Indian Meatballs/Kofta Curry

I took the last few days off from my blog because it was my birthday yesterday and I decided that for me the celebration meant taking the time off from what I normally do – so no cooking! With my husband out on a work related trip to Indonesia and my daughter at college in Indiana, the only one who was in close enough proximity to come celebrate my birthday was my eighteen old son (his college is about 2 hours from here).  Of course, he had tickets for a concert and I think he partly came home for that and partly to give me some company on my birthday! Yesterday, he and I went out for a wonderful sushi lunch and then dessert of some soft delicate Macarons from a French bakery in Bethesda. Then last night my friends in the neighborhood had a holiday party where I had a wonderful time so of course, the blog took a back seat.  This evening, my son went back to college and his friend Michael, who is like a son to me, turned up with another friend and I decided to cook these kids a spicy Indian meal. And of course, if I were going to cook, I had to take pictures and post this recipe on the blog.  I often joke with Michael that as a “gringo” kid he probably cannot stand the heat of Indian food but over the years I think he has actually developed a taste for my food and if he doesn’t get it for a few days, he actually will ask me to cook for him. Being a total sucker for compliments, I love cooking for Michael. He sits at my kitchen counter and glugs down gallons of milk or water or juice to put out the fire in his mouth but he still claims that he loves Indian food! And as proof, here he is, enjoying the curry –


1.    1 lb of ground beef (you can use lamb or ground goat or even chicken)
2.    2 large red onions
3.    2 large juicy ripe red tomatoes
4.    5 cloves of garlic
5.    2 inches long fresh ginger root
6.    One egg
7.    One shallot
8.    2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro leaves
9.    1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
10.    ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
11.    1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
12.    2 green chilies (mild ones)
13.    1 teaspoon of red Kashmiri chili powder
14.    5-6 cloves
15.    One large stick of cinnamon
16.    A few twigs of mace
17.    One teaspoon of Garam masala
18.    3 green cardamoms
19.    1 large black cardamom
20.    One can of tomato paste
21.    1 tablespoon of fenugreek leaves (available at Indian or South Asian stores).
22.    One dry bay leaf
23.    2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil
24.    Salt and pepper to taste
25.    2 teaspoons of sugar


1.    Peel and chop the two red onions (large chunks are fine).
2.    Peel the garlic cloves.
3.    Chop the tomatoes.

4.    Heat a large cooking pot (which has a heavy bottom) on medium heat and add 2.5 cups of water, onion pieces, tomatoes and garlic cloves to the water.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water and cover the pot and let them cook on medium to low heat for 15-20 minutes. Yes, I know this is an unusual process but believe me, it makes for a great curry sauce!

5.    Peel and chop the shallot, the green chilies and the cilantro leaves

6.    While the onions, tomatoes and garlic cloves are boiling, get the meatballs ready by adding the following ingredients to a large bowl: the ground meat, salt, red pepper, one heaping tablespoon of tomato paste, ½ tablespoon of freshly ground coriander seeds, chopped cilantro seeds, chopped green chili, one egg, the Garam masala and grate 1 inch of the ginger into this mixture. (keep the remaining ginger for the curry sauce).  Mix everything with your hands. Do not work the meat too much otherwise the meatballs get hard when cooked.

7.    Using your hands make meatballs (about the size of a ping-pong ball) and set them aside on a plate.

8.    Strain the boiled onions, tomato and garlic from the water (but do NOT throw this water away) and grind them to a pulp in a food processor or blender.

9.    Pour 2 tablespoons of oil in the large pot that you had used to boil the water in and heat it on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds to the oil and let them come to a sputter (takes less than a minute).

10.    Add the pulped onion, tomato and garlic mixture to the hot oil and stir.
11.    Slowly let the mixture cook in the oil and caramelize. Continue to stir constantly (don’t let the bottom start to burn so stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan is essential).

12.    While the mixture is cooking, using a dry spice grinder, grind the following ingredients to a coarse consistency: both kinds of cardamom, red pepper flakes, mace and cloves.

13.    Add the ground spice powder to the onion mixture and stir. Also add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and red Kashmiri chili powder and stir.

14.    Add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the pot and stir. Continue cooking till you see oil separate from the mixture and collect on the sides of the pot (usually takes 15-20 minutes).  This process is essential to caramelize the onion mixture and cooks away the raw smell of onions and garlic.

