Summer Meatballs (Keftedes Kalokairinoi)

Ingredients for greek recipe keftedes kalokairinoi summer meatballs.You can call them meatballs, but I would almost characterize these as vegetable fritters flavored with meat. Nevertheless, carnivores will love them and not realize how many vegetables they are eating! I adore summer meatballs, but I’d lost the recipe I’d gotten from Mama. With eggplants and peppers and tomatoes needing to be harvested in the garden, I decided to call her. She went through the recipe wth me in her own way.

“How much parsley, Mama?”
“Eh, you know, enough!”

I guess Mama trusts my judgment now! Well, sort of. When I told her I was working with one kilo of meat, she asked with a note of suspicion in her voice, “You mean you have two pounds?”

The recipe below can easily be halved.


2 pounds lean ground beef
6 slices of bread, soaked in milk and then squeezed out
2 thick slices of feta cheese, crumbled
6 tomatoes, chopped
1 round eggplant or 4 japanese eggplants, peeled and finely chopped
2 banana or anaheim peppers, finely chopped
2 small zucchini, finely chopped (optional)
6 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 bunches of parsley, minced
40 fresh oregano leaves, minced or 1 TB crumbled dry oregano (not powdered)
2 eggs
1/2 cup ouzo (or red wine or beer)
4 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
a few cups of flour to form the meatballs
several cups of oil to fry the meatballs

Cook It!

Put the meat in a bowl. Tear the soaked and wrung-out bread into pieces and throw it in. Crumble the feta slices into the bowl.

Adding bread and feta to meat for greek recipe keftedes kalokairinoi summer meatballs.

Add the other ingredients. Halfway through adding them decide your mixing bowl is too small.

Adding more ingredients for greek recipe keftedes kalokairinoi summer meatballs.

Ah, that’s better!

Mix ingredients well for greek recipe kalokairinoi summer meatballs.

Use your hands to mix the ingredients very well. Mama emphasized this particularly, and didn’t hang up before reminding me several times that I must be very thorough in the mixing. Put the well-mixed meat (Remember to mix it very well! Yes, Mama, I will.) in a colander set in a bowl, and refrigerate it for at least one hour or better yet, overnight. (In my next post I’ll tell you about a thrifty and tasty use for the liquid that drains out.)

Drain meat mix in colander for greek recipe keftedakia kalokairinoi.

Put a small blob of meat mixture, about a tablespoon, into a pan of flour.

Put meat in flour for greek recipe keftedakia kalokairinoi summer meatballs.

Dump a handful of flour over the meat blob. Pick up the meat blob along with a handful of flour and roll it into a ball. This meat mixture is quite wet, so don’t be afraid to squeeze it into coherence.

Cover blob of meat with flour for greek recipe keftedes kalokairinoi summer meatballs.

Flatten the ball into a thick disk and set aside.

Form flattish meatballs for the greek recipe keftedes kalokairinoi summer meatballs.

Heat a couple of inches of oil in a pan until hot, and add several meatballs. If the oil is hot enough they will sizzle immediately. Don’t put too many meatballs in at once; they need room “to swim.” Remove when the outside is well browned.

Frying the summer meatballs for greek recipe keftedes kalokairinoi

Notice that the oil in the photo above is very brown. If you are making a half-recipe, with one pound of meat, this is how the oil will look at the end. If you are making the full recipe with two pounds of meat, this is how it will look halfway through. At this point you need to dump out the oil, wipe out the pan with a paper towel, and start afresh with new oil. You see, the flour from the meatballs is turning the oil brown, and if you keep using the same oil the flour will overcook and cause bitter flavors. Additionally, with the oil so brown, the meatballs will look brown and done long before they are, so it’s awfully easy to remove them before they’re cooked through.

The summer meatballs are done, greek recipe keftedes kalokairini

These are best straight from the hot oil, but they are also great left over and heated up, and they freeze well too. I always make a big batch to have leftovers and to freeze.


  1. Comment by Peter G

    Great keftedes Lulu! Another Greek classic!

    Peter G’s last blog post..“Lazy” Bean Soup

  2. Comment by Ivy

    Unusual. Never seen the combination of vegetables with ground meat in keftedes. Maybe it’s something local but I personally would prefer them only with the vegetables.

    Ivy’s last blog post..Figs, jam and preserves

  3. Comment by Farmer Jen

    I love reading your cooking instructions. They remind me of my Greek Mom and Grandmother. So does your conversation with your Mom.

    Farmer Jen’s last blog post..Celebrations!

  4. Comment by Lulu

    Hi Peter G!

    Ivy, do you make these without the meat?

    Thanks, Jen! She’s actually my friend Zoe’s mom, but I wormed my way into the kitchen and hung around so much I got myself “adopted.” :-)

  5. Comment by Kalyn

    Very interesting and delicious looking. I have quite a few Greek friends in Salt Lake but I haven’t ever seen this type of meatball.

