İçli Köfte- Meat-stuffed Bulgur Shells

Whenever my family and I go to Turkey, we are greeted with two meals right off the bat: stuffed eggplant dolmas and these stuffed bulgur koftes. This is a dish that my mother-in-law would prepare only for special occasions, mostly because it is very time consuming and not worth making in small portions. Over the years as her arthritis progressed, daughters and nieces and granddaughters took over preparing the koftes, but no one has come close to matching the flavor and texture of these delicious morsels.  When my kaynana passed suddenly in February, my husband traveled to Turkey for a month and to surprise him, and to honor her, I decided to “try” to make these. Try is the operative word because this is a dish that I have been discouraged to make.

I was told by my sisters-in-law that it would be near-impossible for me to re-create so I should just wait until they could make it for me. Little did they know that this would be taken as a challenge! So I started to prepare these 3 days ahead of when my husband would arrive, making them in steps and refrigerating and then cooked them when he landed, only to find he had brought a container of them all the way from Istanbul as a surprise for me! It sounds odd to make such a big deal out of wheat and some ground beef but once you’ve tasted them, you’ll know what I mean.

It was hard to find a recipe for these online, since everytime I asked a family member, they would suggest a simpler dish.

This particular recipe came from http://www.giverecipe.com and can be found at: http://www.giverecipe.com/Tag/icli-kofte. It called for 2 pounds each of meat and onions but I found that there was a lot of left over filling and not even of the bulgur dough, so I compensated by cutting back on filling. You could always increase the amount of bulgur dough.

There are many varieties and this is still not 100% but I will be tweaking and looking for suggestions to improve it. These can be prepared either fried in oil or boiled and served with garlic. Our personal favorite is the boiled version, but the fried is just as good. This version is boiled.


1 lb. ground lamb or beef, lean

1/2 lb. onions, finely chopped

4 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp.  olive oil

1 cup crumbled walnuts (optional)

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. thyme (I left this out)

3 tsp. salt

1/2 tbsp. red pepper paste

1/2 c. parsley, finely chopped

2 green hot peppers, finely chopped (optional)


2 c. ground bulgur (fine grain)

2 eggs

1 c. semolina (most people tell me that this should not be included but it was in this batch)

1/2 tbsp. red pepper paste

1 c. flour

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. paprika

2 c. water

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. black pepper

For boiling:

1 lemon

1 tsp. salt

pot of water

To prepare the filling:  Make ahead anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days; Keep refrigerated

Put the ground meat in a pot and cook over medium heat until it absorbs the liquid.

Add onion and stir. Add the butter and stir.

When the butter melts and has been absorbed, add the salt and olive oil. Put in the pepper paste and stir.

When combined, add parsley and green pepper.

Season with cumin, black pepper, paprika and thyme, if using. Then add the walnuts and stir.

Remove from heat. DO NOT let the parsley and green pepper cook too much. Stir to combine and let it cool for 2 hours.

To make the dough:

Put the bulgur in a tray and soak it with cold water. Then add the semolina in the same tray separately and soak well. 2 cups of water is enough for both. Cover and wait 15 minutes- do not drain.

Season with the spices, then break the eggs over the top.

Combine, then add the flour, kneading well.

Take a piece about the size of a walnut and shape it into a hollow football with your thumb and forefinger, turning to thin it out.

Keep a bowl of water to wet your hands to keep it from sticking. Fill with 1 tbsp. of the meat filling and pinch it closed into an oval shape.

To cook:

Heat the water to a boil. Pour in the juice of 1 lemon and salt (these help to retain the shape while cooking). Boil for 10 minutes per batch. ( do not overcrowd the pot-about 6-8 at a time) They will start to float when they are ready. Take them from water and place in a strainer.


Take a few cloves of fresh peeled garlic and smash with the flat side of a large knife. Chop them finely and lay on a platter. Drizzle with olive oil and a dash of salt, then a teaspoon of tomato paste and roll the kofte’s in the mixture before eating.


2 thoughts on “İçli Köfte- Meat-stuffed Bulgur Shells

  1. I too was told not to bother trying to make these. But I found a recipe and made them.
    That recipe did not include semolina. Reread your post and viewed pics. These
    kotke are great and not difficult at all.

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