Pomegranate-glazed Freekeh Kofte – Recipe

Freekeh Kofte - Green Wheat
Freekeh Kofte – Green Wheat "Meatballs"

One of the great things about being a food blogger is that friends and family bring you cool ingredients. My mother in law gave me a box of freekeh, which I'd never even heard of before. It turns out that freekeh is wheat that has been harvested while it is still green, sun-dried, and then lightly roasted by burning the chaff and stalks around it. It doesn't take much imagination to envision that this was the result of a happy accident under desperate circumstances the first time! 

Freekeh has been used in the Middle East and North Africa for centuries. It can be made into spiced pilafs, used as a stuffing, or cooked into soups ands stews. Both the greenness and the roasting contribute to an aroma that is unlike anything else.

A sensible thing that I didn't do would have been to follow a traditional recipe for my first time using a new ingredient. Another sensible thing would have been to make the title of this post some sort of freekeh pun. But I resisted, and you can totally thank me later.

Instead, I decided to make the freekeh into kofte. Otherwise known as meatballs, except, of course, no meat. The coarse texture of the grain helps the kofte stay loosely bound, instead of becoming overly dense. I went with ras al hanout and a glaze of pomegranate molasses to stick with a Middle Eastern flavor profile. There were none leftover immediately following the photograph.

You could probably use fennel seeds and garlic and serve this with tomato sauce for an Italian approach. 

Have you cooked with freekeh before? If so, add a comment below and let me know how you use it.

Pomegranate-glazed Freekeh Kofte
Makes about 12 moderate sized kofte 

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for pan frying the kofte
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup freekeh (green wheat, see above)
  • 2/3 cup diced roasted eggplant (Roast whole eggplant at 450 until tender. Cool. Dice.)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1-2 teaspoons ras al hanout
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (panko works well)
  • 2 tablespoons minced flatleaf parsley plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Several grinds black pepper
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
  1. Place a medium saucepan with a tightfitting lid over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and when it is hot, add the onion and saute until softened, about 1 minute. Add the freekeh and cook, stirring frequently, until it is somewhat toasted and smells appetizing, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add 2 1/3 cups of water and stir once. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the water is completely absorbed, about 50 minutes. (Follow package directions if they are different.)
  3. Allow the freekeh to cool to room temperature. Using your hands, mix in the eggplant, eggs, chili flakes, ras al hanout, breadcrumbs, parsley and black pepper. Try  not to smush everything together too much as this will produce an overly dense kofte.
  4. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add about 1/4" of vegetable oil. Grab a ball of the freekeh mixture about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and gently shape it to be as round as possible. Add it to the oil and repeat until about half of the balls are in the oil. Cook for about 2 minutes, adjust heat so that they are browning but not burning. Carefully flip and cook until browned on the other side too. If you have an instant read thermometer, check to make sure that they are reaching an internal temperature of at least 155 degrees to be sure that the inside is cooked. Remove with a slotted spatula and brush lightly with the pomegrante molasses. Repeat with the remaining kofte and serve immediately – they will soften too much if they sit around for long.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, October 3rd, 2011 in Main Courses, Recipes.

26 Responses to “Pomegranate-glazed Freekeh Kofte – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    October 3, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    That looks quite delicious. So… How was it? I assume the flavor of the freekeh is grassy and smokey? How was the texture?

  2. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 3, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    I really liked it! You do get hints of grass and smoke, not real agressive but present. The texture is toothsome and pleasing. Not exactly like a meat meatball, but nice on its own terms.

  3. Reply
    October 3, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Hmmm.. never heard of Freekeh before! Sounds interesting. The recipe looks yummy, I will have to try it out. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Reply
    October 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Never seen and hear about it before. But I’m so curiose, I’ll go around and look for this ๐Ÿ™‚ May be in an iranian grocery…

  5. Reply
    October 3, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    This looks great! I wonder if I could use chia or flax instead of the eggs, though. Otherwise, I pretty much adore anything with pomegranate molasses. ๐Ÿ™‚ I haven’t tried freekeh yet, but since I like wheat berries, I am sure I will love them too.

