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Lentil Balls
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Lentil Balls

Mercimek koftesi, a vegetarian version of meatballs (kofte), is one of the most popular appetizers in Turkish cuisine. They are served as a meze with tzatziki or tahini sauce for dipping, or as is with lettuce leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Lunch
Keyword: lentils, turkish
Servings: 4


  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 2/3 cup millet
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch scallions (spring onions), finely chopped
  • 4 leaves curly lettuce, for serving


  • In a saucepan, combine the lentils and 2 cups (16 fl oz/475 ml) water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until almost all the water has been absorbed and the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, combine the millet with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cover and simmer until softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Drain the millet, add to the lentils pot, and season with the salt. Cover with a lid to let the millet soak up the excess lentil cooking water.
  • In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and stir-fry until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste (tomato puree) and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cumin.
  • Add the onion mixture to the lentils/millet mixture. Mix in the lemon juice, half of the parsley, and half of the scallions (spring onions).
  • Prepare the lentil balls by taking a tablespoon of the lentil mixture in your hands and rolling it into an oval shape. Wet your hands frequently as the mixture will make them sticky. Line a platter with the lettuce leaves.
  • Gently place the lentil balls on top of the leaves. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and scallions. Keep the dish in the fridge until serving time.


Adapted/Reprinted from The Gluten-Free Cookbook by Cristian Broglia. © 2022 Phaidon Press