    Kalyn’s last blog post..Recipe for Zucchini and Yellow Squash Soup with Rosemary and Parmesan

  6. Comment by Lulu

    Kalyn, I’m pretty sure that, as Ivy said, this is a very local recipe. I can’t say exactly where Mama is, but it’s from “there.” :-)

  7. Comment by Paula

    I love this! And I adore Mama’s response when you inquired about the parsley! I don’t know how old she is, but I picture her looking much like my grandmother did! YUM!

    Paula’s last blog post..13 Big Ones …. Times Two!

  8. Comment by Johanna

    Lulu, I have never made meatballs, can you imagine that? I can’t be bothered with frying. But a good meatball makes a great meze. Especially teamed with home made fries. Yum!

    Johanna’s last blog post..Eden/ ????

  9. Comment by Lulu

    So, Johanna, I take it you don’t make the fries either? Since they would also involve, well, frying? :-)

  10. Comment by Bellini Valli

    This is a great way to hide those veggies for any picky eaters out there..I am not one but will also have some ouzo on the side as well thanks:D

    Bellini Valli’s last blog post..Golden Bruschetta with Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella and Pesto

  11. Comment by Lulu

    Stin iyia sou, Val!

  12. Comment by maria verivaki

    delicious meatballs – one of my favorite naughty treats

    maria verivaki’s last blog post..Cactus figs from Vathi

  13. Comment by Laurie Constantino

    My oh my do these look good. And I just happen to have all the ingredients on hand. I’m definitely trying these. And, yes, I’ll be sure to put in “enough” parsley!

    Laurie Constantino’s last blog post..Summer Tomatoes in Greece with Historical Information and Recipe for Strapatsada (Greek Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes)

  14. Comment by Lulu

    Maria, I especially enjoy that this treat is less naughty than it seems. :-)

    Laurie, I know that you of all people know what “enough” means!

  15. Comment by Kevin

    Those meatballs sound so good! I like the use of the zucchini, eggplant and the splash of ouzo.

    Kevin’s last blog post..Corn and Black Bean Tortilla Pie

  16. Comment by Lulu

    Yes, Kevin, the splash of ouzo is important. At least, I think so.

  17. Comment by Andrea

    These look so good, and I’ve been looking for a meatball recipe. I don’t have one that I come back to, these would be perfect for the end of summer (yes, I know it’s technically over, but I’m holding on anyway!)

  18. Comment by Lulu

    Andrea, I’m about to make another batch, as I still have tomatoes, eggplants and peppers coming along. I expect this’ll be the last of them, though.

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  20. Comment by Chaz

    You know, right now I can probably get all of the ingredients for this (even the beef) at the Greenmarket in Union Square. I may have to rethink my menu for my family gathering next weekend.

  21. Comment by Lulu

    Hi Chaz! I hope you like them. :-)

  22. Comment by manju

    Sorry I’m late to the party, but just starting to get back to blogging and catching up with everyone on the web… These, of course, look fantastic, as your meat keftedes did! With all the lovely veggies in it, maybe we won’t feel guilty about popping so many of them directly from the hot oil! ; )

    I love how you all use the leftover flour and water from the meat so none of it goes to waste. My mom did the same thing with leftover flour when she made tempura… add chives and salt to the four and deep fry… mothers are so smart!

    BTW, speaking of not wasting, I also loved your idea of using the whey from drained yogurt for baking. You know, I’ve been throwing that away… thanks for the great idea!

    manju’s last blog post..Glühwein

  23. Comment by Lulu

    You’re not late to the party, manju, I haven’t been around either!

  24. Comment by Mediterranean Turkish Cook

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. This keftedes look great. We have koftes in Turkey but we do not put vegetables in them. I should try them your mama’s way sometime.

  25. Comment by Lulu

    Hi MTC, welcome! You’re right, this veggie filled version is pretty unusual.

  26. Comment by Rick

    This is our new #1 bestest cooking site on the web. When are your books coming out?

  27. Comment by 1 Minute Cure Gal Reviews

    These would be absolutely perfect for Mother’s Day. Fantastic pixs and helpful illustrations will make this easy to prepare. Great site!

  28. Comment by Meg

    About how long do they take in the oil? Also, what is the best way to reheat without drying out?

  29. Comment by Lulu

    Hi Meg, I’m not sure because I never time them. It depends on how hot the oil is, for one thing. (I could guess 5 – 10 minutes, but I have a terrible sense of time, so that’s probably wildly inaccurate.) Just fry them until they look nicely browned, then taste to make sure. I reheat them in a fairly low oven (say 275 – 300 degrees or so, depending on how much of a hurry you’re in), wrapped well in foil. Or sometimes I microwave them. A killer way to serve leftover meatballs is to heat them up in a tomato sauce. Any tomato sauce would be good, here’s one idea:

  30. Comment by Jenny B

    Leftovers to freeze?? Never happened to me! LOL! They’re all gone in a day!

  31. Comment by keisha jones

    your recipe sounds yummy im in middle school doing this for my sixth grade teacher ms.jackson but thanks for your recipe it sounds and looks delightful soooooo yeah you helped me ALOT!!! -keisha jones

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