This Middle Eastern inspired recipe features kofta spiced minced chicken skewers that are grilled and served with a simple garlicky yogurt sauce. These kebabs make for an easy, healthy dinner and are delicious on their own or in yummy pita wrap sandwiches.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Authentic Middle Eastern flavor - This recipe uses a traditional blend of Turkish inspired spices.
- Simple and easy to prepare - less than 20 minutes of active prep time
- Healthy - High in protein, low in calories
- Allergen friendly - These kebabs are naturally gluten free, nut free & dairy free (sans yogurt sauce).
- Versatile preparation - We love serving our chicken kofta in the Summertime as shish (skewers) that are cooked over the grill. However, this is a great anytime recipe and the kofta mixture can be shaped into logs, patties or meatballs and cooked on the grill, in a frying pan, oven or air fryer.
What is Kofta?
Kofta refers to a type of kebab made from a ground meat mixture that is flavored with herbs and/or spices.
Traditionally kofta is made from beef or lamb but it can also be made from chicken or even prepared vegetarian made with grains, vegetables or legumes.
Kofta is a staple of many cuisines ranging from North Africa, across the Middle East and into parts of Asia. They are especially popular in the countries of Morocco, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Syria, Greece and India.
Kofta can be served on skewers (as shish kebabs), or shaped into patties, cylinders, meatballs or a meatloaf. They are commonly grilled over charcoal but can also be cooked on gas grills, in frying pans, baked or air fried.
This recipe features a Middle Eastern style of kofta made with ground chicken and a Turkish inspired spice blend.
- Ground chicken
- Yellow Onion
- Salt & Pepper
- Middle Eastern Kofta Spice Blend
Spices in Middle Eastern Kofta Spice Blend
- Aleppo pepper (or smoked paprika)
- Dried Oregano
- Dried Mint
Ingredient Spotlight: What is Aleppo pepper? Aleppo pepper (also known as halaby pepper), is a mild red chili that originates from Aleppo, Syria. This chili has an earthy flavor with a fruity finish. Aleppo pepper has a mild heat (more than paprika but only about half the spice of a common red chili flake). High quality Aleppo has a deep red color and a slightly oily appearance.
Aleppo pepper is a versatile seasoning. The peppers are partially dried, deseeded and ground to a course powder. It is a common ingredient throughout Middle Eastern cooking, especially in Turkey and Syria. If you can't find it in your local grocery store, aleppo can easily be sourced online.
How To Make Chicken Kofta
This recipe is easiest to make in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. If needed, the mixture can be made by hand, but the process will take much longer.
- Start by grating the onion and draining it of excess moisture. Peel the onion and cut the onion into quarters, leaving the root end attached. Set a box grated over a large bowl and use the root as a handle to finely grate the onion. Then, transfer the grated onion to a fine mesh strainer (or cheesecloth) and squeeze out any excess moisture.
Pro Tip: Sieving the Dried Herbs - When cooking with dried leafy herbs, I recommend sieving them through a fine mesh strainer. Use your fingertips to rub the mint and oregano through a strainer. This process will remove any tough stems while creating a finely textured herb powder that is finely textured, flavorful and aromatic.
- Then add the ground chicken, grated onion, salt, pepper and kofta spice blend to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the kofta on medium speed for five minutes, scraping the bowl once or twice. While kneading, mixture will change in texture and stick to the sides of the bowl.
Did You Know? Kofta comes from an Arab word meaning "pounded meat" and refers to its unique preparation method.
Unlike other types of meatballs and meatloaf recipes, traditional kofta does not use any binders (like breadcrumbs). Instead, kofta meat is kneaded (either by hand or in a stand mixer). After several minutes of kneading, the protein structure of the meat is changed.
With kneading the kofta meat becomes "sticky" allowing it to bind together and create a juicy kebab with a tender and pleasantly springy texture. The egg in this recipe is not used for binding the meat, but is added at the end to provide some additional fat/richness to the otherwise lean chicken mixture.
- Add the egg and mix until well combined. At this stage you can shape the kofta immediately or refrigerate the mixture for up to 24 hours. If you have the time, the kofta skewers are a bit easier to shape from cold.
