Red Lentil-Bulgur Patties… Mercimekli Kofte

The kitchen is back up again. It feels nice to smell some soup and freshly baked aroma in the house. And after having the “Istanbul blues” for a while, I feel recharged and ready to face the coming spring. Even with its required cleaning and yard work! Ugh! Those two things take a lot out of me. I feel great when I am done with them and proud of what I have accomplished. But it takes me a while to get out there and weed the yard or clean the insides of cabinets. One of those things that you have to have an upbeat music in your ears to get them done.

We are trying to eat less meat and more vegetables, legumes to see if our energy level picks up for these deemed necessary spring work. These red lentil patties are normally served with afternoon tea in Turkey. However it became our lunch and dinner one day as well as appetizer for a party.

I have messed up this recipe enough times that now I know how to be cautious. If red lentil-bulgur ratio and water somehow are not in the happy medium, you either get a soggy mess or very dry blob in your hands. I prefer the dry to the soggy mess. You can find the optimum wetness by adding a bit hot water at a time than trying to deal with extra water.

I boil one cup of red lentils in 3 to 4 cups of water until they are all dissolved and cook very well. There should be enough water left to have a thick soup consistency. Then you take it off the heat, add half a cup of bulgur, stir, close the lid and let the water and warmth of lentils cook the bulgur.

Once it cools down, you can mix with sauteed and cooled onions, lemon juice, herbs, tomato and red pepper paste and spices. I normally add 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil but make sure you add less if it is falling apart already.

At one gathering, a friend served the runny version of this as a dip. She said she had a lot of water left in lentils and not enough bulgur, so once she mixed everything in (with lemon juice and olive oil) , she could not form the patties. Instead, she cut up some pita bread and served it as a dip. Taste is the same, so we figured who cares about the form. There is almost always a good saving method for everything.

Afiyet Olsun.

 Mercimekli Kofte (Red Lentil-Bulgur Patties)

Makes about 25-30 small bite size patties

  • 1 cup red lentil
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato and red pepper paste mixture
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • Half a bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • Half a bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
  • Half a bunch fresh mint , finely chopped (or 3 tablespoons of dry mint)
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 big lemon (adjust according to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more for your taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)

1. Cook red lentils in water. Once cooked and in thick soup consistency, add uncooked bulgur, stir, close the lid. Turn off the heat.

2. Saute the yellow onion in 2 tablespoon olive oil, let it cool.

3. Once bulgur-lentil mixture cools down, add the rest, except lemon juice and 1/4 cup olive oil. Mix everything together (I find that mixing with hands works the best as you can distribute all the herbs and spices and make sure the paste gets mixed evenly.)

4. Add lemon juice and olive oil, form patties. Serve them on shredded lettuce or on romaine lettuce leaves with lemon wedges.






  1. by Ozlem's Turkish Table
    12:01 pm
    Mar 10, 2013

    This mercimek kofte looks greatly delicious Ilke!! love your photos as always – a bit of red pepper paste adds a ton of flavor, isn’t it? When forming the patties, I keep a bowl of water with a drizzle of olive oil in it and wet my hands with it. This moistness seem to help keeping the patties in tact :) x ozlem

  2. by Terra
    1:16 pm
    Mar 10, 2013

    Okay, now I so need to try these!!! I don’t eat loads of meat, so love finding good protein filled dishes!! I wrote back to you on FB, we would love to get together after the 16th:-) Have a great week, Hugs, Terra

  3. by john@kitchenriffs
    1:29 pm
    Mar 10, 2013

    Looks like a wonderful dish, and one that’s new to me. I have red lentils on hand, though no bulgur (easy to get some, though). Definitely something I should try! And I’m no fan of yard work, either, although it has to be done. ;-( Anyway, good post – thanks.

  4. by zerrin
    3:16 pm
    Mar 10, 2013

    Ilke, these balls look fabulous! I love how you shape them in balls unlike the ones we make here, you know the oval shape which has finger marks on it. Never used fresh dill in these patties before, sounds like a great addition! Also, I love your friend’s version. I’ve had the same problem before, but I couldn’t think of serving it as a dip; brilliant idea!

  5. by Angie@Angie's Recipes
    9:49 am
    Mar 11, 2013

    I adore red lentils! I had red lentil muffins everyday last 15 days. I love lentils!
    These patties look fantastic!

  6. by Turkey's For Life
    10:15 am
    Mar 29, 2013

    I just LOVE mercimekli köfte! Great photos and interesting about your friend making a dip out of it, too. Why not?! :) We always play about with food like that – especially if something isn’t going quite according to plan.

  7. by April
    10:33 am
    Mar 29, 2013

    Your mercimek kofte looks delicious! I love the presentation, it really looks gorgeous!

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