Moroccan Kefta Tagine

Kefta mkaourara with tomato sauce and eggs

The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 80 mins
Total: 110 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
619 Calories
43g Fat
18g Carbs
41g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 619
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 43g 56%
Saturated Fat 12g 58%
Cholesterol 287mg 96%
Sodium 1518mg 66%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 6%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 41g
Vitamin C 64mg 321%
Calcium 133mg 10%
Iron 7mg 38%
Potassium 1268mg 27%
*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 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.

The final presentation is comfort food that begs you to dip right on in with crusty Moroccan bread. Kefta mkaouara is traditionally served from the same dish in which it was prepared, with each person using bread for scooping up the meatballs from his own side of the dish.


For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped, optional

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • 3 to 5 cloves garlic, pressed

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 bay leaf

For the Kefta Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef, or lamb, or a combination of the two

  • 1 medium onion, chopped very fine

  • 1 small green pepper, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 to 2 chile peppers, optional

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 3 to 4 large eggs

Steps to Make It

Prepare 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.

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

    Tomato sauce in a tagine
    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 in a tagine
    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.

    Tagine with lid on
    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, parsley, cilantro, paprika, cumin, salt, cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

    Kefta meatball mixture in a bowl
    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.

    Meatballs on a plate
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  4. Add the meatballs (and chile peppers, if using) to the tomato sauce, along with a little water—1/4 cup is usually sufficient—and cover.

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

    Cooked meatballs and sauce in tagine
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  6. Add the eggs to the tagine without breaking the yolks.

    Eggs added on top
    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 cooked on top of the kefta meatballs and sauce
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  8. If desired, garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro, and serve immediately. Enjoy.

    Kefta mkaouara with tomato sauce
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

Recipe Variation

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.