Turkish Lentil Meatballs (Mercimek köftesi), tender, fully vegan meatballs made with red lentils and fine bulgur. One of Turkey’s most popular meze dishes.
These vegan lentil meatballs are delicious and can be eaten at any time of the day. They are eaten cold so are perfect to pack for a lunch in the park or to take to work. These meatballs are traditionally vegan so are a tasty addition to a large vegan meze feast.
This recipe uses a Turkish red pepper paste. Our recipe for homemade pepper paste can be found here. We believe it’s worth the extra effort to make your own paste.
Turkish Lentil Meatballs (Mercimek köftesi)
- 150 g red lentils
- 400 ml water
- 100 g fine bulgur
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 spring onions finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons red pepper paste
- 3 spring onions finely sliced
- 15 g parsley finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 lemon
- Thoroughly pick over and wash the red lentils, drain then transfer them to a pan. Add the water then bring the lentils to a simmer over medium heat.
- Partially cover the pan, fully covering the pan will make the water boil over. Cook the lentils until they are very soft, around 20 minutes. There should be some water left in the pan, if not add ½ cup of boiling water to the pan.
- Take the pan off the heat and add the fine bulgur, mix well and cover to let the bulgar soak up the remaining water.
- Heat a separate pan over medium heat. Add the oil and onion, cooking until the onion is translucent and soft, around 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds. Add the cumin and paprika and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Now add the spring onions, tomato paste and pepper paste, cook them off for 1 minute.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley, salt and pepper.
- Once the lentil and bulbar mixture is cool enough to handle add the mixture to the pan and mix well to incorporate all the ingredients. You can use your hands to make this easier.
- Take roughly 2 tablespoons worth of the mixture into your hand and shape it into a small sausage shape. Keeping your hands wet will stop the mixture from sticking to your hands too much.
- Once shaped the meatballs shouldn’t stick to each other. Serve them with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the meatballs and some lettuce. Eaten cold.