Main dishes, Recipes
Comments 6

Fellah – Cute, Little And Extremely Delicious Bulgur Balls In Garlicky Tomato Sauce

The first time I heard about this dish was a few years ago when I did the graphic design of a cookbook for an amateur chef in Turkey. I loved it a lot back then, but I don’t cook it often.

When I made the book’s graphic design, I also cooked every single recipe to check if it worked or not. It was a lot of work, turned out to be much more work than I expected as I had to shop for the ingredients, cook each dish, take the photos, edit the recipe and then do the graphic design. Cooking delicious food is one thing, but writing a recipe is a whole other thing. It was too late when I realised that I gave a low price for all my work. But well, it was a learning process.

Anyway, this dish was among the recipes, and when I cooked it, I liked it so much. The recipe was a little different than what I have in this blog post, but it worked. After that, I made it only a few more times with slightly different recipes I found online. Even though I love the dish so much, the bulgur upset my stomach, so I don’t dare to cook it too often.

But recently made it for a customer and decided that it was time to share it on the blog. The recipe is a mixture of one from a Turkish cookbook and one from a Turkish recipe website.

The name of this dish is “fellah kofta”. I tried to find the dish’s story as the word “fellah” is not familiar to me. What I found was the meaning of fellah, and not so much the dish’s story: fellah means peasant farmer in Arabic, and it is also the name given to people of Arabic origin living in some parts of Turkey, such as cities of Adana and Mersin. These people are, most of the time, farmers. That’s probably why people call them fellah as well. In some parts of Turkey, people serve it with garlicky yoghurt on top of the tomato sauce.

The ingredients, most importantly bulgur, are found in abundance in Turkey and the Middle East. They are also relatively cheap, so I believe this dish has always been one of the go-to recipes for the region’s people. It may be your go-to recipe, too, if bulgur agrees with your stomach! Enjoy!


Difficulty: Medium
(serves 4)

Printable PDF-recipe (no photos)

For the balls (I forgot to take the photo of the ingredients for the balls!)
5 dl (or 2 cups) fine bulgur*
5 dl (or 2 cups) hot water (not boiling, but hot to touch)
2.5 dl (or 1 cup) semolina
3 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus more to spread
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp capsicum paste**
about 1.5 dl (or a little more than 1/2 cup) warm water
1 large egg
1 tsp ground cumin

To boil the balls:
2 litres water
1 tsp salt
3 tsp lemon juice

For the sauce:
1.5 dl + 2 tbsp (or 3/4 cup) olive oil
6 cloves of garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 tbsp capsicum paste
1 pack (400 gr) tomato puree
1 tsp salt
a generous handful of finely chopped parsley, plus a bit more to decorate

*If you buy this from a Turkish market, you can see “köftelik” on the package for this type of bulgur.
**You can buy this in middle eastern markets, such as Alanya Market in Itäkeskus, Helsinki.

  1. In a large bowl, put bulgur and pour hot water on it. Put a kitchen cloth on the bowl and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Afterwards, using a spatula or a spoon, give swollen bulgur a mix to let some air inside.

2. To bulgur, add semolina, flour, salt, tomato and capsicum pastes and start kneading. I just did it directly using my hand.

3. While kneading, you might want to gradually add about 1.5 dl (or a little more than 1/2 cup) warm (not too hot) water into the mixture. Water will make kneading easier, and let the mixture stick to each other (but remember, add gradually and not too much).

4. Add the egg and cumin and continue kneading. You should have a semi-moist mixture with ingredients fully incorporated that easily sticks to each other to form balls.

5. Spread a little flour on a tray or a large plate. Take a little piece from the bulgur mixture and make a ball. Using your thumb, make a little indent in the ball. That’s it! Do this for the whole mixture.

6. Time to cook the balls: In a large pot, put 2 litres of water, salt and lemon juice and let it come to a boil on medium-high heat.

7. When the water starts to boil, put the balls gently in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. If your pot is not large, do this in 2 batches. I cooked in a 5 litres pot, but even then, I cooked the balls in 2 batches so that the pot is not overcrowded. Take out the cooked balls using a slotted spoon and put them in a clean bowl.

8. Proceed to make the sauce: In a large pot (I used my large, shallow pilaf pot), put olive oil and chopped garlic on medium heat and sauté the garlic gently for a few minutes.

9. When the garlic is ready, put capsicum paste, tomato puree and salt and continue cooking while frequently stirring for about 3-4 minutes.

10. Add a generous handful of chopped parsley and stir it.

11. Put all the cooked balls in the sauce. Stir a little and let all the balls get covered with the sauce. Cover the lid and cook in medium heat for about 3 more minutes, then transfer everything in the pot into a service bowl. Top with remaining chopped parsley and serve immediately. Enjoy!


  1. simone1964 says

    I’ll try it out asap! It looks delicious and I imagine the making of the balls quite a meditative task. Just did your phyllo frangipane pie last weekend again, one of my all-time favourites from your blog! :-)

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