometer:

To ensure proper cooking, check the internal temperature of the kafta using an instant-read meat thermometer. The safe internal temperature for ground beef or lamb is 160°F.

Resting the kafta:

Once the kafta reaches the desired temperature, remove them from the grill and allow them to rest for 3-5 minutes before serving. This will allow the juices to redistribute and ensure a tender, flavorful result.

Serving suggestions:

Serve the grilled kafta with pita bread, tzatziki sauce, or tahini sauce, along with a side of grilled vegetables or a fresh salad. Enjoy your perfectly grilled Lebanese kafta!

A man grilling meat on an outdoor barbecue grill.

Serving Accompaniments

Lebanese Kafta is a delicious and popular Middle Eastern dish made from ground meat, spices, and herbs. It is usually served with a variety of side dishes and condiments that complement its flavors and textures. Here are some of the most popular serving accompaniments for Lebanese Kafta, along with instructions on how to prepare them.

1. Pita Bread:

Pita bread is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine and pairs perfectly with the flavors of Lebanese Kafta. To prepare pita bread, you can:

  • Purchase pre-made pita bread from the store, or
  • Make your own pita bread by combining flour, water, yeast, salt, and olive oil to create a dough. Divide the dough into small balls, roll them out into thin circles and cook them on a heated skillet or griddle until they puff up and have brown spots on both sides.

2. Hummus:

Hummus is a creamy chickpea dip that serves as an excellent complement to Lebanese Kafta. To prepare hummus, you will need:

  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve alongside the kafta.

3. Tabbouleh:

Tabbouleh is a fresh and flavorful salad made with bulgur wheat, parsley, tomatoes, and a lemony dressing. To prepare tabbouleh, you will need:

  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
  • 2 cups fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Drain the soaked bulgur wheat and combine with the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Serve chilled alongside the kafta.

4. Garlic Sauce (Toum):

Garlic sauce, known as “toum” in Arabic, is another popular accompaniment to Lebanese Kafta. It has a rich, creamy texture and a strong garlic flavor. To prepare garlic sauce, you will need:

  • 1 cup garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups neutral oil (like canola or sunflower)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

In a food processor, blend the garlic and salt until finely minced. Slowly add the oil, a little at a time, while continuing to blend the mixture. Alternate adding oil and lemon juice until the sauce emulsifies and becomes thick and creamy. Serve alongside the kafta.

5. Grilled vegetables:

You can also serve Lebanese Kafta with a variety of grilled vegetables such as:

  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Cherry tomatoes

Simply chop the vegetables into large pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of zaatar (Middle Eastern spice blend) or dried oregano. Grill the vegetables until tender and slightly charred. Serve alongside the kafta.

By offering a variety of side dishes and condiments, you can create a truly delightful and diverse meal featuring Lebanese Kafta. Enjoy the flavors of the Middle East as you mix and match these traditional accompaniments.

A plate of Lebanese Kafta with side dishes including pita bread, hummus, tabbouleh, garlic sauce and grilled vegetables

Understanding Lebanese Cuisine

Lebanese cuisine is a rich and diverse culinary tradition that has been influenced by numerous cultures over the years. Known for its use of fresh, flavorful ingredients, Lebanese cuisine continues to enthrall food enthusiasts and hobbyists who appreciate bold, vibrant flavors. Kafta, a popular Lebanese dish, is a prime example of these flavors coming together to create a delicious and satisfying meal.Key Features of Lebanese Cuisine:
1. Fresh Ingredients: Lebanese cuisine places a strong emphasis on using fresh, locally-sourced, and often seasonal ingredients to create delicious meals. Common ingredients include fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, poultry, and seafood.
2. Herbs and spices: A variety of herbs and spices are used to infuse Lebanese dishes with flavor. Some commonly used herbs and spices include mint, parsley, cilantro, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and za’atar (a Middle Eastern herb blend).
3. Healthy eating: Lebanese cuisine is known for being nutritious and well-balanced, featuring an abundance of whole grains, vegetables, and lean proteins. Olive oil, a staple in Lebanese cooking, is often used as a healthier alternative to butter and other saturated fats.
4. Mezze: Lebanese meals often include a variety of small, flavorful appetizers known as mezze. These dishes are typically served on small plates and can include various salads, dips, and finger foods like falafel, kibbeh, and stuffed grape leaves.Ingredients:
– 1 lb of ground beef, lamb, or chicken (traditionally, a combination of beef and lamb is used)
– 1 medium onion, finely chopped
– 1/4 cup of parsley, finely chopped
– 2 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground allspice
– 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
– 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
– Salt, to taste
– Skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before using to prevent burning)Instructions:
1. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, onion, parsley, garlic, spices, salt, and black pepper.
2. Use your hands to mix the ingredients until they are well incorporated. Be careful not to overmix, as this can cause the meat to become tough.
3. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. This will help the flavors to meld and make the meat easier to handle.
4. Preheat your grill, grill pan, or broiler.
5. Divide the meat mixture into equal portions and shape them onto the skewers. You can form them into long cylindrical shapes or flattened oval patties. Ensure that the meat is firmly packed onto the skewers.
6. Grill the kafta kebabs, turning them occasionally until they are evenly cooked and have reached your desired level of doneness. This should take around 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Serve the kafta with sides like hummus, tabbouleh, pita bread, or rice, and a squeeze of lemon juice for added flavor.Understanding-Lebanese-Cuisine:-Lebanese-Kafta-Recipe

A plate of Lebanese kafta with tabbouleh, hummus, pita bread and a wedge of lemon.

With the knowledge you’ve gained, you’re now well-equipped to bring the tantalizing flavors of Lebanese cuisine to your home kitchen. Embrace and experiment with the diverse and rich ingredients and techniques that make Lebanese kafta a staple in Middle Eastern fare. Share and enjoy your mouthwatering creation with friends and family to give them a taste of the distinctive, delectable world of Lebanese cuisine. Happy cooking!

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