Make This Turkish Spicy Meatless "Steak" Tartar (Çiğ Köfte) Recipe

turkish steak tartar balls
This meatless recipe for spicy Turkish steak tartar is authentic, easy and delicious. Photo © degaraj photography -
Ratings (35)
  • Total: 11 hrs
  • Prep: 10 hrs
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Set aside: 300 hrs
  • Yield: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
571 Calories
33g Fat
64g Carbs
13g Protein
(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. Also 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 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 garlic cloves
  • 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 cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Garnish: Finely chopped fresh parsley and green onion
  • For serving: Romaine lettuce leaves and sliced lemon

Steps to Make It

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Add this mixture to the tomato and bulgur along with the rest of the ingredients. Wearing rubber gloves, knead the mixture until all the ingredients are well combined.

  5. 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 all has a smooth consistency.

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

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