Turkish meatless meatballs: köfte recipe with vegan minced meat


turkish meatless meatballs


Time:         prep. 15 mins
                   cook. 10 mins
Difficulty:  easy
Yields:       for 4 portions
Cost:          low


If you’ve ever been to Turkey, I’m sure you’ve had the chance to taste and adore Turkish meatballs.
However, those who haven’t had this pleasure don’t have to go that far: just head to the
world’s leading furniture retailer and order a serving of “Swedish meatballs.”
Yep, the meatballs in question are actually Turkish, as openly stated in 2018 in an official tweet: “Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe that King Charles XII imported from Turkey at the beginning of the 18th century.”
You’re right, though, to wonder how the Swedes manage to make these köttbullar “almost” the same as köfte, without using lamb, but rather with a mixture of beef and pork.

The answer is simple: using the samespices for meatballs” (in Turkey there really is such a specific spice mix).

This is how my recipe scented with a vegetarian challenge was born; Turkish meatless meatballs à la CHE, will take you back to my mother’s kitchen, with lots of taste but no meat.




To prepare the Turkish meatless meatballs I normally use soy granules, but recently I had the opportunity to take an offer at the supermarket of vegan “mince”.

vegan minced meat on sale

You all know by now my sensibility in taking advantage of offers to save money (you can read all my tricks here) and limit food waste: it is shameful that in the world about one third of food still edible becomes garbage (discover here the best strategies on how to reduce waste in the kitchen). Thanks to this I was able to verify how the recipe for these köfte is practically standard, regardless of whether you use meat, soy granules or ‘plant-based meat’.

Important: healthy nutrition is mainly achieved with the least industrially processed foods or those closest to their natural state. Therefore plant-based meat preparations should be considered as occasional meals and consequently should be consumed responsibly. The word vegan may not be synonymous with “healthy“, don’t forget it; they are just better than meat analogues, of poor quality.
During daily life, as a source of protein should be preferred mainly dried or fresh legumes; mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, cheese or eggs (for non-vegans); whole grains, nuts, oil seeds; vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and so on.

Ingredients for 16 meatless meatballs

500 g of vegan minced meat (or 160 g of soy granules to be hydrated and cooled)
1 egg (for the vegan version use 1 boiled and mashed potato; see here for other options to substitute eggs)
1 big onion
2-3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, preferably wholemeal (or 2 slices of stale bread)
3-4 tablespoons of chopped parsley
2 tablespoons of evo oil for cooking (plus 2 tablespoons of oil to add in the mixture, if you use soy granules*)
Salt to taste

Turkish meatball spices (you can remove the flavors you don’t like, but I would strongly recommend giving it a try):

1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
1 generous pinch of hot chili powder
1 generous pinch of black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
½ teaspoon of coriander powder
1 pinch of thyme or oregano
1 pinch of sodium bicarbonate


Turkish meatless meatballs are quick and easy to prepare, although to achieve an optimal result you should let them ‘marinate’ with the spices for a few hours in the refrigerator: I personally prepare the meatball mixture in the morning, and then in the evening after kneading it one more time, I shape the meatballs and cook them.
The first step to prepare Turkish meatballs is to finely grate the onion: set aside the liquid released, it may be useful in case the mixture is very dry.
In case you are using soy granules, first hydrate them by boiling for about 10 minutes in a tasty vegetable broth: to do this, follow the instructions on the package, or read the procedure in this other recipe made with the granules.


By using soy granules or mince, you should compensate for the lack of fats that give the flavor; for example in standard meatballs, for this purpose, it is recommended to use mince with a medium fat content: about 20% of the weight; we choose to replace meat not only for the environment or ethics, but also for health, therefore let’s try to compensate with extravirgin olive oil, equivalent to a good 8-10% of the granules weight.
Vegan minced meat, on the other hand, already contains fats, and therefore does not require any addition

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Now put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix vigorously for about 5 minutes.
If you have decided to leave the dough to marinate for several hours (this is what I do normally) I recommend adding the baking soda only at the last moment, just before making the meatballs.
During this phase, if necessary, add more breadcrumbs or more liquid: 1 tablespoon of milk (vegetable or not) or the water of the onions for a stronger taste.
Once you’re done kneading, cover the container and transfer it to the fridge.
When you are ready to shape, knead one more time and then create balls of about 50 grams each.
After that, flatten them with your fingers to approx. 1,5 cm high.
Turn on the stove and heat a large frying pan, lightly greased with olive oil and start cooking the Turkish meatless meatballs over medium heat.
Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, et voila: you’re ready to bring them to the table.

Smart Combos

These meatless meatballs even though they don’t contain real meat, are really nutritious. Nevertheless, to enrich your dining experience, I would recommend a classic combination: a rich salad bowl seasoned with lemon juice and evo oil.
The vitamin C in the salad will allow you to assimilate more non-heme iron from your plate**.

But in case you are cold as well as hungry, start the meal with a good steaming soup, such as this easy tomato soup (read the recipe here), ready in 10 minutes.

Still not enough? Then add 2 tablespoons of hummus (read my foolproof recipe here), an exotic touch that never hurts and rich in tahini (and therefore rich in methionine, lacking amino acid of the proteins of your vegan meatballs). Or why not an eggplant salad, perfect meze for all Turkish dishes with extravirgin olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and roasted eggplant puree (freshly made or frozen).
For true fans of Turkish cuisine, I should also recommend the warm and soft lavaş (a sort of flatbread) in which to roll the meatballs and salad, to make a delectable wrap (dürüm): preparing them at home is not difficult, and you do not even have to know how to roll out the dough, just use your hands to spread it (see here my easy and very healthy recipe).

Enjoy your meatless meatballs and good revolution to all


**) Teucher B, Olivares M, Cori H. (2004). Enhancers of iron absorption: ascorbic acid and other organic acids. International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research 74(6):403-419


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