Kofta Skewering & Grilling
- Divide the kofta mixture into 4 (or more) portions. Use a clean, wet hand to shape the mixture around each skewer. Alternatively, you can can shape the mixture into cylinders, patties or meatballs.
Pro Tip: Best Skewers for Successful Shish
We recommend using flat metal skewers for grilling. They are an inexpensive reusable option and the flat prong helps to keep the meat from spinning when being flipped on the grill.
If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak the skewers in a lukewarm water bath for 30 minutes before skewering. Soaking the skewers will help them to avoid burning on the grill.
- While I usually like to grill proteins from room temperature - this recipe is an exception. I recommend refrigerating the shaped kofta kebabs for at least 30 minutes, to help them set and hold their shape on the grill. Grilling from cold helps to keep these kebabs juicy and on the skewer. In the meantime, preheat the grill to 400° Fahrenheit.
- To grill the kofta, we like to use the reverse sear method. With this method, we cook the chicken kebabs on a sheet of aluminum foil on the top rack of the grill, where the heat is indirect and a bit cooler.
Cook the kebabs for 3 - 4 minutes per side, or until they are almost cooked through and holding their shape on the skewer.
Note: The raw kebabs can be difficult to transfer to the grill (especially at room temperature). I like to shimmy all the kebabs onto the grill rack using a piece of foil beneath them. Spritz the foil with a bit of cooking spray, to prevent sticking.
- To finish cooking, transfer the kebabs directly to the lower grates of the grill (without the foil). Cook for an additional 1 - 2 minutes per side or until the kebabs have nice grill marks and reach an internal temperature of 160° Fahrenheit. Allow the kofta kebabs to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Alternative Cooking Methods
While grilling kofta kebabs is most typical for skewered shish kebabs, this recipe can be made in a frying pan, oven or air fryer. Whichever method you use, ensure the mixture has been cooked to an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit. We like our instant probe thermometers from ThermoWorks.
- Pan Fried Kofta - With this method, I find shaping the mixture into 2 inch patties to be most effective. Heat a little cooking oil over medium high heat. Sear the kofta, flipping once until the patties are golden browned and cooked through.
- Oven Baked Kofta - For oven baking, I prefer to shape the kofta into meatballs. This is a great way to use this recipe for meal planning and the kofta meatballs can be frozen raw and baked straight from frozen, if desired. Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit. One inch meatballs will bake in about 8 - 10 minutes (from chilled) and about 12 - 15 minutes from frozen.
- Air Fryer Kofta - For air frying, you can make patties, meatballs or cylindrical "cigar" shaped kofta. Preheat the air fryer to 400° Fahrenheit. Air fry the chicken kofta for about 10 minutes, flipping once until golden and cooked through.
Garlicky Yogurt Sauce
This simple yogurt sauce is the perfect pairing for chicken kofta and works as a great condiment for wraps. It's also delicious with our Turkish Lamb skewers recipe.
- Plain yogurt - You can use a more traditional labneh style yogurt but I usually make this sauce with a regular plain yogurt that is thinner and easier to drizzle.
- Lemon Juice
- Garlic - I like to grate the garlic on a microplane for a sharp, slightly spicy garlic flavor. You can also use garlic paste or minced garlic.
- Chopped Parsley
- Salt & Pepper
To make this sauce, simply combine the ingredients and stir it together. You can use the sauce immediately but I prefer to make it a few hours before dinner to let the garlic mellow and allow the flavors to meld together.
This recipe is a great addition to any barbecue and pairs especially well with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired sides. My favorite way to enjoy these kofta kebabs is in a wrap or flatbread with garlicky yogurt sauce, grilled veggies and sumac onions.
- Grilled Vegetables - Whenever we're grilling skewers we love to do a few vegetable skewers as a healthy, colorful side dish. We used Summer squash, onions, bell peppers and zucchini.
- Flatbread - Homemade pita bread, lavash or naan is a perfect pairing.
- Dips and Spreads - Traditional mezze like hummus, baba ghanoush and muhammara have flavors that pair beautifully with kofta.
- Salads - This recipe is especially great with Israeli style salads with lots of cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs.
