Cigköfte served with salad, herbs, pomegranate seeds and lemons.
Home » Classic » Vegan cigköfte: the best recipe
| | |

Vegan cigköfte: the best recipe

Delicious little bites – that’s what cigköfte are! I like to wrap them in a crisp lettuce leaf and enjoy them. What makes the vegan version of cigköfte so special and how do you prepare it? Here you can find out everything you need to know about vegan cigköfte and how you can easily make them yourself at home.

The most important facts at a glance: What are Çiğ Köfte?

  • Cigköfte (Çiğ Köfte) are small raw meatballs and also a traditional Turkish delicacy, which in this vegan version are prepared with bulgur and plant-based ingredients instead of raw meat.
  • The spices and flavors, including paprika pulp, pomegranate syrup and fresh herbs, are essential for the unmistakable taste of vegan cigköfte.
  • Vegan cigköfte must be kneaded well and should rest after preparation (even if this is difficult) to intensify the flavors.
  • The small bites can be served as finger food, a side dish or starter.
vegan cigköfte served on a light plate.

Cigköfte: The Turkish delicacy

Cigköfte, also known as“cig köfte” or“Çiğ Köfte” or“raw köfte“, is a traditional Turkish specialty.

Raw meat, fine bulgur, spices and herbs form the basis of traditional cigköfte. Cigköfte is deeply rooted in Turkish culture, especially in Şanlıurfa.

Today you can find cigköfte in many countries. Due to hygiene regulations, the preparation of raw meat is actually no longer permitted in many other regions. This is why a vegetarian and vegan version of this Turkish delight has developed and gained popularity. And to be honest, this plant-based version tastes so good that you won’t miss any meat.

My vegan version replaces the meat with bulgur and other plant-based ingredients. But what exactly does the vegan version contain?

Vegan cigköfte variant: a healthy alternative

Vegan cigköfte served on a light platter with salad leaves, herbs and pomegranate seeds.

To be more precise, it has actually been illegal to prepare Çiğ Köfte with raw minced meat in Turkey since 2008. This is of course for hygienic and other health reasons. That’s why the vegan version stood out and has been just as popular ever since.

These are the ingredients for vegan cigköfte:

Ingredients for vegan cigköfte are placed in small bowls on a light-colored marble table.

You will find the exact quantities in the recipe card below.

  • Fine bulgur
  • Boiling water
  • Paprika pulp
  • Tomato paste
  • lemon juice
  • Pomegranate syrup
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Tomatoes (panicles)
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Flat-leaf parsley
  • Mint (Moroccan)
  • Chili flakes (Isot Biber)
  • Paprika powder
  • Sumac
  • Cumin
  • Salt

The absolute superstar on the list of ingredients for vegan cigköfte is the fine bulgur.

Köftelik bulgur: The main ingredient

Fine bulgur for cigköfte in a dark bowl on a light marble table.

The star of vegan cigköfte is definitely the bulgur. But not just any bulgur. A special type of bulgur is used to prepare vegan cigköfte: Köftelik bulgur. Before further processing, this fine bulgur is first soaked in hot water to prepare it for further processing.

You can also find this bulgur under the name“wheat groats“. It doesn’t sound quite as tasty, but it is. If you want to find out more about bulgur, take a look at my bulgur article. But bulgur alone does not make cigköfte.

Then there are the herbs and spices.

Spices and flavorings: paprika pulp, tomato puree, pomegranate syrup and more

small bowls with tomato purée, paprika purée and pomegranate syrup on a light marble background.

Nothing works in Turkish and Levantine cuisine without spices and herbs! In the south-eastern provinces of Turkey, such as Şanlıurfa, spices such as hot isot (a type of chili) and pomegranate syrup are added to the cigköfte to create a real explosion of flavor.

Olive oil in a small bulbous flat photographed from above.

