When I was living in Italy, I participated in a cooking contest for international students. After thinking for a while on what to prepare, I decided on mercimek köftesi since it has the simplest ingredients that one can find everywhere. I prepared this dish and won the contest. After this success, when people asked me to cook something Turkish, I always prepared mercimek köftesi. Now I can say that I’m an international mercimek köftesi maker, as I’ve also prepared it in France, Spain, Chile, United States and Canada.

Mercimek köftesi

If you translate literally ‘Mercimek köftesi’ from Turkish, it would be ‘lentil balls’. Unlike meatballs, these balls don’t have any meat inside, only lentils as protein source. It’s a good option as a starter or a main dish for vegetarian guests.

As in the case of many recipes, it has different versions and ingredients depending on the person who makes it. In this blog post, I’ll share with you my world famous recipe.


  • 2 cups of red lentils
  •  3 cups of water
  • 1 cup of fine bulgur or couscous
  • 1 large white onion
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 spring onions
  • A handful of parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste
  • Salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper (or paprika)
  • Lemon and lettuce as garnish


  • Cook red lentils in boiling water until they are soft and mushy. Use the indicated measurements precisely, as it’s important for its consistency.
  • When it’s cooked, take it away from the stove and add immediately fine bulgur. Don’t let it cool before adding the bulgur, so it can cook with the heat of the lentils. Mix and close the lid of the pot. Wait 15 minutes and then leave it to cool down.
  • Cut the white onions in cubes and stir fry them with olive oil until they turn to have golden color.
  • Finely cut the spring onions and parsley.
  • When the mix of lentil and couscous is cooled down, add the stir-fried white onions, spring onions and parsley. Finally add the double concentrated tomato paste, salt and paprika.
  • Mix all until they become a uniform paste, and have the same consistency as dough.
  • The final step is to give them shape and serve. Shape of as small balls or crockets. After shaping, serve them with lettuce and lemon slices.

Wine Pairing: Riesling

Originally from the Rhine Valley of Germany, Riesling is used to make still wines with different sweetness levels from dry to luscious, and sparkling wines. From citrus fruits to floral, stone fruits to spices and even petrol, it gives wines with a rich aromatic profile.

A bottle of off-dry Riesling from Alsace was my selection of pairing. The idea was to find a wine to keep up with the spiciness of this dish. Riesling worked perfectly as it had some sweetness to handle the spiciness of the food. It also has high acidity, therefore the acidity of the dish doesn’t bother its balance and even enhances its fruitiness. 



All images © 2017 by Wines of Nesli. All rights reserved.

Categories: Wine & Food, Wines

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