Red Lentils with Cracked Wheat Vospov Kofte (Photo courtesy

Lenten Recipe: Red Lentils with Cracked Wheat (Vospov Kofte)


This recipe is courtesy of the St. John Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco, founded in 1924.

The season of Great Lent is a time of renewed devotion as we are called to prayer, fasting and almsgiving (charity). If you’re keeping a strict fast, the St. John Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco offers the following Lenten-friendly recipe for family and friends. “Maintain a fast from certain foods, this builds discipline and conscientiousness in your daily life, and promotes health. A strict Lenten fast in the Armenian Church prohibits all animal products, but if your health or circumstances can’t allow for it, start smaller. It shouldn’t become an obsession, but a precursor to spiritual growth.”

Baking teacher, recipe developer, and writer Andrew Janjigian writes, “That’s why we (Armenians) are equally serious about our meatless dishes, which reflect a thriftiness born out of that deep-rooted poverty. They’re also a matter of piety: Historically, the Armenian Apostolic Church restricted meat consumption on many days throughout the year. Though only the most devout among us still regularly abstain, the community’s appreciation for meat-free cooking persists. Consequently, we have elevated vegetarian cooking to something of an art form.”

He adds, “Take vospov kofte. It’s the vegetarian analog of canonical, relatively costly chi kofte, which consists of a mixture of minced raw beef or lamb, bulgur, tomato paste, and spices that is formed into logs or balls, served with a mixture of chopped herbs, and eaten inside a shroud of pita or lavash. Vospov kofte-perhaps the ultimate expression of tensions between scarcity and abundance, restriction and freedom-trades the meat for inexpensive red lentils and bulgur and a good amount of butter or olive oil to mimic its richness (the tomato paste is usually left out), resulting in a dish that is light but satisfying and beloved by Armenians the world over.”

“…It is thanks in large part to these restrictions that Armenians have a ‘general liking for whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, bread, cheese, yogurt, olives, vegetables, and fruits,’ as Alice Antreassian and Mariam Jebejian note in their book, Classic Armenian Recipes: Cooking Without Meat (1981), and that the cuisine is rich with hearty, nutritious meatless dishes such as vospov kofte.”

Regarding his use of Aleppo pepper, Janjigian says, “The moderately spicy, fruity dried red pepper is used extensively in Armenian cooking and is the only spice my grandmother considered essential in her vospov kofte. (Much of Aleppo pepper has been sourced from spice traders outside of Syria-particularly Turkey-since the Syrian civil war began.) I like to use a generous teaspoonful and amplify its warmth and complexity with cumin, black pepper, and allspice.”

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A staple in many Armenian homes, this dish always appears at parties and celebrations and never fails to impress guests. Popular throughout the Armenian Diaspora, no two vospov kofte recipes ever seem to match up completely. While you need to invest some time in cooking the lentils and prepping the ingredients – a food processor can make quick work of all the chopping, so long as you don’t overdo it and puree everything – nothing is too difficult to do. It’s vegan, flavorful, healthy and an authentic Armenian dish — this is meatless cooking at its very best.


1 1/4 cups red lentils, picked over, washed and rinsed

3-4 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup fine bulgur (#1)*

3/4 cup olive oil (or part butter)

1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup or a little more)

1 teaspoon red pepper or Aleppo pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon black pepper or cumin, if desired


1/4 cup chopped parsley, more to taste

1/4 cup finely chopped red and green bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped scallions or onions

Fresh chopped mint

Diced or sliced tomatoes




Place lentils in a pot, add water and bring to a full boil. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, removing thick foam that rises to the surface.

Add salt and continue simmering, covered, for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the mixture has cooked to a thick, yellow mass and water is absorbed, remove from heat.

Measure bulgur into a deep bowl and spoon the cooked lentils over it, mixing to blend. Set bowl aside, covered for 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet and add the onions, sautéing them until they are browned but not burned. Add red pepper or Aleppo pepper, black pepper, and cumin (if desired), stir, then add the skillet contents to the bowl and knead or mix thoroughly for a few minutes. Taste to adjust seasoning.

Moisten hands and shape mixture into finger-or sausage-shaped patties: inch off a piece, squeeze it gently in your clenched fist and release it. Arrange patties on a serving platter. Combine garnish greens, sprinkle over patties, and serve. (It helps to dip your fingers in water to keep the mixture moist so it’s easier to form.)

Yield: 6 or more servings

* Fine grind (#1) bulgur is a must in vospov kofte, where the small particles seamlessly bind up the red lentil mixture.

Storage notes: The finished patties can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

St. John Armenian Apostolic Church


275 Olympia Way

San Francisco, CA 94131

(415) 661-1142

For this recipe, go to:

For more Lenten recipes, go to:

Bulgur wheat is a whole grain that has been cracked, cleaned, parboiled , dried and then ground into various size for faster cooking. For order information, recipes and history about bulgur wheat, go to the Sunnyland Farms website in Fresno. Bulgur wheat is a natural whole grain food because no chemicals, additives or artificial ingredients are used in processing the product. Many of bulgur wheat’s naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, phosphorus and manganese, permeate the kernel during Sunnyland Mills’ finely tuned processing thus maintaining more nutritive content than other forms of processed wheat products. See:


Copyright 2024, St. John Armenian Apostolic Church

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