Kefta – Middle Eastern Hamburgers

February 15th, 2010

My love of hamburgers goes back a long way. It was my comfort food as a child, the date food at local drive-in restaurants as a teenager, and the easy cheap meal to prepare in my student housing as a college student. Even now, at times, I need my hamburger fix. Kefta is an interesting alternative to the standard hamburger. I found the recipe in The Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein. This wonderful cookbook has the sunny earthy cooking of the European countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. Everything from Greek baked goat cheese in filo to Provencal ice cream with lavender and honey is covered.
We are all familiar with Lebanese cooking. Lamb kebabs on pita bread with a cucumber sauce, baba ghanoush, hummus and falafel are all available at Middle Eastern restaurants. Kefta is a Lebanese ground beef patty flavored with cumin and parsley and served in a pita bread with a tahini sauce. I love the flavors of this fresh take on the hamburger. I lightened up the tahini sauce by using a yogurt tahini dressing from Eating Well magazine. I am now inspired to adapt the lowly hamburger to other flavor twists and cuisines. Do you have any suggestions?
2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Olive oil for cooking kefta
6 pita breads
tomato slices
mixed greens
Tahini Dressing (recipe follows)
For the kefta, place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead with your hands until blended. Shape into 12 oval patties.
Heat the grill or broiler. Brush the kefta with oil and grill or broil 3 to 4 minutes each side. Or heat 3 tablespoons oil in a cast-iron pan over high heat and saute the kefta 3 minutes each side.
Meanwhile wrap the pitas in foil and warm in oven.
To serve, cut the pitas crosswise in half. Fill each with lettuce, tomato slice and one kefta patty. Spoon over some of the tahini dressing.
Tahini Dressing
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt

17 responses to “Kefta – Middle Eastern Hamburgers”

  1. Lyla says:

    I am absolutely thrilled by this recipe and can’t wait to make it–probably this week. You have jarred my memory about a recipe that I used to make that included ground beef which was cooked with chopped onion and was then mixed with yogust and shredded lettuce. I seasoned the entire mixture with cumin. This concoction was spooned into pitas. I even had a recipe for my own pitas–which I’m now madly searching for. All your recipes are treasures, but this one is especially precious. Thanks so much for your fierce devotion to food and friends.

  2. Wonderful recipe, Penny. I have a can of tahini, which I was going to use for a dip, so I am all set to make these burgers. Is it okay to do equal parts beef and ground turkey? Thanks!


  3. Penny says:

    Thanks Lyla, Your recipe for pita bread would be appreciated.

    Definitely Jane! I used a very lean organic ground beef so adding turkey to your ground beef would be fine. The olive oil makes leaner cuts work too. Feel free to up the tahini too if you want. I went easy because of our diet. Hope your weather has improved.

  4. Kate says:

    This looks fabulous and I do love all of the flavors! We will have to try these out next week.

    Thank you!!

  5. Penny, what a terrific way to have a burger, but reduce all that bread. I recently have been using pita to satisfy my love of bread.

    The Mediterranean Kitchen cookbook sounds like a good one to have. I will keep an out and give it a look. Many thanks…

  6. Ground beef does lend itself well to herbs and spices. Kefta sounds so satisfying and tasty! The Mediterranean Kitchen cookbook sounds very interesting!

  7. Your kefta burger sounds delightful. Great job of lightening the sauce with the yogurt Penny.

  8. I just love Mediteranean and Middle Eastern food of all kinds.

  9. Lynda says:

    I love this looks of your burger! I haven’t been able to find Tahini in my town, yet, but surely we’ll get it soon.
    The cookbook sounds interestin-I’ll have to look for it.

  10. Karen says:

    Cumin is one of my favorite spices – love the smell and taste of it!

  11. Delicious, I love kefta!

  12. That’s wonderful.. I see more WW friendly recipes.. how is your efforts going… Always tough especially for someone who enjoys food

  13. Robin Sue says:

    Hi Penny
    I think this is the bonus of ground beef, it is so versatile. I also like these flavors and will have to try your tahini sauce, that ads such wonderful taste!

  14. Mary says:

    Penny, I love kefta. Cumin is one of my favorite spices and this recipe looks fantastic. I hope you are having a great day.

  15. Katy ~ says:

    This sounds very good indeed. I have not had the pleasure of eating kefta and now I feel that I should have it as soon as possible.

    Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  16. You Kefta burger is just the burger fix I need. I’m so glad you posted the recipe for lightening up the tahini sauce too.

  17. This sounds so yummy! Michael LOVES mediterranean food! We’ll be eating this soon!

    Love you!

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.