Moroccan Kefta Tagine Recipe

Kefta mkaourara with tomato sauce and eggs

The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

  • Total: 110 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 80 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
712 Calories
47g Fat
34g Carbs
42g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 712
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 47g 60%
Saturated Fat 14g 69%
Cholesterol 315mg 105%
Sodium 1747mg 76%
Total Carbohydrate 34g 13%
Dietary Fiber 8g 27%
Protein 42g
Calcium 224mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A favorite of children and adults alike, kefta mkaouara (or Mmawra) is a presentation of petite, cherry-sized meatballs in a zesty homemade tomato sauce. Traditionally this famous Moroccan dish is prepared in a tagine, which lends earthy flavor, but a deep, wide skillet or Dutch oven will work just fine. Eggs are often added to the dish at the end of cooking; they're allowed to poach just until the whites set. The final presentation is comfort food that begs you to dip right on in with crusty Moroccan bread.

The well-seasoned meatballs are easy to make, but a set of extra hands will make shorter work of this step. Plan to start simmering the sauce while you shape with the kefta, which can be made from ground lamb, ground beef, or a combination of the two. An egg is not traditionally used as a binder, but if your meat is extra lean, go ahead and use one. Likewise, breadcrumbs are not normally used as a filler, but if you prefer softer, spongier texture to your meatballs, a half cup or so may be added.

Some versions of kefta mkaouara include onions and a little green pepper in the tomato sauce; whether or not to include them is up to you.

Ingredients

  • For the Tomato Sauce
  • 2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
  • Optional: 1 medium onions (chopped very fine)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro (chopped)
  • 3 to 5 cloves garlic (pressed)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • For the Kefta Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground beef (or lamb, or a combination of the two)
  • 1 medium onions (chopped very fine)
  • 1 small green pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander (cilantro, chopped)
  • Optional: 1 or 2 chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 or 4 eggs

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this kefta dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Start Cooking the Tomato Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for tomato sauce
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  2. Peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes or if they're very ripe, cut the tomatoes in half, seed them, and grate them.

    Peel and seed tomato
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  3. Mix the tomatoes with 1 medium onion chopped finely (if using), paprika, cumin, salt, black pepper, parsley, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and bay leaf in the base of a tagine or in a large, deep skillet.

    Mix the tomatoes
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  4. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-low to medium heat. (Note: If using a clay or ceramic tagine on a heat source other than gas, be sure to place a diffuser between the tagine and burner.) 

    Tomato sauce
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  5. Once simmering, reduce the heat a bit and allow the sauce to simmer gently, at least 15 to 20 minutes but longer if you like, before adding the meatballs.

    Pot
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

Make the Kefta Meatballs

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for kefta mkaouara with tomato sauce
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  2. Combine the ground beef or lamb, onion, green pepper, paprika, cumin, salt, ground cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne pepper, parsley, and cilantro.

    Combine ground beef
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  3. Using your hands to knead in the spices and herbs, shape the kefta mixture into very small meatballs the size of large cherries—about 3/4-inch in diameter.

    Use hands to ball meat
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  4. Add the meatballs (and chili peppers, if using) to the tomato sauce, along with a little water—1/4 cup is usually sufficient—and cover.

    Meatballs
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  5. Cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is thick.

    Meatballs in bowl
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  6. Add the eggs to the tagine without breaking the yolks.

    Add eggs
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  7. Cover and cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, or until the egg whites are solid and the yolks are only partially set.

    Eggs and meatball
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  8. Garnish if desired with fresh parsley or cilantro, and serve immediately. Enjoy!

    Kefta mkaouara with tomato sauce
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

Tip

  • Kefta mkaouara is traditionally served from the same dish in which it was prepared, with each person using crusty Moroccan bread for scooping up the meatballs from his own side of the dish.