15.    When the onion mixture looks cooked and oil separates, start adding a little bit of the liquid that you had set aside (after draining the onions) to the pot and stir. Continue this for 5-8 minutes till there is a thick sauce in the pan.  Add the remaining amount of ginger to the pot (chop it finely in small pieces)

16.    Add a cup of water and sugar to the pot and stir the sauce and then slowly add the raw meatballs to the sauce. Do not crowd the pan with meatballs (so usually a broad based pan is a good pan to use for this dish). The sauce should approximately cover the meatballs.

17.    Cook the meatball on low heat in the sauce for about 12-14 minutes.

18.    At the very end, add the remaining amount of ground coriander powder and the fenugreek leaves to the pot and stir again. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and the dish is ready.

19.    Remove the bay leaf and the cinnamon stick from the sauce before serving. Serve with a Basmati rice pilaf or a hot flat bread like Naan or tandoori Roti (available at any Indian or South Asian store, sometimes at Costco as well).


Related Posts


  1. Permalink Submitted by Shaunak Goswami on Fri, 14/12/2012 - 15:48

    Can I substitute the ground beef with pork ???

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Fri, 14/12/2012 - 19:41

      Yes, you can substitute with ground pork or ground chicken but I guess the best would be substituting with ground goat or lamb meat…usually any kind of red meat is better for meatballs but if you don’t eat any red meat then pork or chicken would be okay too…Let me know if you try this and how it turned out! Thanks for visiting my website 🙂

    • Permalink Submitted by Beena Tewari on Sat, 26/07/2014 - 16:37

      Thanks!!!! Looks great.

      • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Sat, 26/07/2014 - 19:29

        Thanks 🙂 Let me know if you try this recipe and how it turned out!

  2. Permalink Submitted by Shaunak Goswami on Wed, 19/12/2012 - 07:31

    Hi Shabnam,

    Sorry for the long delay in replying. I substituted beef with pork and the recipe worked equally well 🙂

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Wed, 19/12/2012 - 15:23

      Good to know that pork works well with this recipe. I guess I’ll have to try it sometime! Usually the Italians make meatballs with a combination of ground pork and ground beef, so I thought it might work well with our Indian masala as well. Thanks for the feedback – I really appreciate it 🙂

  3. Permalink Submitted by Aparna on Tue, 14/10/2014 - 18:34

    Great recipe. I don’t eat beef so I will make it with chicken. thank you.

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Tue, 14/10/2014 - 19:53

      Yes of course Aparna – this recipe would work well with chicken as well. Don’t forget to tell me how it turns out. I would appreciate any feedback that you might have about this or any other recipe of mine. Thanks for visiting my blog 🙂 Shabnam

  4. Permalink Submitted by Tanya on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 22:51

    Hi. This looks absolutely incredible. I was wondering what shortcuts one might make if, say, one didn’t own a spice grinder and had no interest in using a mortar and pestle. Can you replace the whole spices with ground? In what ratio for the exchange? Thanks a bunch!

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Fri, 05/12/2014 - 23:53

      Hi Tanya – yes, you can use whole spices but those large bits seem odd while eating the dish (if you bite into it) – if you’d like, you can use a pre-made mixture of Garam Masala – where do you live…do you have access to a South-Asian grocery store? I am sure a pre-made spice mix would serve well too. Let me know how it turned out – I would really appreciate some feedback.

  5. Permalink Submitted by Denny on Fri, 16/01/2015 - 22:14

    I just made these and it was delicious! I didn’t have all of the ingredients so I had to substitute where I could (black cardamon, mace, tomato paste) but it trend out great! I added milk/fresh bead crumbs to meat balls to keep them tender (beef, pork, veal meat combo). I will definitely make this again and share with friends on Pinterest! Well done

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Wed, 21/01/2015 - 16:33

      Oh thanks for the feedback Denny!!! Your substitutions sound interesting for sure…maybe I’ll try these out myself. I’m always up for varying my flavors and trying new things out. I hope you’ll try other recipes of mine too!!! Happy New Year!!!

  6. Permalink Submitted by Donna on Tue, 10/11/2015 - 19:01

    Excellent recipe albeit a little time consuming.
    Thank you for sharing and I’ll definitely be make this again. Yum!

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Thu, 12/11/2015 - 15:10

      Thank you for the feedback Donna! Yes, I understand this is a bit of a time-consuming recipe. I too make it rarely – only when I have guests coming over for dinner or when the family absolutely “demands” it 🙂 Well, once a year I also give in when I am craving something spicy. I am glad to you that you liked it. Don’t forget to tell me if you try any of my other recipes! – Shabnam

  7. Permalink Submitted by Samia on Sun, 30/07/2017 - 03:25

    I’ve been making this recipe for 2-3 years and I always make it with chicken qeema and everyone in my family absolutely love it. I could never make qoftas before this recipe is just a perfection

add new comment