Koufteh Ghelgheli Recipe – Persian Meatballs

Koufteh ghelgheli or Persian meatballs is one of the original and ancient Iranian dishes. Sometimes called “Koufteh rizeh” or “Tiny koufteh”, these Persian treats are tiny chunks of yumminess.

In all Iranian parties, Koofteh ghelgheli is a popular item and never fails to find a place on the table. It is delicious and appeals to almost every taste.

Persian meatballs are similar to Tabrizi meatballs (Koufteh tabrizi), but not the same. Tabrizi meatballs have elaborate affairs with cooked rice, cobs and many aromatic herbs. Persian meatballs are more rudimentary, however, and require only two main ingredients, minced meat and onion.

And of course, we’ve also used flour and eggs in the recipe, which are better for the cohesion and texture of the meatballs; but you can go without them.

Koofteh ghelgheli is a papular dish in Iran, that introduce in the post: 15 Persian Dishes With Ground Beef. In this post, I have written the Iranian recipes with ground beef.

How is Koufteh ghelgheli or Persian meatballs served in Iran?

Persians serve this dish with steamed rice and fresh vegetables. This recipe for Persian meatballs uses tomato paste; Persian meatballs in tomato sauce can be cooked in your favorite tomato sauce. Tomato sauce will give your Persian meatballs a certain je ne sais quoi.

One of the biggest struggles home-cooks face when making meatballs is ensuring that the meatballs won’t fall apart in the pan. Here are some “insider tips” to avoid such a catastrophe, as I’ll show you in this recipe.

Ingredients of koofteh ghelgheli:

Koofteh ghelgheli ingredients

Koufteh Ghelgheli Recipe - Persian Meatballs

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: iran
Servings: 3 people
Author: Alorecipes


  • 400 g Minced beef or veal
  • 2 Onions
  • 2 tbsp Chickpea flour or wheat flour
  • 1 Egg small or medium-sized
  • Turmeric, blackpepper, and salt
  • Plums or walnuts for the inside of meatballs (optional)
  • 2 cups Rice


  • Grate the onions: Peel and finely grate the onions, then squeeze the water out of the them.
  • Combine minced meat with onion, flour, egg, spices and salt: Stir the mixture up and knead it well. In order to firm up the meat and make its texture more consistent, pound it firmly against the bottom of the pan several times. Eventually, the dough should not stick to the hands and should be easily rounded.
    combine all ingredients
  • Make round meatballs: Form round meatballs by rolling the meat between your hands. You can also fill your meatballs with chopped walnuts or dried plums. If you're making plum-stuffed meatballs, press the meat lightly to fill the gaps and create a more solid meatball.
  • Fry the meatballs: Pour oil in a non-stick pan and let it heat well. Gently place the meatballs inside and let them cook, without touching them for several seconds, then shake the frying pan continuously until the meatballs are browned on all sides. As soon as you realize that meatballs will not stick to the dish, you can return them with a spoon -- but don’t seal the pot yet
    Fry the meatballs
  • Prepare the tomato sauce: In a skillet, sauté chopped onion in oil, then stir in tomato paste. Cook for several seconds, then pour in water. About 4 cups of water are enough.
  • Put the meatballs in the sauce: When the sauce begins to boil, add the meatballs. Do so one at a time, gently placing them into the saucepan. If you add them suddenly, they could crack or break. It’s important not to close the pot lid completely and leave it half open. It takes about 50 minutes for the meatballs to be well-cooked. The size of the meatballs also affects baking time: smaller ones cook faster.
  • Steam rice in a separate pot. I have covered the subject of rice in another recipe entitled “Persian Rice with Bread tahdig.”
  • Serve the meatballs with rice or bread. And don't forget the fresh veggies!


Important tips about cooking Persian meatballs

  • It is advised to let the dough rest before making meatballs. For example, it should be left at room temperature or in the refrigerator for about an hour beforehand.
  • Knead the meatballs thoroughly. This will ensure that the final product have cohesive and consistent texture.
  • Persian meatballs can also be prepared without eggs and flour; the dish is easier to make that way. Eggs and flour, however, do add cohesion and texture to the meatballs.
  • If the ingredients are loose, add a bit of flour. You may won't need any flour if the meat is already sticking together. Use flour sparingly, as too much binding can make meatballs dry when fried.
  • Frying the meatballs in oil before adding them to the tomato sauce ensures that they will maintain their shape during cooking. Also, this method highlights the taste of the raw meat. Alternatively, you may want to skip this step and add your raw meatballs directly to the sauce.
  • Soak dried plums in water for half an hour, then pat them dry before proceeding with the recipe. If the plums are still wet, your meatballs will crack when you cook them.
  • Persian meatballs can be jazzed up by dried herbs including tarragon, savory, parsley, mint or coriander. Use them at your discretion; they add a lovely aromatic tang to the meatballs.
  • You can substitute tomato paste with a few grated tomatoes, just make sure that the tomatoes are roasted well to evaporate much of the water content. The tomatoes should be thickened to a paste-like consistency. This will give your food an extra boost of flavor.

The following are tips to help prevent meatballs from disintegrating:

  • It is important to squeeze the grated onion well so that the water is extracted. One of the most common causes of meatballs falling apart during cooking is water in the onion.
  • If the meat used for meatballs has dripped, throw away the bloody juices. If these fluids are returned to the meat, they will become loose, and eventually, your meatballs will fall apart.
  • Kneading the dough makes it more cohesive.
  • Using eggs and flour in the recipe prevents the meatballs from falling apart.

Types of Koofteh in Iran

In the next section, we introduce the most famous type of meatballs or Koofteh found in Iran. There are probably other types as well.

  • Tabrizi meatballs are a popular dish originating in Tabriz, Iran. The meatballs are made with rice, cobs, minced meat, and herbs. It is also common to include boiled eggs in Tabrizi meatballs.
  • Rice meatballs. This kind of koufteh is made with herbs, cooked rice and cobs, much like Tabrizi meatballs.
  • koofteh ghelgheli or tiny meatballs that contain only meat and onion as main ingredients, as we discussed in this recipe. It is also known as sparrow-head meatballs.
  • Tarragon-savory meatballs. Spiced meatballs flavored with tarragon and seasoned with savory, to be used in a dish with barberries.
  • A tiny meatball that is served with rice. We’ll discuss zereshk polo ba koofteh or barberry rice with meatballs in another recipe.


Persian meatball, or koufteh ghelgheli, is one of the most delightful and easy-to-make Persian dishes. The Persian meatballs in tomato sauce are served alongside rice.

The greatest challenge in cooking meatballs is that they all too often fail to stick together and fall apart in the pan.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the best practices for preparing Persian meatballs, and look at ways to prevent meatball mishaps.

If you have any tips or tricks to share with us, please do so in the comments!

One of the famous and authentic Iranian dishes is khoresh ghormeh sabzi. I have posted this recipe on the blog. Also, I have written the exact ratio of vegetables that used in ghormeh sabzi. I advise that see it.

A recommendation: Persian meatball is an easy dish, the essential ingredient of which is minced meat. But if you want to make another dish with minced meat: Enter the recipe finder, select ground beef from the pantry list, and see various recipes with this ingredient.

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