Herbed Koofteh

I make koofteh 3-4 times a year, perhaps once every season, and every time I serve it I tell myself that I should make it more often but I don’t follow up on that. However, it is such a joy to gather the ingredients, chopping the onions, making the sauce, preparing the vegetables, mixing them all together, making small balls and finally letting them cook slowly. The aroma of fresh herbs, tomato sauce and green peppers fill the room and that is just the beginning of making this delicious and fragrant one dish meal. This koofteh is made with rice, meat and several kinds of herbs.

I must say that my mother would make the same koofteh without the use of tomato sauce and green peppers. One day I added a little tomato paste to the liquid in the pan to give it some color, I liked the enhanced taste and color so much so that now I don’t make koofteh without it. Also, in the authentic Persian koofteh, there are no green bell peppers either but that started as an experiment too. One day I added pieces of green pepper to the sauce and the final product was a mouth watering, colorful and aromatic meal. I usually add the green peppers toward the end so they can keep their beautiful colors and stay a little bit on the firm side. If you are new to Iranian food I strongly recommend making this dish. It makes about 15-20 koofteh balls.

Herbed Koofteh


1 pound ground meat (beef, lamb or turkey)
1 cup rice, rinsed well
1/2 cup yellow split peas, rinsed
2 eggs
2 medium-sized onions (one finely diced for frying and one grated to be used in the rice/meat mixture)
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
A few sprigs of fresh mint, tarragon and basil, washed and finely chopped
2 medium-sized green peppers *optional
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon liquid saffron
Vegetable oil

For the Sauce:

1 can of tomato sauce (16 ounces)
1 can of crushed tomatoes (16 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

For filling:

Chopped walnut, raisins, barberries (zereshk) or prunes


  1. Place the rice and the yellow split peas together in a medium-size pot, add 3 cups of water, a tablespoon of oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, cover and cook 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Remove from heat, drain and set aside to cool. 
  3. In a large pan saute onions in 3 tablespoons of oil until golden brown, add garlic and turmeric. Stir well and saute for another couple of minutes. 
  4. Pour both cans of tomato sauce into the pot, add salt and pepper and also pour in 2-3 cups of water. Cover and simmer on low heat while you make the meat mixture.
  5. In a large bowl combine rice and peas mixture, meat, grated onion, eggs, herbs, salt, pepper, turmeric and saffron and mix thoroughly yet gently. All the ingredients should be well distributed. 
  6. Using a scoop take about 1/3 of a cup of the mixture, round it into a ball, poke a hole in it to stuff the fillings in, close the gap and one by one, slowly place into the gently boiling sauce. 
  7. Place an upside down colander on the pot to let the steam out. 
  8. Cook on medium to low heat for an hour. Adjust seasoning and add more water if needed. 
Serve with yogurt, pickles (torshi) and warm bread.



  1. Yummy, your blog looks so tasty.

  2. how much saffron would I have to use to get 1/4 a teaspoon of liquid saffron?

  3. Hi Helen,
    Thanks for the question; it gives me a chance to explain this liquid saffron. What I mean is ¼ of the teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in about one table spoon of hot water. I’d suggest adding the hot water gradually and stirring to bring about the color and aroma. Sometimes, before adding it to the food I put it in the microwave for only ten seconds. A little bit of saffron goes a long way, especially if it is of a good quality. There are different varieties of saffron in Persian supermarkets or Middle Eastern specialty stores. The best saffron would have a deep red color, great aroma and enhances the flavor. Although it is a bit too expensive though, therefore I use a little bit of it each time. I buy them as threads in small packages or airtight containers and I ground them myself using a mortar and pestle.

  4. Do the turmeric and saffron go in the sauce or the koofteh? They're listed in the sauce ingredients, but the instructions list it in the meat mixture....

    1. Deena, I made the necessary changes. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  5. I'm confused what mixture to u add a a fillings

    1. You would place a teaspoon of the nuts and raisins filling into the center of each rice, meat and herb kofta.