Let me introduce you to cig kofte (çiğ köfte)! The first thing you notice when you bite into a cig kofte is how tender and flavorful these Turkish bulgur patties are. The spices, olive oil, red pepper paste, pomegranate molasses, and lemon juice work oh so well together and it’s such an amazing burst of flavors! These spicy bulgur patties are super tasty and addictive, and they come together rather quickly if you have an immersion blender (or a food processor).
Fill a dürüm or lavaş (flour tortillas) with cig kofte, add tender lettuce leaves and crunchy pickles, drizzle more pomegranate molasses and lemon juice, and you’ll get the most delicious vegetarian wrap ever! It’s filling but definitely doesn’t feel heavy. It’ll be nothing like you ever tasted before but in the best way possible. And, cig kofte is perfect for summer! You don’t need to stand over the stove or turn on the oven, it can be prepared in advance and sit in the fridge and cig kofte served in wraps would be a great picnic treat.
NOW A MEATLESS PATTY
Traditionally cig kofte would be more akin to a spicy tartare. Raw meat would be added to the bulgur mixture and several people would knead the cig kofte by hand for an hour or so in a flat tray. The patties would then be served as a mezze, on a bed of lettuce. The spices’ hotness would ‘cook’ the meat but due to new food safety regulations selling meaty cig kofte in restaurants was banned. Obviously, people still make çig kofte with raw meat at home but you won’t find it anywhere else. I would venture myself to say cig kofte came from South-eastern Turkey because of the spices and meat. I used to live on the Agean coast where the food culture was more geared towards olive oil, fish, and herbs.
When I was studying in Turkey, I used to order cig kofte wraps all the time but by the time the delivery guy would show up, the bread would often be soggy and the bulgur patties would be drenched in sauce. But, made at home, you’re in control of everything! The spice level, the sweetness from the pomegranate molasses, the amount of garnish, the lemon’s sourness, you can really make it your own. I don’t prefer very hot cig kofte so you should taste the mixture before shaping the patties. You might want to add spices to the mixture to make it hotter.
You would be amazed at how many times a week I would get lazy about cooking and order a cig kofte wrap. So when I moved back to France, I was obsessed with recreating my favorite Turkish snack at home. I didn’t expect homemade cig kofte to be that delicious and easy. I’m delighted with the result so I’m very excited to share this recipe with you! Maybe you’re also missing çig kofte or you only just discovered them. In any case, I’m sure you’ll love these delicious bulgur patties!
A POPULAR VEGETARIAN WRAP
Cig kofte became very popular in the last two decades or so because of a franchise called Battalbey. They offered vegetarian cig kofte, served very quickly, conveniently wrapped in lavaş bread. It was fast and easy to eat and they were opened all day (and night) long. Battalbey shops quickly sprouted all over Turkey and you can now find vegetarian cig kofte wraps everywhere. It’s literally impossible to walk down any Turkish street without spotting the black and red Battalbey sign. A cig kofte wrap is such a handy snack!
You know you can depend on it because 1/ you can always find it – anytime, anywhere-, 2/ coming from a franchise, you’ll get a similar cig kofte dürüm every time. If you go to a Battalbey, you’ll have a couple of options. You can choose between ‘normal’ bulgur patties or very spicy ones and you can ask for 2 tortillas wrapping the cig kofte instead of 1.
Ayran is the drink of choice to accompany the wrap. It’s a cold yogurt-based drink, perfect to cool your mouth when you eat spicy Turkish food. However, you’ll also see şalgam, a fermented carrot and turnip juice. They oftentimes sell other mezzes on the side like stuffed dried vegetables (kuru dolma) or stuffed vine leaves (yaprak sarma).
WHAT’S FINE BULGUR?
Simply put, it’s the type of bulgur that has been ground the most finely. It’s so thin that it doesn’t require any cooking. You just soak the grains with a little bit of salt in boiling water for 10 min. It’s called ince bulgur or köftelik bulgur in Turkey and it’s mostly used to make çiğ köfte or kısır (a refreshing bulgur based salad).
You might also see something called ‘esmer ince/köftelik bulgur’ in a Turkish grocery store. It’s a type of fine brown bulgur made from wholegrain red wheat. You could also use it for cig kofte (a lot of people do) but it has an earthier flavor.
Medium and coarse bulgurs are used for pilafs and I never tried making cig kofte with them so I wouldn’t encourage it.
