Early humans consumed the meat of the animals they hunted raw before they found fire. In order to preserve it better, they found a way to store it with spices and salt. People start to knead the meat with spices such as pepper. Kneading the meat with spices takes its weight and softens the meat. Bulgur, isot, minced meat, tomato paste, onion, parsley, and various spices are prepared by kneading and mixing, consumed without heat treatment (cooking), and is a gift of southeast cuisine to the world. Of course, one must not forget the lemon, which is indispensable for çiğ köfte.

Origin of Spicy Raw Meatballs

Çiğ köfte are meatballs that take the meaning of the word from Persian, "beaten, chewed." Spicy raw meatballs, which require a lot of effort to prepare, are generally meaty or meatless. Although it was prepared with meat in the past, today it is prepared without meat.

Preparing delicious spicy raw meatballs is based on mastery and quality products. The quality of bulgur, whether the meat is sufficiently crushed or ground, and kneading for a long time are among the essential factors in preparing çiğ köfte. Spicy raw meatballs are kneaded in special trays produced for this purpose. 

Çiğ köfte is a food that should be eaten fresh, without waiting, due to the swelling feature of bulgur in it. Although its food and presentation vary from region to region, the most consumed is spicy rawmeatballs wrapped in fresh lavash bread with lettuce and various greens. It is served by pouring pomegranate sauce or hot sauce on it. We recommend that you try it with cold ayran.

It is a food that belongs to Şanlıurfa and Adıyaman regions. Apart from Şanlıurfa and Adıyaman; Çiğ köfte, which can show regional differences, are also made in provinces such as Adana, Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Mardin, Elazığ, and Malatya. While spicy raw meatballs belonging to the Şanlıurfa region are kneaded with meat, spicy raw meatballs belonging to the Adıyaman region are prepared without adding meat. Şanlıurfa spicy raw meatballs were registered in 2008, while Adıyaman spicy raw meatballs were registered in 2018.

Places to Eat the Best Çiğ Köfte in Istanbul

Spicy raw meatballs are one of the best snacks for the people of Turkey! It is a flavor that stops hunger attacks and gives a feast to the stomach.  We have compiled the places where you can taste the best spicy raw meatballs in Istanbul for those who say, "I should definitely try çiğ köfte!".

Elazığlı Çiğ Köfteci Ahmet Usta, Acıbadem/İstanbul

Production has been carried out by Ahmet Usta for 20 years. Çiğ köfte, çiğ köfte sauce, İçli köfte, homemade pickles, and delicious desserts are available. The garnishes served alongside the çiğ köfte are carefully selected and washed. Ahmet Usta, who has more than one branch in Istanbul, does this job well.

Develi Kebap, Beşiktaş/İstanbul

2-story restaurant with a modern chic interior and garden, serving local Turkish delicacies. We recommend that you try the spicy raw meatballs prepared with meat.

Pirpirim, Zeytinburnu/İstanbul

Vegetables, spices, and legumes group used in Pirpirim are specially prepared for Pirpirim in the villages of Gaziantep, Kilis, and Şanlurfa, all the way to pomegranate sauce and tomato paste, and all of them are organic.

Köşkeroğlu Kebap, Karaköy/İstanbul

A great traditional Turkish food, a fantastic atmosphere, everything is perfect. Whether you go for breakfast or kebab, you should definitely taste these delicious spicy raw meatballs with hot sauce. We highly recommend that you finish with baklava.

Kaşıbeyaz Florya, Bakırköy/İstanbul

You can experience the pleasure of tasting traditional delicacies accompanied by parrots and canaries. You will feel yourself in nature with the landscape surrounded by trees in the outdoor area, surrounded by water and pools with waterfalls. You can taste the spicy raw meatballs as a starter and then order any dish that suits your taste from the menu.

It's a good idea to make a reservation because it gets crowded at certain times of the day.

Inventor of Meatless Çiğ Köfte: Lagash Çiğ Köfte

Lagash meatless spicy raw meatballs get their flavor from specially blended spices of the Adıyaman region. Instead of meat, çiğ köfte with high nutritional value, calories and taste is obtained by using various products such as walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts

Let's come to the recipe for spicy raw meatballs.

Ingredients for Meatless Çiğ Köfte

  • 500 grams fine bulgur

  • 2 onions

  • 2 cloves of garlic

  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste

  • 4 tablespoons of chili paste

  • 3 tablespoons of oil

  • 3 teaspoons of salt

  • 2 teaspoons of paprika

  • 2 teaspoons of ground pepper

  • Half a tablespoon of bitter isot

  • 1 bunch of parsley

Put the bulgur and tomato paste on the tray and knead well. After softening, add water drop by drop and continue kneading.

When the bulgur turns red like tomato paste, add salt, red pepper flakes, oil, isot, and pepper paste to the mixture and start kneading again by mixing. Add a little more water if needed. You can make your raw meatballs with ice in summer instead of water.

When the bulgur becomes soft, add the onions and parsley and continue kneading until the onions disappear into the bulgur. Cut small pieces and squeeze them with your hands to form meatballs. Your meatless çiğ köfte is ready.

Spicy raw meatballs should be put in lettuce, fresh mint can be added to it, you can squeeze lemon on top, and immediately eat radish. Ayran would be an amazing beverage with this sort of dish. Enjoy your meal!

Frequently Asked Question

What is cig kofte?
Cig kofte is a traditional Turkish meze (starter) that is made from pounded with and spices
Who invented cig kofte?
Cig kofte was invented in Turkey, specifically in the Adiyaman region.
What kind of meat is used in cig kofte?
Even though it is called cig kofte (raw meatball), most of the cig koftes you’ll eat today won’t have any meat in them.
Where can I eat cig kofte in Istanbul?
You can find cig kofte shops anywhere around the city. Cig kofte is very common in Istanbul.
Is cig kofte healthy?
Yes, in moderate amounts, cig kofte is healthy as it contains healthy herbs and wheat.