This vegan kofta is just about the closest to freshly-grilled pita evnveloped perfection you can get. The cool and tangy tzatziki sauce balances perfectly with the bold flavors of the seitan kofta, creating a harmony of sensations that dance gorgeously.
With each bite, you felt a sense of joy and gratitude, knowing that you are nourishing your body with wholesome, plant-based food that us not only delicious but also great for you, and even better for the animals you decide not to eat.
You can eat it on it’s own or alongside a bowl of my taboule, or chase it down with a juicy perfect slice of this Persian baklava with pistachios or pine nut studded İrmik Helvası with vgean vanilla ice cream. Who knows? You might also dig making the kofta without the tzatziki and instead using my easy, straight up drinkably-delicious recipe for tahini sauce.
I have created a really easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to making this so that you can pull it off with finesse on your first shot, and avoid the pitfalls. Grab some wooden skewers, and lets make perfect seitan kofta!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
👉No processed ingredients: This dish is made using a seitan recipe (heck, you can even follow my seitan recipe if you want to make your own from scratch. That means that it does not require any store-bought, processed fake meat ingredients that may not be widely available in all areas. This recipe uses simple, wholesome ingredients that are easily accessible and can be found in most supermarkets.
👉Make this in your regular-ass kitchen: This recipe does not require access to an outdoor grill or any unusual cooking gear. The kofta can be cooked on a stovetop or in an oven, making it a convenient and easy dish to prepare. Whether you're cooking for a family dinner or a party, this recipe can be made with minimal fuss and effort.
👉Protein galore: This dish is a healthy and wholesome alternative to traditional meat-based kofta recipes, with just as much protein and no cholesterol. There is complete nutritional analysis provided at the bottom of the recipe card.
🤷♀️What even is kofta?!?
Kofta is what can only be described as a meatball dish that is found in many cuisines around the world, particularly in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Mediterranean cuisines. It is often made from ground beef, lamb, or chicken, but can also be made from other meats or vegetarian substitutes such as lentils, chickpeas, or seitan.
In Middle Eastern cuisine, kofta is sometimes called kufta or kafta, and it is typically made with ground lamb or beef mixed with spices like cumin, coriander, and cinnamon, or baharat. In Turkey, they serve vegetarian Kofte such as Çiğ Köfte made from bulgur, or Mercimek Köfte made from red lentils, and I got killer recipes for both on this site!
In South Asian cuisine, kofta is known as koftay, kofte, or kofteh, and it is made with minced meat, spices, and sometimes with vegetables such as potatoes or spinach. It is often simmered in a rich tomato-based sauce and served with rice or flatbread.
In Mediterranean cuisine, where this dish is sometimes called kefta or köfte, it is typically made with ground beef or lamb mixed with onions, garlic, and spices like paprika, cumin, and parsley. It is often shaped into elongated oval or round shapes and grilled or fried before being served with ezme salad or labneh.
Malai kofta is a popular vegetarian dish from India, typically made with paneer (Indian cheese) and mashed potatoes mixed with various spices and then shaped into balls. These balls are then fried until golden brown and served in a creamy tomato-based gravy over biryani or with classic Amritsari Kulcha.
While both the Indian and Middle Eastern koftas share the same name and are both made with meat or vegetarian substitutes shaped into balls, they are distinct dishes with different ingredients, spices, and cooking methods. Malai kofta is specific to Indian cuisine and has no direct connection to the koftas of the Middle East. So, don’t get it twisted!
Regional differences in kofta can vary widely, depending on the country or region. For example, in Egypt, kofta is often made with minced beef or lamb and served with a tomato-based sauce and rice, while in Iran, kofta is made with lamb or beef mixed with chickpeas, herbs, and spices, and served with flatbread and yogurt. In Turkey, köfte is often made with ground beef or lamb mixed with onions, parsley, and bread crumbs, and served with salad or pita bread.
So there ya go. It’s not that straightforward after all, is it? The style I created in this recipe is designed to mimic the flavor and preparation style found more often in Turkey and Greece, because damn it, I love those countries and their cuisine!
🥒Notable ingredients to make kofta
In this vegan Middle Eastern kofta recipe, seitan is used as a meat substitute. Made from wheat gluten, seitan has a meaty texture and can be seasoned to taste just like meat. Using seitan as a substitute for meat not only creates a healthier, plant-based meal, but it can also be more cost-effective than buying store-bought vegan meat alternatives.
