Keftedes: Traditional Greek Meatballs. Recipe

Traditional Greek Keftedes Fried meatballs
Traditional Greek Keftedes
Fried meatballs
What are keftedes?

Keftedes, or keftedakia (Little keftedes!), are fried Greek meatballs, or, just to confuse you, they can be baked, or, then again, they may be called soutzoukakia, which are spiced up with cumin and baked in a spicy tomato sauce.

Then, there are “Youverlakia”, meat balls made with rice and served with “Avgolemono”, egg and lemon sauce, or, maybe in a tomato sauce, the Greeks certainly do love their meatballs!

Youverlakia Greek meatballs with rice, in tomato sauce.
Greek meatballs with rice, in tomato sauce.

 Keftedes may be prepared with minced beef, pork, a mixture of both beef and pork, or minced lamb.

With whatever, and however keftedes are prepared, one thing is for sure; they are delicious, golden and crispy on the outside, soft and moist inside, and loved by all.

My family prefers the quick and easy to prepare, simple, fried, traditional Greek keftedes.

Greek keftedes, Greek salad and homemade chips.
Greek keftedes, Greek salad and homemade chips.

 Keftedes were the stand by for all school trips, picnics and children’s parties, no Greek mama, worth her salt, sent her little darlings on a school outing, or threw a party, without plenty of keftedes!

In the good old days, the tradition was that Greek housewives cleaned the house on Saturdays, from top to bottom, bulling it up for Sunday, the day of rest.

This mammoth house-clean took time, and so, in the days before fast-food and take-out, lunch had to be something quick and easy, yet tasty and nourishing, what could be better than crispy, piping hot keftedes?

This is why you may often hear this popular Greek dish referred to as;

 “Saturday keftedes”!

As well as being a favourite family meal, served up with lashings of tzatziki (Garlic yogurt), a large Greek “Horiatiki” salad, topped with feta cheese, and large portions of golden, homemade chips, keftedes are often to be found served as a meze (Appetizer), to help the ouzo go down!

Greek keftedes as a meze with ouzo Photo;
Greek keftedes as a meze with ouzo

The herb used for keftedes is traditionally diosmo: mint (Spearmint), both fresh and dried are used, I love mint, so add a lot, no hard and fast rules, if you love it, pile it in!

Some recipes also add a tea spoon of dried oregano, I don’t, I want to taste the mint!

If you have any ouzo at hand, add a glug of that, why not?

Dried Greek diosmo (mint)
Dried Greek diosmo (mint)

Traditional Greek keftedes.


(Makes about 30 keftedes)

500 g minced beef

1 large onion (finely chopped or grated)

1 clove garlic (finely chopped or crushed)

250 g breadcrumbs

1 sprig fresh mint (about 8-10 leaves, chopped)

1 tsp dried mint

1 shot of ouzo (optional)

1 egg

Salt & pepper to taste

Corn or sunflower oil for frying

Flour for dredging (About ½ a cup)


Throw all ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and mix together really well, the best way to do this is with your hands, really give the mixture a good squeezing, get those flavours forced into one another!

Mixture for Greek keftedes
Mixture for Greek keftedes

If the mixture seems rather sloppy, just add a few more breadcrumbs, if it’s too firm, slosh in a little olive oil (Or milk).

Cover the bowl with cling film, foil, or whatever it is you use, and leave it in the fridge for about an hour; this really gets those flavours mingling!

(The mixture can be made the day before you’re going to cook the keftedes).

Once the mixture has chilled for an hour, give it another mix, using your hands, and using a spoon, take about a large walnut-sized, bit of the mixture, roll into a ball and put to one side on a plate.

A walnut - sized spoonful!
A walnut - sized spoonful!

Once all the mixture has been rolled into balls, heat the oil in a large frying pan (Don’t waste your precious olive oil for this, corn or sunflower oil is best).

Greek keftedes... ready for a flour bath!
Greek keftedes...
ready for a flour bath!

Once the oil is really hot, dip keftedes in flour, knock of excess and add to pan, don’t overload the pan, it’s best to fry in batches, about 15 keftedes at a time, overloading the pan will lower the temperature of the oil.

Greek keftedes, floured and ready for the pan.
Greek keftedes, floured and ready for the pan.

As soon as the keftedes are in the pan, lower to a medium heat, and cook until golden brown, about 5-10 minutes, turning frequently, so they are browned on all sides.

Greek keftedes Slowly Sizzling
Greek keftedes
Slowly Sizzling

Don't forget the chips; homemade of course!
Don't forget the chips;
homemade of course!

Once you’ve cleaned your house, serve up your delicious Greek keftedes with a Greek salad, a good dollop of tzatzki and piles of golden chips!

See more mouthwatering Greek recipes below;

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