These tasty vegetarian koftas couldn't be easier to make, with no pre-cooking required! Plus, they can be served in all sorts of different ways.
I'm not going to pretend these vegetarian koftas are attractive to look at, so please save your snarky comments! But I am going to tell you how tasty they are, how easy they are to make, and how many different ways you can serve them (spoiler: it's a lot)!
Really, these veggie koftas are the perfect recipe - the sort of thing you can cook again and again, but never make the same way twice. If only they looked a little more enticing...
What are koftas?
I've been vegetarian since I was about 10 years old, so I have no idea how these vegetarian koftas compare to the various meat versions, but they're full of flavour, so I say they're a winner. Especially when they come together so easily!
These koftas couldn't be simpler to make - as I often do, I made sure that nothing needed pre-cooking, as I'm both far too lazy for that, and far too busy, with a toddler and a newborn to look after.
My trick is to use tinned lentils! I love these things. Of course you can use dried lentils if you prefer, and just cook them in a pan before mixing with the rest of the ingredients, but I do love a tin for a quick dinner - they're so convenient. I'm all for a shortcut.
Just mash up the lentils with a tin of black beans (which you can also cook from dried, if you're a better person than me) and plenty of tasty flavourings - I used tomato puree, smoked paprika, cumin, fresh coriander, garlic... and you'll also need a few breadcrumbs to help everything bind together. I often use egg as a binder in my recipes, but I wanted to make vegan koftas this time, and found the breadcrumbs worked just fine on their own.
Give it a good mix.
How could I adapt this kofta recipe?
If you're not a fan of my chosen spices, feel free to put your own spin on these vegetarian koftas - any ground spices, or fresh or dried herbs will work.
You can also swap the tomato puree for a different kind of paste if you like - an Indian-style curry paste, Thai curry paste, even a dollop of pesto or tapenade.
As I said, we're not particularly going for authenticity here, so as long as you end up with something tasty at the end of it, it's all good in my book.
When you're happy with your kofta mixture, use your hands to form it into little egg shapes. You could use the same mixture to make little burgers or meatballs too, if you prefer.
Then, they're ready to bake until crispy. In the past I've also tried shallow frying this kind of thing, but they often end up a bit mushy, and look a bit of a mess - baking actually works better, and gives a nice crispy coating. Which is good, because it's obviously the healthier option too - win-win!
These koftas may not look like much, but they're seriously tasty. I stuck some wooden skewers in mine, purely for presentation (I like to seem fancy), but you can easily skip those.
How should you serve koftas?
Since there are so many versions of koftas around the world, there are all sorts of ways you can serve your veggie version, depending on what sorts of herbs and spices you choose to use.
Here are a few ideas for how to serve your vegan koftas:
- with couscous and a simple tomato and cucumber salad (like I did!)
- in curry sauce with rice
- meatball-style, in a tasty tomato sauce
- as part of a big mezze-inspired feast
- in a stew, like dumplings
- in a pitta bread with salad and sauce, a bit like a kebab
- formed around a boiled egg to make a vegetarian Scotch egg
The options are endless - as I said, you never need to make these koftas the same way twice! It's a great base recipe that you can switch up however you like.
Next time, I think I'll make some sort of creamy garlic sauce to drizzle over the top, or maybe something tahini-based.
How would you make your vegetarian koftas?
Black bean and lentil vegetarian koftas
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- 400 g tin black beans, drained (240g, or ~ 1 ¼ cups, when drained)
- 390 g tin green lentils, drained (235g, or ~ 1 ¼ cups, when drained)
- 80 g (~ ½ cup) fine breadcrumbs (I used shop-bought)
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree / paste
- Few sprigs fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic granules
- Black pepper
- Spray oil
- Add the lentils and black beans to a bowl, and mash with a potato masher (it doesn't matter if some small lumps remain). Add the remaining ingredients (except the spray oil), including a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly to combine.
- With clean hands, form the mixture into egg shapes (or balls, or burgers) - I made 12 in total. Place on a greased baking tray, and spray lightly with oil.
- Bake at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F) for around 25 minutes, until browned and crispy. There are lots of serving suggestions within the blog post.
Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on your exact ingredients. Please calculate your own nutritional values if you require accuracy for health reasons.