Kofte = Turkish for “meatballs with more flavor.” Upon finishing, this elk recipe actually inspired a high five, because it was that good and we are dorks that high five.

Take me straight to the recipe!

We went to Turkey a few years ago for a friend’s wedding and just fell in love with the food. While it’s similar to Greek food in some respects, do not confuse the two. Kofte is essentially just a meatball, but with some Turkish flavor and flair and they are traditionally found nowhere near tomato sauce or spaghetti.

Turkish food never skimps on the array of spices.

Turkish food never skimps on the array of spices.


This recipe really takes me back to meals on terraces overlooking things of beauty and the disillusionment that everyone in the Mediterranean feels like they are on vacation during mealtime. I think it’s the mint. My recipe, using three pound of meat, made exactly 44 meatballs. At then end of the night there were only 7 left, and four of us at the dinner table. After some counting, we realized that my husband ate about 19 of them. Needless to say you now know why I make big recipes. God forbid we have a leftover.

For this recipe, I used 2 parts ground elk and 1 part ground lamb, partly because lamb is the traditional kofte meat of choice and partly because I didn’t feel like sorting out a binder. If you use all venison and are worried about them falling apart, throw an egg in there. You can also cook the balls in mini muffin tins and it will help them stay together quite nicely.

elk recipe

For serving, I used tahini and caramelized onions because I wasn’t in the mood to make another thing and whip up some tzikiki sauce. A bit of advice: buy some if you can find it premade or at least get some plain yogurt and dress it up with lemon and garlic. It really needed a layer of something fresh to brighten up all those deep delicious flavors.

Venison Kofte

Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 20 minutes


  • 2lb ground venison
  • 1lb ground lamb
  • 2 Large yellow onions (sliced)
  • 1/2 cup mint (minced)
  • 1/3 cup red onion (grated or finely minced)
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 heaped tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayene ((or to taste))
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pistachio meats (chopped)


  • 1 teaspoon sumac


Step 1
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan on medium until pan is hot but oil does not smoke. Add sliced onions and a generous sprinkling of salt. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer covered, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes or until onions are a deep golden brown. Take off heat when finished and set aside for serving.
Step 2
Combine meat, nuts, herbs, spices, and minced red onion and mix until well combined. Form into balls and place in mini muffin tins or form small patties and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Broil until patties are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Step 3
Serve meatballs in a pita or flat bread topped with caramelized onions and drizzled with Tzitziki or other yogurt sauce or tahini if desired.
Non-game substitution: Lamb is best for kofte, but if you are on a budget beef will substitute nicely.
Vegetarian substitution: You could definitely take your favorite veggie burger recipe and just use the provided spice palette; I have not tried this. Really this week I’m useless in the vegetarian department. :)

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