Bulgur Balls with Meat & Walnut Filling: İçli Köfte:

İçli Köfte consist of a bulgur dough that is wrapped around a ground meat, onion, parsley, and spices filling. They can be fried, boiled, or baked! 

In Istanbul on İstiklal Caddesi just past Galatasary High School, you can always see a cart selling fried İçli Köfte. The cart is associated with Sabırtaşı Restaurant, which is five floors above the street cart.

When you make them at home, any leftovers can be frozen and reheated in the oven at a later date!

I got this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Ozlem's Turkish Table. You should definitely check it out for more Turkish recipes!


Makes 16-18 lemon-sized kofte

Meat filling

1/2 lb ground beef (250 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)
2 onions, finely grated
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 cup walnuts, chopped (~100 grams)
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt to taste

Bulgur dough

1 lb fine bulgur (koftelik) (450 grams)
1 cup semolina (170 grams)
1/2 lb ground beef, lean (250 grams)
4 tablespoons red pepper paste (sub: tomato paste)
3 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt to taste

For the meat filling (can be made one day in advance)

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan and add the meat. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until juices are evaporated.
  2. Add grated onion, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes, and continue to cook another 3-5 minutes until onions are softened.
  3. Add the walnuts and chopped parsley last, mix, and turn the heat off. Allow to cool down.

For the bulgur dough + finished product

  1. Mix bulgur dough, red pepper paste, cumin, salt, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. The bowl should be large enough that you can knead in it.
  2. Pour 1 ½ cups warm water over the mixture, thoroughly mix with your hands, and allow bulgur to sit absorbing the water for about 10 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, put semolina in a separate bowl and stir ½ cup warm water over it. Mix until it forms a very soft dough.
  4. Wet hands with cold water and knead bulgur dough for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the semolina dough and knead to incorporate.
  6. Add the ground beef and continue to knead until combined, about 5 minutes, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
  7. With a bowl of cold water beside you, begin to shape the kofte. Take some dough into your hands and roll into an oval shape. Using your thumb, hollow out the middle so you can add about 1 ½ tbsp of meat filling. The bulgur should be about ¼ inch thick around the meat filling. Close and mend any cracks in the dough with wet fingers. Taper the ends for a classic lemon-shape.
  8. Put a small amount of olive oil on your hands and rub each kofte with it. Then place on an oiled baking dish.
  9. Bake in 320 Farenheit (160 Celsius) oven for 35-40 minutes.
  10. Serve with lemon wedges and a glass of ayran.