Koftinka ~ Bite-Size Meatballs

Koftinka, bite-sized meatballs, are a lovely little snack or even part of a dinner of little dishes. Lean ground beef keeps its moisture with the use of milk, bread crumbs, and eggs, then gets a subtle flavoring from mint, black pepper, and scallions. Serve with a selection of dips and flatbread. They’re even delish wrapped in a crisp leaf of lettuce.

A cast-iron pan filled with koftinka meatballs on a white background.

Adapted from Katerina Nitsou | Macedonia | Interlink Books, 2021

This is my father’s secret recipe. Now that I live away from home, whenever I travel back to visit, these are always on my list of foods I want my father to make upon my arrival. Macedonian cuisine is often simple, with lots of whole, real foods. Little fuss. Incredible flavor.–Katerina Nitsou

Koftinka ~ Bite-Size Meatballs

A cast-iron pan filled with koftinka meatballs on a white background.
Lean ground beef is low in fat but the milk makes the meat really tender and the mint adds freshness. They're delicious served with fresh bread and a selection of dips, flatbread, or even wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
Katerina Nitsou

Prep 20 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 40 mins
Entree
Mediterranean
4 servings
292 kcal
No ratings yet
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Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for the baking sheet
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs*
  • 4 scallions thinly sliced
  • 2 large eggs whisked
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • Dip such as hummus, yogurt and cucumber dip, or muhammara, for serving

Directions
 

  • Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C) and slick a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  • In a large bowl, gently mix all of the ingredients until evenly incorporated. Be careful not to overwork the meat.
  • Roll mixture into small balls, about 1-inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.
  • Arrange meatballs on prepared baking sheet and roast, turning once, until cooked through and register an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C), 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and place meatballs on a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess fat.
  • Arrange on a serving dish, and serve with your choice of dip.
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Notes

*What can I substitute for breadcrumbs?

Out of breadcrumbs? It happens to the best, most bread-lovingest, of us. Since you only need half a cup for these little bite-sized beauties, you should be able to find a good replacement.
If you have absolutely nothing bread-like, or even bread-adjacent (a hotdog bun? a burger bun? an English muffin?) that you can dry out and crush up, you can try one of the following. Crackers work really well, just be sure to adjust the salt in the recipe if your crackers are salty. The same goes for potato chips–keep an eye on the salt.
Rolled oats or leftover rice? You bet. These are both terrific subs to use as a binder, especially if you’re looking to cut gluten.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 292kcal (15%)Carbohydrates: 12g (4%)Protein: 30g (60%)Fat: 13g (20%)Saturated Fat: 4g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 165mg (55%)Sodium: 1091mg (47%)Potassium: 528mg (15%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 2g (2%)Vitamin A: 388IU (8%)Vitamin C: 3mg (4%)Calcium: 84mg (8%)Iron: 4mg (22%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This recipe is well written and cooks well, but I gave it a 7 based on flavor (and only flavor). That said, if you want a meatball on the “plain side” to go with a flavorful dip/sauce, then this could be an 8 or 9. I made it as written.

A bowl of koftinka meatballs on a table, surrounded by dips,, flatbread and spoons.

I used a small scoop to portion the meatballs and got 21 small (1″) meatballs. I recommend using breadcrumbs or frozen bread for this recipe. Panko would be wasted on this recipe. I served with homemade ajvar, a yogurt and cucumber dip (mast-o-khiar), an herb salad, and pitas.

The meatballs were still tender and moist on day 2 after reheating. This recipe is super easy to prepare–I just thought it lacked a bit of flavor. I’ll make these again but I’ll add a bit of coriander and/or cumin.

I was excited to try this recipe because I wanted something simple to make after work. I think these would make a great sandwich with some raw onion, ajvar, and feta a la cevapi. We wrapped some in romaine lettuce and dipped them in hummus for a snack while we waited for our soup to reheat.

Koftinka in a red bowl with sauce.

I made avgolemono soup the night before and these meatballs in a bowl of avgolemono were the perfect combination! The lemon from the soup and mint in the meatballs paired so well together. I mixed feta into some of my meatballs as well, and that worked really well together, too. These are great! Easy to mix, easy to roll, pop them in the oven, and dinner is done in less than 40 minutes.

These delightful little koftinka bites are extremely satisfying, especially served as recommended with some kind of bread and sauce. I went with simple homemade flatbreads and a tomato sauce I pulled from the baked kofta recipe. It was really great as leftovers too!

These koftinka are a nice change from the more traditional party meatballs. The addition of the scallions and mint comes though at the very end of each bite, with a crisp and slightly peppery finish. I used veal instead of beef.

WOW! These were phenomenal! Tender, flavourful, and ridiculously easy. At quick glance, I expected that this recipe would work, but it FAR exceeded my expectations. I used a cookie scoop to get even-sized meatballs that cooked up in 20 minutes. Perfect for a quick lunch or weeknight dinner. I served them with a yogurt and cucumber dip and pita–absolutely perfect.

Who doesn’t love a meatball? Especially when they are tender, bite-sized, and full of flavor like this version. Even though the recipe called for lean ground beef, the addition of milk and breadcrumbs really add a lovely moist texture, as does the addition of 2 large eggs.

I love the addition of fresh mint here, too–a slight sweetness that paired well with my sauce of choice, a homemade Romesco sauce. These bite-sized beauties were a huge hit and I think they would even translate very well into larger-sized meatballs with a little cooking time tweaking.

Originally published September 21, 2021

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