Olive oil and lemon juice also play an important role, of course, and take the cigköfte to a whole new level in terms of taste. You can also use olive oil and lemon juice to drizzle over the cigköfte – always delicious!

Lemon halves, flat-leaf parsley and mint in a small bowl on a light marble background.

Another spice that, in my opinion, should not be missing in the preparation of cigköfte is sumac . This spice is known for its tart and sour taste and gives the cigköfte a special flavor. But spices are not everything. Fresh vegetables and herbs must also be included.

Sumac, isot, paprika powder and cumin in small bowls on a light-colored marble base.

Isot Biber is a super aromatic spice made from roasted, fermented and crushed peppers. It has a very dark color (somewhat similar to the color of sumac) and a pungent, slightly smoky taste. You can buy isot in all Turkish supermarkets or online.

How to make vegan cigköfte in no time at all

Preparing vegan cigköfte is really super easy. I’ll show you how to do it here.

  1. Prepare the bulgur: Simply place the bulgur in a large bowl and pour hot water over it. To make sure the bulgur is nice and fluffy, stir it carefully with a spoon and leave it covered to soak for about 10 minutes.
  2. Make the tomato puree: You can blend the tomato, garlic and onion in a blender to make a puree.
  3. Herbs: Pluck the mint and parsley from the stems, wash and then chop finely.
  4. Knead the bulgur mixture: Add the tomato puree and all the remaining ingredients except the herbs to the bulgur and knead everything with your hands for a good 10 minutes. It is best to wear gloves, otherwise your hands will turn reddish. If the mixture is too dry, simply add a little hot water. You can then add the chopped herbs to the bulgur mixture and knead again briefly. Don’t forget to season with salt.
  5. Leave to rest: Cover the bulgur mixture and leave to stand for approx. 30 minutes. Then the flavors intensify and your vegan cigköfte will be perfect!
  6. Shaping cigköfte: Cigköfte are best formed with your hands. To do this, take only as much of the bulgur mixture as will fit in the palm of your hand and press it lightly with your hands to create wide grooves. Repeat this process until there is no more cig mixture left.
  7. Serve the cig köfte: Serve the cig köfte with salad leaves and, if desired, with herbs and pomegranate seeds. If you like, sprinkle them with a little lemon juice.

If the mixture is too dry, you can gradually add a little hot water until the mixture has the desired consistency.

Serving suggestions: Finger food, side dish or appetizer

Vegan cigköfte are versatile. You can serve them as finger food, a side dish or a starter. I always snack on a few while preparing them anyway. In Turkey, they are often sprinkled with fresh lemon juice and served in salad leaves as a refreshing and light starter – I love it that way too!

vegan cigköfte served in a lettuce leaf.

Cigköfte can also be rolled up in wraps or tortillas and used as meal prep or food to go.

A little tip at the end, because I think it’s really important and I like it best this way:

  • Olive oil is always a highlight anyway. So drizzle some of it over your vegan cigköfte.
  • Lemon juice enhances the flavor and gives the whole thing a wonderfully refreshing contrast with its lovely acidity.

Adaptations and variations of the recipe

Like little chameleons: You can of course adapt the recipe for vegan cigköfte to suit your preferences. This is especially true if you don’t have all the spices around the corner. Even if purists will now cry out, you can also try the following spices:

  • Curry powder
  • sweet paprika powder
  • white pepper
  • Cumin
  • Chili

For a gluten-free version, you can use quinoa or millet instead of bulgur, for example. However, you have to make sure that the ingredients are fine enough to make a moldable dough. But the main thing is that you like it and don’t miss out on this delicacy.

In addition to the traditional oblong shape, you can also shape cigköfte into rolls or balls. So don’t be put off by the actual look. In the end, it’s all about taste.

Where can I find the ingredients?

You can find most of the ingredients for vegan cigköfte in Turkish or Middle Eastern grocery stores. You can also order the Turkish chili powder Isot Biber and the fine bulgur (Köftelik Bulgur) online, for example.

