This Armenian Meatball Soup, Armenian kufta (kofta) soup or sulu kofte, is the ultimate bowl of comfort. Tiny beef-and-bulgur meatballs are poached in a lemony, tomato-laced broth, and finished with dried mint to create this family favorite!
What defines a comfort food? Does it contain chocolate? Is it wrapped in pastry crust? Filled with cheese? Is it something you grew up eating, or only recently discovered and have since looked to in times of stress? I have a pretty long list of comfort foods, and what I crave really depends on that specific occasion. While a piping hot chicken pot pie will complete me on particular days, a plate of plump mushroom dumplings will quiet my emotions under other circumstances. Neither of these comforts (among many other foods that can fill the void) were things I grew up eating, but comfort can come from anywhere. And you could discover a new comfort food today.
Manti is easily one of the most comforting foods that I grew up eating. There are many others that my mother or grandmother have passed down to me. Some of these recipes date back many generations. It’s what makes me who I am, and how your family recipes make you who you are. These recipes help define us. Someday way into the future, our children and our children’s children will hopefully find comfort in some of these same things. This soup does it for me. I’ve enjoyed it since I was very young, and the original recipe dates back for generations in my family (though adapted over the years and finally measured by yours truly).
How to make Armenian Meatball Soup
What sets this soup apart from others is the lemony tomato broth. It’s a perfect compliment to the tiny bulgur-infused meatballs. This is where we begin, by mixing and shaping the meatballs. The bulgur provides a heartiness to the meatballs, and also acts as a binding element. The meatballs themselves should be rather small, about 3/4-to-1-inch in diameter, and tightly packed. Use water to wet your hands while shaping to ensure they do not stick to your palms.
Next, you’ll prepare the broth by sauteing chopped onion, and adding a combination of tomato sauce, broth, water, and lemon juice. Carefully add the meatballs to the soup, and give them a good stir so they don’t stick together. When the meatballs are plump and cooked through, the soup is ready! Just finish it with a bit of dried mint, and test for seasoning.
I hope you find this Armenian meatball soup as comforting as I do. It has been a family favorite for years! If you’d like to try a gluten-free spin on this soup, try this Meatball Soup with Potatoes and Carrots, which replaces the bulgur with rice, and changes up the broth a bit. I also really love this Armenian Lentil Soup with Macaroni as well as My Grandma’s Red Lentil Soup with potatoes.
Armenian Meatball Soup
- 1 cup #1 grade fine bulgur
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 small onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- About 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 6 cups water
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce or ground peeled tomatoes
- 1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth or beef broth (or an equivalent amount of water)
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon rice (optional)
- 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
- Fill a small bowl with some water and place next to the mixing bowl.
- Add the bulgur, beef, onion, salt, pepper, and paprika to the bowl and mix well with your hands, adding water a handful at a time until it becomes cohesive and firm (you may need to wet your hands with the water in the bowl as you mix).
- Constantly wetting your hands, make little meatballs by rolling small bits of the mixture between your palms. They should be about 3/4-inch to 1-inch in diameter. Place the small meatballs on a tray or baking sheet until ready to cook. You will have about 130 meatballs.
- In a pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter, add the onion, and sauté until softened. Add the water, tomato sauce, broth, salt, pepper, and paprika, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and carefully drop the meatballs several at a time into the liquid, mixing in between additions to make sure the meatballs do not stick together. Add the chickpeas or rice, if desired.
- When the mixture comes back up to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through (they will plump up). Adjust the seasonings if needed, and add the dried mint just before removing from the heat. Serve immediately.