Chiftele – Romanian Meatballs

(Last Updated On: July 14, 2019)

These traditional Romanian meatballs, called chiftele, are pretty unique, as well as being absolutely delicious. Most cuisines have their own version of ground meat rolled into a ball, but there are many regional differences in meatballs

The ingredients and the spices in meatballs are a great indicator of the flavors that dominate a region’s cuisine. For Romania, that ingredient is dill. If possible, using fresh dill rather than dried will result in a flavor that will be closer to taste you would experience in a traditional Romanian recipe.

Romanian Meatballs
Romanian Meatball with Eggplant and Red Pepper Sauce (Zacusca)

Chiftele are also unique because the meatballs are made with potatoes (as well as other vegetables) in the mix. We’d never tried a meatball that contained grated potato. The addition results in a moist meatball with an interesting texture. It is less bready but still very tender and juicy.

When making the meatball, it’s critical to include the step of squeezing the liquid out of the grated vegetables, otherwise the mix will be too wet when the vegetables release water during the cooking process. That will cause them to fail to hold together well.

The other unique feature of Romanian chiftele meatballs is that they are often a flat shape, like a mini-burger. The shape is not critical to the cooking process, so if you want to form them in a traditional round shape, they will turn out just fine fine. 

This dish is often accompanied by pickled vegetables or another side dish to balance out the flavors. We particularly like to eat the meatballs accompanied by another cold classic Romanian dish. The colorful sauce, called zacusca, features eggplant and red peppers.

If you enjoyed this recipe, check out some of our other Eastern European recipes:

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Romanian Meatballs

Yield: 4-6 servings

Chiftele - Romanian Meatballs

Chiftele - Romanian Meatballs

Chiftele (Romanian Meatballs) put a unique spin on an old favorite with the addition of grated potato and lots of fresh herbs.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 lb (225 kg) ground pork *
  • 1/2 lb (225 kg) ground beef *
  • 1 large potato, grated (approximately 3/4 cup)
  • 1 carrot, grated (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs 
  • 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
  • 1/8 cup parsley finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup dill fresh, finely chopped
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Peel the potato and grate it.
  2. Take the grated potato in your hands or in a cheesecloth/dish towel and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.
  3. Grate and press the water out of the carrot as well.
  4. Finely chop the onion and garlic cloves. 
  5. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, potato and onion and saute until tender, approximately 5 - 7 minutes. Let the mixture cool.
  6. In a large bowl, add the onion/potato mixture, ground meat, eggs and breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, parsley and dill.
  7. Using your hands or a large spoon, mix everything together well. 
  8. Form mixture into balls, approximately the size of a large walnut. Flatten balls into small patties.
  9. Add oil to a large skillet and fry the meatballs on both sides, 3-4 minutes each side, until they are golden brown.
  10. Serve immediately.

Notes

*Traditionally, these can be made with any combination of ground meat, including beef, pork, veal and/or lamb.

Nutrition Information

Yield

20

Serving Size

1

Amount Per ServingCalories 102 Total Fat 6g Saturated Fat 2g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 4g Cholesterol 30mg Sodium 64mg Carbohydrates 5g Fiber 1g Sugar 0g Protein 7g
The nutritional information is an estimate only and will vary depending on the specific ingredients used.

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