Turkish Spicy Meatless 'Steak' Tartar (Çiğ Köfte)

turkish steak tartar balls

degaraj photography / Fotolia.com

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Set aside: 6 hrs
Total: 7 hrs
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
446 Calories
31g Fat
41g Carbs
9g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 446
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 31g 39%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 571mg 25%
Total Carbohydrate 41g 15%
Dietary Fiber 9g 31%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 9g
Vitamin C 51mg 257%
Calcium 91mg 7%
Iron 3mg 17%
Potassium 772mg 16%
*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.)

Classic Turkish-style steak tartar, better known as çiğ köfte (CHEE' kuf-TAY'), is made with very high-quality, fat-free beef that is minced and kneaded together with fine bulgur, pepper, tomato paste, onion, garlic, and a mixture of Turkish spices. It's a regional dish from the southeastern part of Turkey with a lot of history behind it.

Due to a higher awareness of food health and more and more stringent regulations, many people today opt for a modern, vegetarian version of this ancient Turkish dish. Some meatless versions of çiğ köfte are so authentic, you can't tell them from the real thing.

The key is in the kneading—the longer you knead the mixture, the better the texture will be. Be sure to let your mixture rest for at least five hours before serving it. This recipe calls for Turkish isot biber, a pepper with an intense and unusual flavor. It has a complex taste that is earthy and spicy while being sweet and smoky at the same time. If you can't find isot biber, you can substitute Mexican chipotle. 


  • 5 large ripe tomatoes

  • 2 cups fine bulgur

  • 2 medium onions

  • 5 cloves garlic

  • 2 slices stale bread

  • 1 cup walnut halves

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 cup pomegranate concentrate

  • 1/4 cup Turkish isot biber

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon red pepper paste

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

  • Finely chopped green onion, for garnish

  • Romain lettuce leaves, for serving

  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Wash the tomatoes and peel them using a small, sharp knife. Place the peeled tomatoes in a food processor and puree them, or finely grate them using a hand grater.

  3. Rinse the bulgur under cold water in a wire strainer for a few minutes. Drain it and put it in a large mixing bowl along with the tomato puree. Mix together well, cover the bowl, and set it aside for about 1 hour until the bulgur is softened.

  4. Peel and coarsely chop the onions and garlic and put them in the food processor along with the stale bread and the walnut halves. Pulverize on high speed until you have a fine powder.

  5. Add this mixture to the tomato and bulgur along with the pomegranate concentrate, isot biber, tomato paste, red pepper paste, cumin, and salt. Wearing rubber gloves, knead the mixture until all the ingredients are well combined.

  6. Divide the mixture into portions small enough to fit inside the food processor. Process each portion on medium speed until smooth. Combine all the processed portions together in a large bowl and continue to knead until it has a smooth consistency.

  7. Place in a bowl and cover with an airtight seal; set aside for at least 5 hours or overnight.

  8. The next morning, break off bite-sized pieces of the mixture and shape them into fingerprint shapes. Arrange them on a serving plate with parsley, green onion, leaves of Romaine lettuce, and slivers of fresh lemon for squeezing.

How to Store

  • Any leftovers of this dish will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to four days.