You can use unseasoned store-bought seitan, or make your own from scratch using the outstanding vegan chicken recipe on my blog. By making it yourself, you can control the ingredients and ensure that your seitan is free from additives and preservatives. This can be a more cost-effective option than buying store-bought vegan meat alternatives, which can be pricey. Additionally, seitan is a low-fat and high-protein alternative to meat, making it a healthier option for those looking to reduce their meat intake.
My googgity-goodness vegan yogurt has come a long way in the last 10-15 years! It used to be terrible. Way too sweet, and tasting like soy pudding. But now there are some great unsweetened vegan yogurts on the market that are authentic tasting and aren’t made out of garbage! I particularly love the unsweetened almond milk yogurt from Kite Hill, but any brand you love that is plain and unflavored will work in this recipe nicely. It's good enough to use to make Turkish yogurt and mint soup, which could make a nice starter to serve with this anyway.
Fresh mint is a key ingredient in both the kofta recipe and the tzatziki sauce. In the kofta recipe, fresh mint is mixed with the seitan, along with spices like cumin and coriander, to add a burst of flavor and fragrance.The mint also helps to balance out the spices and create a well-rounded taste.
In the tzatziki sauce, mint is used in combination with cucumber, garlic, and yogurt to create a refreshing and cooling dip.The mint adds a subtle sweetness to the sauce, while also helping to balance out the tanginess of the yogurt and the sharpness of the garlic.
While spearmint is the traditional choice, other types of mint can also be used, such as peppermint or apple mint.
Fresh dill has a distinctive flavor that is slightly sweet and tangy, with notes of anise and lemon. Actually, dill is one of my favorite herbs to use in recipes that have citrus or capers in them. I just love the stuff, and it always reminds me of my grandmother's Matzoh ball soup. Anyway, when added to tzatziki sauce, it helps balance the tanginess of the yogurt and the sharpness of the garlic.
In addition to its flavor, dill also has potential health benefits. It is a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. Dill has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may help to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
Not everyone uses cinnamon in their kofteh but the warming aromatic spice adds a quality that I love and crave in middle eastern dishes. I guess that’s why I particularly love dishes that contain baharat (like my vegan shawarma does).
A shortcut to great kofta- using vegan ground beef: Using a vegan ground beef alternative (like those from Impossible or Beyond Meat) can be a convenient option for those who may not have the time or resources to make seitan from scratch. These products are widely available in most grocery stores and can be easily substituted into the kofta recipe. Simply use the same amount of ground beef as the recipe calls for seitan. You may need to add a little more flour or some bread crumbs to help bind the vegan ground beef if it feels too loose to stay on the wooden skewer.
Want something more whole-food based? Use a 1-1 gluten-free flour mix in place of the all-purpose flour, and then make the recipe using chickpeas, lentils, or tofu.
📖 How to make perfect vegan Kofta
I’m gonna grab you by the hand and walk you into the tender succulent seitan heaven realm, step by step! Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
If you are using wooden or bamboo skewers, it's important to soak them in water for at least 15 minutes before using them. This will prevent them from burning when they're in the oven or on the grill.
NOTE: If you don't have skewers, you can totally form the seitan mixture into the kofta shape and simply bake them without the skewer at all!
To make the kofta mixture, start by grinding the seitan, onion, and garlic in a food processor for about 60 seconds.
Add in the tomato paste, olive oil, flour, fresh mint, ground cumin, ground black pepper, ground coriander, oregano, cinnamon, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt. Continue to grind the mixture in the food processor for an additional 90 seconds until everything is evenly combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are well mixed.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the kofta from sticking.
To form the kofta, take a handful of the mixture and form it into a cylindrical shape around one of the soaked wooden skewers, pressing the mixture firmly onto the skewer.
Arrange the skewers on the prepared baking sheet and brush them with olive oil. This will help to keep the kofta moist and prevent it from drying out in the oven.
Bake the kofta in the preheated oven for 12 minutes. Carefully flip them with a metal spatula and bake for another 12 minutes or until browned and cooked through. To prevent the kofta from becoming dry, avoid overcooking them.
While the kofta is cooking, prepare the tzatziki sauce. Start by grating the cucumber into a bowl.
Squeeze fresh lemon juice into the bowl with the grated cucumber.
Add the vegan yogurt, minced garlic, fresh dill, fresh mint, olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
Mix well to combine.
Brush the hot kofta with olive oil.
If you want to enjoy the kofta as a sandwich, start by spreading hummus on a freshly grilled pita bread. You can follow my recipe if you like for Lebanese Kuboos, or used store bought pita if you like.
