Kafta bil sanieh is a Lebanese kafta potato bake that makes an easy, hearty comforting meal that’s full of flavor. It’s a Middle Eastern style meatloaf that’s perfectly spiced and is juicy and delicious, baked in a pan with potatoes, tomatoes and onion in a tomato broth.
What is kafta?
Kafta is a delicious Middle Eastern meat mixture, that’s beautifully flavored with spices and fresh parsley. So easy to make, you basically combine all the ingredients in a bowl and that’s all the work required. Another recipe I have for kafta shapes the mixture into kebabs and bakes them separately, but this recipe calls for spreading the kafta mixture into a pan and topping with the veggies and sauce.
Another recipe forms the kafta into meatballs and cooks it in a tomato onion and pomegranate molasses broth. This is called Dawood basha and it’s amazing.
What’s so good about kafta bil sanieh?
The kafta is juicy, and full of texure and flavor from the onion, garlic, and fresh parsley. There is the perfect mix of spices with enough to really pack enough flavor without overwhelming.
I think the blend of beef and lamb is the best way to go. You get the flavor of the lamb with less of the fat, and the beef and lamb balance each other out nicely.
Best of all, it’s so easy! You just dump all the ingredients into a bowl, mix thoroughly to combine and that’s your mix ready!
The preparation in this recipe makes for a really complete meal. You have the kafta that cooks in a tomato broth topped with roasted potatoes, onions and tomatoes. It’s like the ultimate meatloaf!
Ingredients to make this kafta potato bake:
The kafta bil sanieh mix:
The meat: My preference is a 50/50 mix of beef and lamb, but you can use all of one type of meat if preferred.
The herbs: Fresh chopped parsley imparts a lot of flavor in this, and is crucial to kafta’s flavor. Finely chop the parsley after washing so it mixes in well.
The spices: salt, pepper, seven spices (or all spice or mixed spices), cinnamon, cumin, a pinch of red chili flakes.
Onion and garlic: The key is pureeing or grating the onion so you don’t get big chunks of onion that will make it hard to form meatballs. I made this mistake once, and it was a messy process with lots of diced onions falling out. You can use the rough side of a cheese grater, or just process in a food processor.
The tomato sauce:
Water, tomato paste, a pinch of seven spices or all spice, and pomegranate molasses.
You can substitute the tomato paste that’s mixed with the water for a can of tomato sauce that you thin out with some water.
The pomegranate molasses gives an amazing sweet and tangy hint to the sauce, but you can omit it if you don’t have any or don’t want to include it.
Vegetables for assembling:
Potatoes, onions and tomatoes are the common additions to this dish. you can also add sliced roasted eggplant which is a great addition, and/or sliced bell peppers. I kept it simple here with just potatoes, tomatoes and onions.
To prep the potatoes for adding to the dish, it’s preferable to pre-cook them a little so that they cook through perfectly in the oven, otherwise you might need to add a lot of extra time getting the potatoes to bake in the oven.
The way I do this is by frying on either side for a few minutes or until golden brown, but still not cooked through in the center. You could try roasting them in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes instead, or air frying them briefly.
Steps in assembling the kafta:
Mix together the kafta ingredients until well combined, then spread on the base of a 9×13 inch pan.
Have all your veggies sliced and ready. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) Prepare the potatoes by par cooking as discussed in the ingredient section above. Layer the raw kafta meat with the potatoes, tomato slices, and onion slices.
Make your sauce by briefly mixing together (with a whisk or fork) the sauce ingredients, then pouring the sauce over everything in the pan. The meat should be submerged, as well as the potatoes. If the sauce isn’t enough to cover these items, you can add a little more water to the pan.
Bake the kafta covered in foil for around 45 minutes, then uncover and keep baking for another 15-20 minutes. The onions and tomatoes will caramelize a little, and the potatoes and onions should be cooked through before you remove this from the oven.
The meat might shrink away a little from the sides of the pan when it bakes, this is normal.
What to serve kafta bil sanieh with:
The best way to eat this is with pita bread, sopping up all that delicious tomato sauce, or with fluffy vermicelli rice for the ultimate comfort meal.
You can also throw in a simple green salad, but this isn’t totally necessary.
If you want to really up this, serve with some easy homemade pickles!
How to store leftover kafta:
Tightly covered kafta will last 3-4 days in the fridge. Reheat in the oven or microwave.
The meat on its own can be frozen, raw or cooked. Raw kafta can be frozen up to 6 months, and cooked kafta can be frozen up to 3-4 months.
What can be made in advance?
I’ve prepped all the vegetables the day before (peeled and sliced and par cooked the potatoes, sliced the onions and tomatoes) with a great result.
The kafta can be mixed and spread in the pan and stored tightly covered the day before baking.
Can I use all beef or all lamb?
Yes you can! Use the meat of your choice. I personally like the flavor and texture of doing a 50/50 mix.
Can I substitute different spices?
Yes absolutely. Go with your preference. You can make this spicier if you like.
Can I make this with cooked kafta?
Yes! You can use kafta meatballs or patties on the base of the pan, layer the same way, but cook for a lot less since the meat is already cooked. you’ll need to cook for probably 25-30 minutes total.
Kafta Bil Sanieh (kafta and potato bake)
- 1 lb ground beef 500g
- 1 lb ground lamb 500g
- 1 small onion, grated or pulsed in food processor
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- big handful parsley, chopped
- 3 tsp seven spice or all spice powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1.5-2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- pinch red chili flakes
For the sauce and assembling:
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, or enough to fill a skillet with 1-2 inches of oil
- 2-3 potatoes, sliced lengthwise
- 2 tomatoes, sliced
- 1 large white or yellow onion, sliced into rounds
- 2 cups water
- 3-4 tablespoon tomato paste
- pinch seven spices or all spice powder
- 1-2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
To make the kafta:
- Add all the ingredients to a large bowl, and mix well until combined. You can use gloved hands or a spoon to mix. I prefer using hands!
- Stretch the kafta mixture out in an even layer onto the base of a 9×13 pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180C), with the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
- Pre- cook the potatoes. Heat a large skillet with 1-2 inches of vegetable oil it and add the potato slices. Fry for a few minutes a side, until golden brown but not necessarily cooked through. Set aside on to a paper towel lined plate to cool slightly, and pat off any excess oil.
- Layer the kafta in the pan with potatoes, tomatoes, then the onion slices.
- Prepare your sauce by whisking together the water, tomato paste, seven spices, and pomegranate molasses. Pour the sauce evenly onto the kafta and vegetable layers. It should be enough sauce to totally submerge the meat mixture and cover the potatoes, some tomato and onion slices may be exposed. If the pan isn't saucy enough, you can add a little extra water.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and bake for 45-50 minutes. Uncover, and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, or until meat and vegetables are cooked through (I usually test a little piece of the meat with a fork)
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