  6. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    The eggs are there for binding power, so something like NRG Egg Replacer might work as well.ย 

  7. Reply
    October 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Hmmm…interesting! I love that it has probably loads of fiber for the digestive tract. Although the name sounds like freaky, I think this is great meatball (without the meat, that is!) Good job, chef!

  8. Reply
    October 5, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    Freekeh sounds a lot like the German product, Grรผnkern (spelt picked green and then smoked), which I’ve been missing and unable to find locally. I’ll see if I have any better luck finding freekeh.

  9. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 5, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    Fascinating! That does sound like a very similar ingredient. You should get your hands on a boxcar and start retailing it, it could be the next big thing :).ย 

  10. Reply
    October 6, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Funny – I just found a brand of freekeh (Greenwheat Freekeh) in Whole Foods in New Jersey. Excellent source of fiber and has a low GI for managing diabetes. If it’s not available in stores near you – I researched it and you can find it @ freekehlicious.com

  11. Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    freekeh sounds really close to freaky ๐Ÿ™‚ … definitely something new… and i love to try out new stuff… thanks for sharing

  12. Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    So… when do you add the eggplant? I don’t see that in the instructions anywhere.

  13. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Whoops! Fixed. Thanks for the sharp eyes.

  14. Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    Thanks! I actually made this for dinner tonight, but I’m gluten intolerant so I subbed a mix of toasted millet and buckwheat groats for the freekeh. I’m sure it’s not the same, but it was certainly delicious! Served it with a side of braised tomatoes and beet greens with more ras al hanout & raisins.

  15. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    Nice call on the substitutions! Buckwheat especially has a somewhat similar texture and an interesting flavor so I imagine that would work well. Glad you liked 'em.

  16. Reply
    December 13, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    These are very good looking polpetas. I have some freekeh in my pantry that’s been sitting there for while now. Time to put it to use! Never had Ras El Hanout this spicemix looks good too.

  17. Reply
    February 15, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    I’m middle eastern- is freakah like cracked wheat? ever have cracked wheat?

    • Reply
      February 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      The texture is similar if I remember cracked wheat right. It has been awhile. But freekeh has a unique flavor due to the greenness and roasting.

  18. Reply
    May 4, 2012 at 1:10 am #

    Is it weird that I have all of these ingredients on hand? I love freekeh but have only made it in pilafs and grain salads – this sounds awesome! I’ve bookmarked it to make soon.

    • Reply
      May 4, 2012 at 11:40 am #

      Ah, a fellow odd-ingredient stockpiler. There should be a club for us.

  19. Reply
    Lisa Holden
    May 12, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I love Freekeh! I work for a natural foods company and we started carrying this earlier this year. I use it for everything. It’s great as a hot cereal in the morning and a bed for stir fry. The possibilities are endless with this ingredient. I want to make a pudding with it next, like rice pudding.

  20. Reply
    September 8, 2013 at 3:40 am #

    for a food blogger u need to be more informed, freekeh is spelt, not weed

  21. Reply
    January 29, 2014 at 3:08 am #

    Tried using Orgran Egg Replacer, but it did not bind. I ended up caving and putting in an egg instead. Was very tasty, however, next time I might even batter and crumb them in breadcrumbs just to add extra crunch.

  22. Reply
    June 29, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Looks rich in flavour and texture! Never heard of freekeh but the kofte makes me think of bulgur kofte. There no egg is used but a finer grade of bulgur. I wonder, if freekeh is available also smaller/as powder, and whether that would bind better.

    • Reply
      July 1, 2014 at 6:58 am #

      Hey Demet – I imagine finer would bind better, but I actually like the coarser texture, I think it better mimics the “fluffier” texture of a traditional meatball, possibly with breadcrumbs in it.

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