- Rice, couscous or tabouleh
- Sumac onions - Sumac onions are a simple Turkish condiment that pairs deliciously with the flavors of kofta. I make mine simply with sliced red onions, lemon juice salt and sumac.
Here are some other recipes you may like to serve with the kofta kebabs:
Saving the Leftovers
Leftover chicken kofta shish kebabs can be refrigerated or frozen. It is recommended to reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit.
- Refrigerator: 3 - 5 days
- Freezer: 2 - 3 months
Frequently Asked Questions
Kofta is a type of kebab usually made from ground meat that is flavored with herbs and spices. Kofta is most commonly made from lamb or beef and can be shaped into skewers, cylinders, patties or balls. It is a staple of cuisine throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean and parts of North Africa and Asia.
Chicken kofta is made of ground chicken, grated onion dried herbs and Middle Eastern spices.
Kofta comes from an Arabic word that means "pounded meat". This term refers to the process in which ground kofta meat is kneaded to alter the proteins and create a bouncy texture that binds without breadcrumbs or other additives.
Kofta that falls off the skewer when grilling is usually a result of under-mixing. Since kofta does not use any binders (like breadcrumbs) the mixture needs to be kneaded for several minutes until the protein structure has changed and the mixture has a "sticky" texture.
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Chicken Kofta Kebabs with Yogurt Sauce
- Fine-mesh Strainer or Cheesecloth
- Stand Mixer with the Paddle Attachment
- 4 Flat Metal Skewers (or bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes)
Chicken Kofta Kebabs
- 1 pound ground chicken
- ½ medium yellow onion grated and drained or excess liquid (See Note: a.)
- 1 ½ teaspoons Aleppo pepper (or smoked paprika)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano sieved (See Note: b.)
- 2 teaspoons dried mint sieved (See Note: b.)
- 1 teaspoon fine kosher salt*
- ½ teaspoon Freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1 slice lemon optional for preventing sticking on metal skewers
- Cooking spray as needed, to prevent sticking
Garlicky Yogurt Sauce
- ½ Cup plain yogurt or labneh, unflavored and unsweetened
- 2 cloves garlic granted or finely minced
- 2 Tablespoons parsley leaves finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice to taste, about ½ medium lemon
- ½ teaspoon fine kosher salt*
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Chicken Kofta Kebabs
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine ground chicken, grated onion, Aleppo (or paprika), cumin, coriander, sieved oregano, sieved mint, salt and pepper. Mix on medium-low speed for 5 minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary.
- After 5 minutes, the kofta mixture should be combined, with a "sticky" texture that sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the egg and mix for 1 - 2 additional minutes or until well combined. Shape immediately or refrigerate for up to 12 hours or overnight. (Chilled kofta mixture will be easier to shape.)
- Shish Kebabs (Skewers): To shape the kofta on skewers, divide the mixture into 4 equal portions. If using metal skewers, rub each skewer with a cut lemon to help prevent sticking. Use a clean, wet hand to shape the kofta meat in a cylindrical shape around each skewer. Chill the shaped kofta shish in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours. Alternative Shapes: Chicken kofta mixture can also be shaped into 8 cylinders, patties or meatballs.
- Grill: When ready to grill, preheat the grill to 400° Fahrenheit. Place the chicken kofta kebabs on a sheet of aluminum foil prepared with non-stick cooking spray. Cook kebabs for 3 - 4 minutes per side on the top rack of the grill. To finish, transfer kebabs directly on the hot grill grates and cook for 1 -2 additional minutes, per side, or until the kebabs have nice grill marks and are cooked to an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit. Air Fryer & Oven: Preheat to 400° Fahrenheit. Cook kofta for 8 - 12 minutes or until fully cooked to an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit. Pan Fried: Heat 1 Tablespoon of cooking oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook, flipping once for 8 - 12 minutes or until fully cooked to an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit.
- Allow the chicken kofta to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with garlicky yogurt sauce and your favorite Middle Eastern sides, as desired.
Garlicky Yogurt Sauce
- In a small bowl combine yogurt, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Serve immediately or chill for up to several hours to allow the flavors to marry.
* A Note About Salt
Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on The Sage Apron are developed using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. It is a great all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If using table salt, reduce quantities by about half.