Moroccan Kefta Tagine Recipe

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Kefta Mkaouara - Moroccan Meatball Tagine. Photo © J. Gilman
    110 mins
Ratings (22)

A favorite of children and adults alike, Kefta Mkaouara (or Mkawra) is a presentation of petite, cherry-sized meatballs in a zesty homemade tomato sauce. Traditionally this famous Moroccan dish is prepared in a tagine, which lends earthy flavor, but a deep, wide skillet or Dutch oven will work just fine. Eggs are often added to the dish at the end of cooking; they're allowed to poach just until the whites set. The final presentation is comfort food that begs you to dip right on in with crusty Moroccan bread.

The well-seasoned meatballs are easy to make, but a set of extra hands will make shorter work of this step. Plan to start simmering the sauce while you shape with the kefta, which can be made from ground lamb, ground beef, or a combination of the two. Egg is not traditionally used as a binder, but if your meat is extra lean, go ahead and use one. Likewise, breadcrumbs are not normally used as a filler, but if you prefer softer, spongier texture to your meatballs, a half cup or so may be added.

Some versions of Kefta Mkaouara include onions and a little green pepper in the tomato sauce; whether or not to include them is up to you. See How to Make Moroccan Meatball Tagine for step-by-step photos of the preparation process.

What You'll Need

  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb (or a combination of the two)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped very fine (optional)
  • 1 small green pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus 3 tablespoons for sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), plus 3 tablespoons for sauce
  • 2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 3 to 5 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 or 2 chili peppers (optional)
  • 3 or 4 eggs (optional)

How to Make It

Start Cooking the Tomato Sauce

  1. Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes OR if they're very ripe, cut the tomatoes in half, seed them and grate them.
  2. Mix the tomatoes, 1 medium onion chopped finely (if using) and the rest of the sauce ingredients (1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 3 tablespoons finely chopped ​fresh parsley, 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and 1 bay leaf) in the base of a tagine or in a large, deep skillet. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-low to medium heat. ​(Note: If using a clay or ceramic tagine on a heat source other than gas, be sure to place a diffuser between the tagine and burner.) 
  1. Once simmering, reduce the heat a bit and allow the sauce to simmer gently, at least 15 to 20 minutes but longer if you like, before adding the meatballs.

Make the Kefta Meatballs

  1. Combine all of the kefta ingredients (ground beef or lamb, 1 medium onion, chopped fine, green pepper, 1 to 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, cayenne pepper, chopped fresh parsley, and chopped fresh cilantro).
  2. Using your hands to knead in the spices and herbs, shape the kefta mixture into very small meatballs the size of large cherries -- about 3/4 inch in diameter.
  3. Add the meatballs (and chili peppers, if using) to the tomato sauce, along with a little water -- 1/4 cup is usually sufficient -- and cover. Cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is thick.
  4. Add the eggs to the meatballs without breaking the yokes; cover and cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, or until the egg whites are solid and the yolks are only partially set.
  5. Garnish if desired with fresh parsley or cilantro, and serve immediately.
  6. Kefta Mkaouara is traditionally served from the same dish in which it was prepared, with each person using crusty Moroccan bread for scooping up the meatballs from his own side of the dish.