SUBSTITUTES FOR TURKISH INGREDIENTS
If you don’t live near a Turkish grocery store, I’ve got you covered with substitutes in the list of ingredients that will get you pretty close to the real deal. Substitutes work especially well when it comes to spices so don’t be afraid while checking the list.
➝ Isot pepper gives its distinctive dark color to the cig kofte mixture, so you might end up with patties looking a bit lighter if you swap isot for chipotle powder. Even if your cig kofte mixture doesn’t look identical, it’ll taste the same because other chili flakes/powder can give the same level of ‘hotness’.
➝ You can replace the tartness of sumac by simply adding a little lemon zest and black pepper.
➝ Balsamic vinegar is a good substitute for pomegranate molasses, but if you want to go the extra mile, buying pomegranate molasses will give a more authentic flavor to your cig kofte. A bottle of pomegranate molasses will keep forever in your cupboard! Plus, you’ll have a use for it in a lot of Turkish recipes and it’s great as a dressing on salads. If you can get your hands on some, I’d highly recommend it. You should buy a bottle with the indication ‘100% nar ekşisi’ to get molasses without any glycose syrup added.
You could knead the mixture by hands but it’ll take a while to get the right consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a food processor but stay nearby. Keep an eye on it, you don’t want it to overheat (even though for 5 min, it should be fine). It takes a bit of practice to get the distinctive köfte shape just right (I’m still not there). They use this technique to shape meatballs, lentil patties, and other mezzes. But don’t care too much about it! Your wrap will taste just the same, even if you shape then as flat circles.
Looking for Turkish dinner ideas? Here are some of my favorites:
- Turkish fry- up (kızartma)
- My father-in-law’s delicious spaghetti
- Green lentil salad (mercimek salatası)
Cig kofte is one of the most popular street foods in Turkey, and for good reason! These bulgur patties are super tender, pack a punch of flavor and make the most delicious vegan wraps! Cig koftes are really easy to make at home and I’ve got you covered with substitutes for the Turkish ingredients.
- 150g fine bulgur (1 cup), dry (Turkish köftelik bulgur)
- 150g boiling water (2/3 cup)
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ onion
- 2 tbsp mild Turkish red pepper paste (tatlı biber salcası), or use tomato paste
- 25ml olive oil (2 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (nar ekşisi), or mix 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar + ½ tsp of sugar
- 2 lemons, (1 juiced, 1 whole)
- 1 tsp urfa biber, also called isot pepper, or use chipotle powder
- 1 tsp pul biber, also called Aleppo pepper, or use chili flakes
- 1 tsp sumac, or mix ¾ tsp of lemon zest + ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- bunch of parsley, leaves only
- Serve with lettuce, pickles, dürüm or lavaş flatbreads (flour tortillas), lemon quarters, and more pomegranate syrup
- Combine the bulgur, boiling water and 1 tsp of salt in a big mixing bowl. Stir, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let stand for 10 min. Then fluff with a fork.
- Finely chop the onion and place in a bowl with 1 tsp of salt. Cover with icy water and let stand for 10 min. Then drain, rinse under running water and dry between sheets of paper towels. It’s an important step to reduce the bitterness of the chopped onion so don’t skip it!
- Add the paste, olive oil, molasses, half of the lemon juice and spices to the bulgur.
- Using an immersion/hand blender on low speed, mix the bulgur mixture for 4 min. If your blender is overheating, use your hands to finish mixing the bulgur. It should form a sticky paste that holds its shape when pressed.
- If the cig kofte paste is too dry and crumbles, add the rest of the lemon juice and mix again. If it’s still too dry and doesn’t hold its shape, you can slowly pour a bit of cold water and mix until you reach desired consistency.
- Finely chop the parsley, add to the paste and combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
- To make the cig kofte patties, take a handful of the mixture and squeeze tightly with your fingers. If the mixture is too sticky, wet your hands before shaping the patty. Repeat to make about cig kofte patties.
- Place on a serving plate and refrigerate the çig kofte patties for 15 min.
- In the meantime tear up the lettuce leaves, wash and dry them. Slice some pickles and quarter the other lemon.
- Place everything on the table; the lettuce leaves, sliced pickles, dürüm/lavaş (tortillas), pomegranate syrup, lemon quarters and the cig kofte patties so that everyone can help themselves and make their own wraps.
- Serving Size: 2 wraps
- Calories: 812
- Fat: 20.1g
Keywords: vegan wrap, street food, picnic, vegetarian