These are Koofteh Baghali, or Persian meatballs with fava beans. They make a hearty meal and are one of my family's favorite Persian dishes.
Koofteh is rumored to have originated in Iran over a thousand years ago and is still very much a part of middle eastern cuisine. I consider it one of the best traditional Persian recipes, and an overall great recipe for both special occasions or as the main course for family meals.
It is common to fill these meatballs with dried fruit (dates, raisins, barberries), nuts (walnuts, pistachios), fried onions, or a hard-boiled egg. I have filled these with golden prunes.
Like most Iranian food, there are many different types of koofteh based on regional traditions and availability of different ingredients. As a result, everyone's koofteh will have a touch of their family and history.
Ingredients Needed to Make Koofteh Baghali (Fava Bean Meatballs)
Cooking Sauce and Meatball Ingredients
- white rice, basmati
- ground beef, lamb, turkey, or protein alternative
- fresh or frozen fava beans, double peeled
- fresh dill
- dried dill
- chickpea flour, or equal amount fine bread crumbs
- tomato paste
- broth (low sodium chicken, beef, bone, or vegetable)
- golden prunes or black prunes
- ground saffron, dissolved in water
- olive oil or neutral oil
- salt and black pepper
What are Fava Beans?
Fava beans (also called broad beans) are a type of legume with a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. They have two shells: a thick outer shell that protects the bean and a thin inner shell that surrounds each individual bean. Remove both shells before eating.
Fava beans can be eaten raw in salads, but are often cooked in Persian dishes. They are a low fat food, packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients. However, in rare cases, eating fava beans can trigger favism, a rare genetic disorder that can lead to anemia.
Please refer to recipe card below for quantities.
Watch my short tutorial video below!
How to Make Koofteh Baghali
Make the sauce:
Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat and cook onions until fragrant and golden brown. Add tomato paste, dried dill, turmeric, broth, prunes, saffron water, salt, and pepper. Cover, and reduce to low heat.
Form the fava bean meatballs:
Combine parboiled rice, ground meat, fava beans, fresh and dried dill, chickpea flour, egg, fried onion, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands or a stand mixer. Shape the mixture into medium-sized meatballs in the palms of your hands. Optionally, you can add a prune, raisin, or pitted date to the center of each meatball before closing it up.
Cook the meatballs in the tomato sauce:
Gently place meatball in the tomato sauce and cook on a medium simmer for 45 minutes. The level of the sauce should be under the top of each meatball.
Serve the koofteh baghali:
Serve as the main dish, with a shirazi salad, or sabzi khordan (fresh herbs).
Variations to the Koofteh Baghali
VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS: To make vegetarian meatballs, replace the ground beef with mushrooms finely chopped in a food processor. Mushrooms naturally have moisture, so increase the amount of chick pea flour by 1 tablespoon, or add an additional egg to ensure that the meatballs do not fall apart while they cook in the sauce. Use a flax egg as a vegan alternative for the binding agent.
KOOFTEH TABRIZI: Named after the city of Tabriz, this traditional Persian meatball is made with ground lamb or beef, yellow split peas, Persian rice, various blends of spices, and plenty of herbs such as fresh parsley, cilantro, and tarragon. Although the cooking process is the same, these meatballs are typically made larger, and can be the the size of a baseball. You can fill the middle of each meatball with a mixture of nuts, such as walnuts or pistachios, and dried fruits like prunes, dates, or barberries. You can also add caramelized onion.
If fava beans are not available, you can replace them with edamame beans, lima beans, or fresh or frozen green peas.
Yes, dried fava beans can be used, but they will need to be soaked overnight for best results.
To Store: Store Persian meatballs tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To Freeze: You can form and freeze Persian meatballs and cook them later. Alternatively, you can freeze them after they are fully cooked. Simply thaw in the refrigerator and cook or reheat when ready to eat.
To Reheat : For best results, reheat the koofteh with several tablespoons of the cooking sauce. This will help them stay moist.
The meatball mixture needs to be cohesive and sticky. This can be achieved my massaging the mixture for 5-7 minutes with your hands, or adding it to a stand mixture for a few minutes.
Add an additional egg or chickpea flour if your meatball mixture is not sticky enough.
To make sure that the meatballs stay intact while cooking, make sure that the sauce is on a medium simmer as you add the meatballs in. Rapid boiling can cause the meatballs to fall apart.
Tips for Making Persian Meatballs
- Knead the meatball mixture until it is cohesive and sticky to the touch. This will help the meatballs hold their shape while cooking.
- If your meatball mixture is not sticky enough, add a biding agent, such as an additional egg or chickpea flour.
- To cook the meatballs, add them to a low simmering sauce. Rapid boiling can cause the meatballs to fall apart.
Did You Make the Recipe?
Persian Meatballs with Fava Beans (Koofteh Baghali)
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 3 onions medium size, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried dill
- ½ tablespoon turmeric
- 4 cups broth
- 6 golden prunes or dried plums or more for stuffing meatballs
- ¼ teaspoon saffron ground, dissolved in 2 tablespoon warm water
- salt season to taste
- pepper season to taste
- 4 oz uncooked rice will double in weight after cooking
- 8 oz lean ground beef lamb, turkey, or meat substitute
- 8 oz fresh or frozen fava beans double peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 oz fresh dill chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried dill
- 1 tablespoon chickpea flour
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoon fried onion (taken from cooking sauce)
- 1 teaspoon salt or season to preference
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper or season to preference
Make the cooking sauce
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Then add the onions and cook until fragrant and golden brown. Take 2 tablespoons of the fried onions and set aside to use in the meatballs later.
- Add the tomato paste, dried dill, turmeric, and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
- Add the broth, prunes, saffron water, salt and pepper to the pot. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for at least 15 minutes, or until the meatballs are prepared.
Make the meatballs
- Rinse and drain the rice, then parboil in salted water until the rice is just al dente. Drain and set aside. Alternatively, you can leave the rice in salted water overnight which will soften the rice similar to parboiling it.
- In a large bowl, combine the rice, ground beef, fava beans, fresh dill, dried dill, chickpea flour, egg, fried onion, salt, and pepper. Mix well with hands for at least for 5 minutes until it becomes sticky, then shape into medium sized meatballs.
- This part is optional, but you can add a prune, raisins, or pitted date to the middle of the meatball before closing them up.
Add the meatballs to the sauce
- Gently place the meatballs into the lightly simmering cooking sauce. The meatballs should be ½ to ¾ submerged in the sauce.
- Simmer covered for 45 minutes. Serve and enjoy.