Add tomato, pickled onion, and arugula.
Add a generous spoonful of the tzatziki, some pickles and olive, and optionally some harissa or shatta sauce.
Serve the kofta hot with the tzatziki sauce. Garnish with fresh herbs, pickled vegetables, or sliced onions to add extra flavor and texture to the dish.
Want to expand this into a complete feast? You can serve the kofta alongside some steaming bulgar pilavi (lightly spiced Turkish bulgar pilaf), Moroccan harira, a bowl of Loubia (Moroccan white beans), or some delicious Şakşuka (Turkish fried eggplant). Maybe a hot side cup of Turkish lentil soup, tabouli, or some olive oil braised celery root? Oh, yussss.
Tweak the flavor with ease: Don’t hesitate to customize the spice level of your kofta according to your preferences. Omit any spices that you don't like, or increase the spices to add more flavor to the dish. Since this recipe doesn't include raw meat or egg, it is entirely safe to sample the kofta mixture and adjust the seasoning to suit your taste buds.
Shaping: When forming the kofta mixture into balls, ensure that the mixture is thoroughly combined so that it holds its shape on the skewers. If the mixture seems too wet or loose, add more flour or bread crumbs to help bind it together.
Super-soaker: be sure to soak the wooden skewers in water for at least 15 minutes before cooking to prevent them from burning. If grilling the kofta instead of roasting, spray or wipe the grill with cooking oil and keep an eye on the kofta to prevent them from sticking to the grill or becoming overcooked.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
The word kofta is derived from the Persian word kuftan, which means to pound or to grind, referring to the method of preparing the dish by grinding or pounding meat with spices and other ingredients.
Kofta was likely first introduced to the West through the Ottoman Empire, which had a significant influence on European cuisine in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Ottomans ruled over much of Southeastern Europe, including parts of the Balkans, Greece, and Hungary, and introduced many of their traditional dishes to the region. Kofta was one of these dishes, and it gradually became popular in Western Europe as well. Today, kofta can be found on the menus of many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants throughout the West, as well as in grocery stores and specialty food shops.
Both the kofta and the tzatziki store really well! While the kofta can be frozen, I don’t recommend freezing the tzatziki. That’s no biggie, because the sauce is so fast and easy to make fresh whenever you want some.
🥶Refrigerating the kofta
To store the kofta, place them in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To freeze vegan kofta, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Storing the sauce
For the tzatziki sauce, store it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Stir well before serving.
Removing the skewers from the kofta before storing them can save space in the refrigerator or freezer. If you're short on space, remove the skewers and store the kofta in a single layer in a container. You can also stack them on top of each other, but be sure to separate the layers with parchment paper or plastic wrap to prevent them from sticking together.
To reheat the frozen kofta, place them on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. If you have frozen the kofta, thaw them on the counter for 1 hour before reheating in the oven.
💣 The bomb dishes to serve with Kofta:
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Vegan kofta and tzatziki sauce
- 1 lb. seitan
- ⅓ cup diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons minced fresh mint
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 12 wooden skewers soaked
- ½ cup olive oil
- Thinly sliced red onion or pickled onion
- Pickled vegetables or olives
- Fresh mint and dill
- If you are using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 15 minutes while you prepare the kofta mixture.
- Grind the seitan onion and garlic in a food processor for 60 seconds.
- Add in the tomato paste, olive oil, flour, fresh mint, ground cumin, ground black pepper, ground coriander, oregano, cinnamon, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt. Continue to grind in the food processor for 90 seconds until all the ingredients are evenly combined.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Take a handful of the kofta mixture and form it into a cylindrical shape around one of the soaked wooden skewers, pressing the mixture firmly onto the skewer. Repeat with the remaining kofta mixture and skewers.
- Arrange the skewers on the prepared baking sheet. Brush them with olive oil.
- Bake the kofta in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, carefully flip them with a metal spatula and bake for another 12 minutes or until browned and cooked through.
- While the kofta is cooking, make the tzatziki sauce. In a mixing bowl, combine the vegan yogurt, minced garlic, grated or finely minced cucumbers, fresh dill, fresh mint, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Mix well to combine.
- When finished baking, brush the hot kofta again with extra virgin olive oil. Serve the kofta hot with the tzatziki sauce.
- If you want to enjoy the kofta as a sandwich, serve it on hot freshly grilled pita with hummus, harissa, arugula, tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion or pickled onion, pickled vegetables or olives, fresh mint and dill, or za'atar. Enjoy!