koofteh berenji: persian rice meatballs

persian meatballs
i’ve been asked by several people to make koofteh {کوفته} or persian rice meatballs since i started food blogging. koofteh comes from “kuftan-کوفتن” which means  (“to beat, grind, break”). when i think about it, i clearly remember my grandma mixing the ingredients in her big bowl, carefully twisting and turning her hands around to bring all the ingredients together in to a paste like texture-and mostly i remember the strong appetizing smell of savory drifting around as she did this. when i came across some fresh summer savory {marzeh} at the market yesterday, i took it as a sign that it was time for me to make some of these delicious meatballs. i have made them before, but it’s been a while, and i’ve typically asked my mom (who makes the most delicious ones ever) to make my koofteh for dinner parties. so i call her for the recipe after i begin to cook this morning-which means i had already started boiling the rice and split peas before she tells me to skip them (split peas) altogether and substitute chick pea flour– which i was out of- – -next time. mom explains the process to me in great detail and with such passion that my mouth starts watering- and then, just before we hang up she says: “don’t forget the saffron!”-to which i say “of course not”, although frankly, i probably would have-saffron makes (almost) all persian dishes taste that much better. i go to work (and it is some work to prepare these), and the resulting koofteh’s make the house smell heavenly, then disappear far too quickly off the platter. next time i’ll have to try the chick pea flour-even though my meatballs were good, mom’s are by far better!



  • 1 pound (organic grass fed) ground beef
  • 1/2 cup rice, cooked (or not cooked, according to mom)
  • 1/4 cup split peas cooked well (or substitute 2-3 tbs chick pea flour, per mom’s recipe)
  • 1 large bunch fresh summer savory leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch tarragon leaves or flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 8-10 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 tbs turmeric
  • 1 large onion, fried (piaz dagh) see recipe for fried onions
  • 2 organic eggs
  • vegetable oil (for frying the onions)
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon
  • sea salt & cracked pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp sour grapes (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground saffron or a few strands seeped in 2 tbs hot water
the meat ball with fried onions and cinnamon inserted in the middle

1. combine beef, cooked rice, split peas (or preferably chick pea flour) salt & pepper, chopped herbs, green onions, 1 tbs turmeric, and eggs in a deep bowl-mix really well, pressing down on the mixture as you combine and almost “beat” it for a few minutes.
2. start making the meat balls (something between a golf ball and a tennis ball-your choice-it’s best just under a tennis ball size) by rolling portions of the mixture between your hands.
3. make a hole in the middle of the meatballs with your finger and insert some fried onion (piaz dagh), a dash of cinnamon, and even optionally some chopped walnuts or chopped cooked eggs. close up the hole and roll again in to a nice tight ball.

water, fried onions, sea salt, cracked pepper, turmeric, & sour grapes ready for the meatballs

4. when you have all the meat balls ready, add about 1.5-2 cups of water to a pot (not too deep), about 2 tbs fried onions, 1 tbs turmeric, sea salt, pepper, a few sprigs of the herbs, and the sour grapes.
5. bring to a boil, then carefully place the meat balls in the pan and let them simmer for five minutes on one side, then turn, sprinkle or drizzle with the saffron, partially cover with a lid and let simmer on low for 45 minutes to an hour.

place the meatballs in the liquid carefully and simmer on one side for about 5-7 minutes before turning
MOM’S famous meatballs
sour grapes!
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8 Comments on “koofteh berenji: persian rice meatballs

  1. hi, i see it says to simmer the meatballs on one side for 5 minutes, but then in the caption, it says 15?
    i’m excited to try it!

  2. hi, i see it says to simmer the meatballs on one side for 5 minutes, but then in the caption, it says 15?
    i’m excited to try it!

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