Vegan Mercimek Köfte (Turkish Bulgur and Lentil Meatballs)

by Adam Sobel

This traditional vegan Turkish appetizer will have you rocking the house party (len)til the break of dawn. These vegan lentil meatballs aren't just good, they’re (bul)GUR-EAT! Check out the complete step-by-step guide to making this Mercimek Köfte (Turkish Bulgur & Lentil Meatballs), along with information about modifying it to suit different dietary needs. This recipe was contributed by Chef Adam Sobel from The Cinnamon Snail, a vegan and kosher caterer located in New Jersey.


1 ½ cup split red lentils

3 ¼ cups water

1 cup fine bulgur

⅓ cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 teaspoons tatli biber salçası (mild Turkish pepper paste)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 scallions, thinly sliced

½ cup minced flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 ½ teaspoons salt

  1. Rinse the split red lentils thoroughly under cold water and drain them to remove dust and foreign matter.
  2. In a medium-sized pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the rinsed lentils and cook them until they are tender, stirring occasionally for ten to fifteen minutes.
  3. Once the lentils are cooked, remove them from heat and stir in the fine-grade bulgur. Place a lid on the pot and set aside to cool.
  4. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced yellow onion and minced garlic to the skillet, and sauté them for six minutes until they turn translucent and slightly golden.
  5. Add the Turkish pepper paste, tomato paste, scallions, minced parsley, smoked paprika, cinnamon, ground coriander, ground cumin, black pepper, and salt to the skillet. Stir well to combine the ingredients and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  6. Mix the contents of the pan into the pot with the lentils and bulgur. Mix until they are well combined. The mixture should have a dough-like consistency.
  7. Allow the mixture to rest for about 20 minutes at room temperature. This will help the flavors meld together and the bulgur to soften further.
  8. After the resting period, take small portions (about two-three tablespoons) of the mixture and shape them into small oval-shaped patties or balls. Wetting your hands with water occasionally will help prevent sticking.
  9. Place the shaped mercimek köfte on a serving platter or a tray lined with lettuce leaves for presentation.
    You can serve mercimek köfte immediately at room temperature or refrigerate for a few hours to enhance the flavors and allow the kofte to firm up. They can be served chilled or at room temperature.
  10. Mercimek köfte is typically enjoyed with a squeeze of lemon juice, or fresh lemon slices, and served with fresh vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It is often accompanied with a side of vegan yogurt or a tangy dip like cacık.

  1. This Mercimek Köfte (Turkish Bulgur & Lentil Meatballs) recipe was contributed by Chef Adam Sobel from The Cinnamon Snail, a vegan and kosher caterer located in New Jersey. Find more of Adam’s recipes on Facebook and Instagram.

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