İzmir köfte – Baked Turkish meatballs with vegetables

One of my favourite ways to eat Turkish meatballs.
İzmir köfte (Turkish meatballs with potato and tomato sauce) - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
İzmir köfte (Turkish meatballs with potato and tomato sauce) - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

There’s an incredible variety of köfte, meatballs, in Turkey. Izmir köfte is one of my favourites. Not only is it delicious, it’s also super easy to make – perfect for a weeknight supper.

When I moved to Istanbul in summer 2015, the house restoration was supposed to be completed. But as anyone who has been through a major restoration work knows: things never go according to schedule. And so it was that my first two months in Istanbul, my partner and I stayed at his parents on the other side of Istanbul. (If you’re wondering what our house looks like, I put a picture on Instagram last week.)

Naturally, we often had dinner there. One of my favourites from that time is this: İzmir köfte. (Another: Runner beans in olive oil.)

The dish is as simple as it is genius: Köfte, or Turkish meatballs if you like, with potatoes, peppers and a simple tomato sauce. All chucked into a roasting pan and left to its own in the oven while you go about any other business that needs attending to.

Meanwhile, the most wonderful aromas filling the kitchen reminds you dinner is almost ready.

İzmir köfte (Turkish meatballs) - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
The ingredients for the Izmir köfte meatballs.

How to prepare Izmir köfte

Izmir köfte can be prepared in many different ways. Each region, even each chef, have their own special way of preparing the meatballs. So feel free to vary the flavouring according to your own taste.

I’ve kept it simple and (with one exception) fairly traditional, using garlic, flat-leaf parsley, cumin and fresh chili to flavour the meatballs.

Fresh chili isn’t commonly used in Turkey, but since I got hold of some at the market last week I’ve used it in place of the more traditional pul biber here. Pul biber are relatively mild and aromatic dried chili flakes, also known as Aleppo pepper. Feel free to substitute a teaspoon or two of pul biber for the fresh chili, if you like.

Shredded onion is also commonly added, but for this particular dish I prefer my Izmir köfte without. If you like, however, you can add 1/2 shredded onion.

İzmir köfte (Turkish meatballs with potato and tomato sauce) - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
Tray of Izmir köfte ready for the oven.

But whatever you do with the flavouring, don’t skip the bread or egg. They serve two purposes here, and you want them for both.

First, the keep the meatballs from crumbling. But most importantly, they keep the meatballs moist and juicy, even if they’re allowed to roast for a little longer than strictly necessary.

You can use any bread, though I’d use one without lots of seeds or other dominating flavours if you can; the crumbs are there for the reasons mentioned and not for flavour. I use slightly stale bread, i.e. not the completely dried stuff such as shop-bought panko, though that will work too.

İzmir köfte (Turkish meatballs with potato and tomato sauce) - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Serving suggestions.

Izmir köfte is traditionally served with Turkish style rice and perhaps a bowl of Greek yoghurt on the side, though you may also serve it as is, if you prefer. I usually also serve a simple salad on the side, such as some green leaves or shredded carrot and radish with a squeeze of lemons and a few dabs of extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 2-4.

İzmir köfte (Turkish meatballs with potato and tomato sauce) - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

İzmir köfte (Roasted Turkish meatballs with vegetables)

Home style tray bake Turkish meatballs.
4.7 (39 ratings).
Main Course
Türkiye
1 hour
3 portions
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Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 400 g beef mince, or lamb mince, if you prefer
  • 2 slices stale bread, crust removed, whizzed or finely chopped until you have breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 red chili, seeds and core removed, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and shredded or finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Vegetables

  • 500 g potato, peeled or well rinsed and cut into 4-5 mm thick slices
  • 1 large carrot, peeled or well rinsed and cut into 4-5 mm thick slices
  • 1 red romano pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks (or a handful of Turkish sivri biber or çarliston biber)

Tomato sauce

  • 400 g fresh or canned tomato
  • 200 ml water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

How I make it

  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
  • Using your hands, mix the meatball ingredients until completely combined. Shape into 8-10 equally sized meatballs (any more and the meatballs will be too small and will get dry). I use a tablespoon, the palm of my hand and a little water for this. Flatten the meatballs slightly.
  • Make tomato sauce by mixing tomato, water, olive oil and some salt and pepper. For a stronger tomato flavour, you may add a teaspoon or two of tomato paste and a pinch of sugar. If you have a stick blender, use it to mix the sauce to a homogenous mass – if not, mixing by hand and keeping the chunks is also fine.
  • Mix the potato, carrot and pepper in a suitable oven dish, making sure the potato slices don’t stick together. Put the meatballs on top. Pour the tomato sauce over the vegetables and meatballs, making sure everywhere is covered in the sauce.
  • Roast in the middle of the oven until the potatoes are soft, around 40-45 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the thickness of your potato slices and the type of potato used. If your potatoes are still very hard after 40 minutes you may remove the meatballs while the potatoes finish cooking, returning them to the oven to reheat for five minutes when the potatoes are ready. Serve hot.
Did you make this recipe?I’d love it if you’d be kind enough to leave a rating and a short comment.

Hey, there!

I’m Vidar, a Norwegian food writer based in Istanbul since 2015.

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar Bergum, a food writer based in Istanbul since 2015. I’ve published three books on the food and cultures of Turkey and the Middle East in my native Norway.

This website and my newsletter Meze are the homes of my writing and recipes in English.

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4 Responses

  1. Very tasty! Made it today with few adjustments to our taste. Thank you for sharing your recipe with us.

  2. Hello, thank you for sharing this recipe! It was soooo good. I did cook it on high for another 15 mins and I added some grated onion to the sauce. It was so hearty and went down a treat with the family X thank you

  3. Thank you for the recipe! Tasted exactly like my mother’s. I would adjust the recipe though. We had to remove the köfte and bake for an extra 25min on 200 degrees before everything was properly cooked and then add meatballs again to reheat them.

  4. Hello! Your recipe looks delicious. One question: what kind of ‘chili’ do you use? Banana pepper, jalapeno, serrano?

    Thanks!

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