Baked Red Lentil Kefta that is vegan and grain-free! Similar to falafel, easy to make, and delicious. Each patty has 4.1 g protein and only 50 calories.
Are you a falafel fan? Then meet your new craving: baked red lentil kefta.
I am so annoyed with myself for forgetting about this delicious dish for more than a decade. Back in graduate school, my friend Ela prepared a vegetarian Turkish feast for me and a few other friends (lucky us!); it was then that I first tasted red lentil kefta. Loaded with flavor (garlic, onions, herbs, spices) and crispy-crunchy (she deep-fried hers), it was love at first bite.
I vaguely remember Ela explaining how she made them, but because (a) they were deep fried, and (b) I had not used red lentils for much more than dal in those days, I never got around to making my own. Thanks to a reader request (that’s you, Airyfairycelt!) for some pucks made with lentils, I finally remembered. And guess what? They are a breeze to make and incredibly nutritious, too. Ready? Let’s go.
Authentic falafel begins with soaked (not cooked) chickpeas; similarly, red lentil kefta starts with soaked, split red lentils. Simply cover the lentils in water and leave overnight (or do this first thing in the morning before heading to work or school). They plump up to more than double their size:
It’s important to use the right kind of lentils here. Regular brown lentils, or green lentils, will not work because they are whole, not split. The good news is that split red lentils have become regularly available in most grocery stores. Check out the dried bean section and you should find them there; my local, small-town Texas supermarket carries their own store-brand for about $2.50 for a 1-pound package.
The remaining ingredients are everyday staples, from tomato paste to onions to spices. Don’t fret if you do not have cumin and paprika; you could use some curry or chili powder, for example, or other savory spices of your liking.
Next, simply add everything to a food processor and blend away! Process until finely chopped, but don’t go for a hummus consistency. You’ll want some texture, like this:
No deep-frying is required to render these crispy. Simply shape the mixture into patties and place into the greased or sprayed cups of a standard muffin tin. I give the tops a quick spritz before baking, too. About fifteen minutes in a 350 degree oven, and you’ve got kefta!
Enjoy these as you would falafel, in sandwiches, wraps, salads, as appetizers or protein-rich snacks. Happy eating!
- 1-1/2 cups water
- ¾ cup split red lentils
- 1 cup lightly packed cilantro or parsley leaves
- ½ cup coarsely chopped onion (purple, white or yellow)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (see note)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon paprika (regular, hot, or smoked)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Place the water and lentils in a medium bowl; cover and let soak overnight (or at least 6 hours). Drain the lentils through a sieve or colander.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or spray all 12 cups of a standard muffin tin.
- Place the drained lentils and all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Process until finely chopped (the mixture should still have texture; it should not be entirely smooth. See photo in post).
- Scoop heaping tablespoons of the mixture and loosely shape into a patty (mixture will be somewhat wet); place in prepared cups, gently pressing to flatten and cover bottom of cup. Lightly spritz or brush with spray or oil.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 14 to 16 minutes until set. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes then remove from tin. Serve warm or cool completely.
Tomato Paste: If you are folowing a strictly GF diet, be sure to double-check the tomato paste can. Some add glutinous additives, especially ones with added flavorings.
Additional Nutritional Highlights:
*Very high in dietary fiber
*High in iron
*High in manganese
*High in phosphorus
*High in potassium
*High in thiamin
*Very high in vitamin A
*Very high in vitamin C