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Attack of the Killer Kefta!

I first had Kefta off of a cart Cairo, and it was love at first bite! Middle Eastern food is among the most flavorful I've had in my worldly travels, and I find that they make such great use of herbs and spices, that not a lot of other garnish is needed. While I first discovered these under the Egyptian moon, they can also be found from from the souks of Morocco to the streets of Lebanon. The smells of cinnamon and cumin wafting through the air are almost enough to make you wish that you were cooking inside so that you could enjoy every last savory scent. But, the true Kefta are cooked over a flame on a skewer, but this is a nice easy version that livens up a traditional barbecue. Park your camel and take off your fez, you'll need both hands to enjoy this Killer Kefta!


2 tbsp. olive oil for grill surface
1 1/2 lbs. fresh ground lamb
1 medium onion, grated
2 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup snipped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. kosher salt + more to taste
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper + more to taste
3 cloves freshly minced garlic + 1/2 clove
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp. snipped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 fresh nan or pita pockets
1/2 peeled and chopped hot house cucumber
3/4 cup plain yogurt


Heat gas grill to high heat, then turn down to medium heat 3 minutes before cooking. Brush rack with olive oil to prevent burgers from sticking. Mix ground lamb, onion, cumin, parsley, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and garlic in a large bowl. Add in pepper flakes, panko, and beaten egg, and mix by hand to make sure that all of the meat is moist. Add in cilantro and cayenne and mix until all ingredients are evenly incorporated. Form meat by hand into 6 patties, and cook over medium heat 10- 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reaches 160F. During the last 1 1/2 to 2 minutes of cooking, add pitas to grill to warm, but not to crisp. While burgers are cooking, mix cucumber, yogurt, and salt & pepper to taste, and 1/2 clove of garlic in a small bowl. When burgers are cooked through, split nan in half, and open. Put Kefta burger into nan pocket, and top with cucumber sauce.


I packed so many spices into this Killer Kefta, that I left out the traditional mint. This is a wonderful mix of flavors, and I think tastes more unified without the mint, but it could be added in if you prefer. This is so easy and so flavorful, without a hint of the game taste sometimes associated with lamb. Be sure not to overcook to keep the patties nice and moist.