So, now you know what Çiğ Köfte are and how to prepare and serve them. I hope you have lots of fun trying them out and, of course, enjoying them. If you liked the recipe or if you have any feedback for me, please leave a comment. Enjoy your meal!

Recipe for vegan cigköfte

Cigköfte mit Salat, Kräutern, Granatapfelkernen und Zitronen serviert.
Print Recipe Rezept speichern
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Ruhezeit 40 minutes
Servings 4 Personen
Calories 389


  • Foodprozessor


Für die Cigköfte

  • 300 g feiner Bulgur
  • 190 ml heißes Wasser
  • 30 g Paprikamark
  • 5 g Tomatenmark
  • 50 ml Zitronensaft
  • 45 ml Granatapfelsirup
  • 30 ml Olivenöl
  • 1 Tomate
  • 1 Zwiebel
  • 1/2 Knoblauchzehe
  • 20 g Petersilie
  • 10 g Minze
  • 1 Esslöffel Isot Biber (alternativ Chiliflocken)
  • 2 Esslöffel Paprikapulver
  • 1 Esslöffel Sumach
  • 1 Esslöffel Kreuzkümmel
  • Salz

Zum Garnieren

  • Salatblätter
  • Kräuter
  • Granatapfelkerne
  • Zitronenspalten


  • Bulgur in eine große Schüssel geben und heißes Wasser darüber gießen. Alles mit einem Löffel umrühren, abdecken und circa 10 Minuten quellen lassen.
  • Tomate waschen, Knoblauch und Zwiebel schälen. Alles in einem Foodprozessor zu einem Püree mixen.
  • Minze und Petersilie von den Stängeln zupfen, waschen und fein hacken.
  • Tomatenpüree sowie restliche Zutaten bis auf die Kräuter zum Bulgur geben und alles mit den Händen ca. 10 Minuten gut verkneten. Am besten ziehst du dir Handschuhe an, da sich deine Hände sonst rötlich verfärben. Sollte die Masse zu trocken sein, einfach etwas heißes Wasser dazugeben.
  • Gehackte Kräuter zur Bulgurmasse geben und erneut verkneten. Mit Salz abschmecken.
  • Bulgurmasse abgedeckt ca. 30 Minuten ziehen lassen und dann mit angefeuchteten Händen Cigköfte formen. Dafür nimmst du dir nur so viel von der Bulgurmasse, wie sie in deinen Handballen passt und drückst sie leicht mit den Händen an, so dass breite Rillen entstehen. Diesen Vorgang wiederholst du, bis keine Cigköftemasse mehr übrig ist.
  • Cigköfte mit Salatblättern und nach Belieben auch mit Kräutern, Zitronenspalten und Granatapfelkernen servieren.


Rezept enthält Affiliate-Links.


Calories: 389kcal | Carbohydrates: 74g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 43mg | Potassium: 550mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 1174IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 3mg

Frequently asked questions

What is Cig Köfte in German?

Cig Köfte is a vegan, spicy specialty made from bulgur. These are raw meatballs that traditionally come from Urfa, near the Syrian border. However, these cigköfte are vegan. Cigköfte with raw meat are now banned.

Where does cigköfte from Turkey come from?

Cig Köfte comes from Turkey, more precisely from the south-eastern provinces such as Urfa, Adiyaman and Antep. This traditional specialty has been around for 4000 years.

Is cigköfte healthy?

Yes, cigköfte is healthy because it is made from wholesome, natural ingredients, is vegan and contains lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is also eaten cold and contains fewer calories than fried foods.

What does cigköfte taste like?

Cigköfte has a pleasant mouthfeel, tastes intense and slightly spicy, and is often eaten with salad leaves, for example.

Fancy more bulgur balls? Be sure to try my kibbeh or the vegan kibbeh with potatoes. Bulgur as a salad is also delicious – take a look at Kisir.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating