Armenian Soup With Butter-Filled Meatballs (Basselah)

What could be better than biting into a meatball that oozes with melted butter? We haven’t discovered anything yet! This is our favorite après-ski meal and is also a favorite "cure" for a cold, with its tart, lemony broth. 

Making each meatball is a labor of love, and we look forward to this dish, at least once a year when my mom Jackie Jenkins makes it. For this go around, we made the meatballs together, and it all seemed to come together quickly.

So, as with a lot of Armenian food, this a recipe that is great to make with another person—not only to cut down on the labor, but also to make the time pass quickly, as you spend time in conversation. 

Armenian Soup With Butter-Filled Meatballs (Basselah)

What ingredients do I need to make Armenian Soup With Butter-Filled Meatballs (Basselah)?

Ingredients for Armenian Soup With Butter-Filled Meatballs (Basselah)


  • 1 1/2 lb. extra lean ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • dash of red pepper
  • 1 cup fine bulgur wheat (#1 coarseness)
  • 1 cup finely minced onion
  • 1-1 1/2 cups ice water
  • 1 cube butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes, chilled
  • black pepper, all-spice and ground cloves


  • 2  1/2 cartons (32 oz.) chicken broth
  • 1/2 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce 
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dry mint
  • 1-1 1/2 T butter
  • salt to taste

    How do I make Armenian Soup With Butter-Filled Meatballs (Basselah)?

    For the kufta balls (meatballs): Place raw meat into a food processor and grind until very fine. 

    Kufta for Armenian Soup

    Remove meat from processor and then mince onions. Combine the meat, minced onions and a little ice water. Then add bulgur wheat.

    Combine all ingredients and then slowly add enough ice water until the meat mixture is the right consistency to form meatballs (must hold its shape). 

    Ingredients for Kufta to make Armenian Soup With Butter-Filled Meatballs (Basselah)



    Meat and bulgur mixture for kufta and armenian soup

    Cut a stick of chilled butter into thirds lengthwise and then cut each third into halves.  Then cut strips of butter cross-wise to form 1/4 inch cubes.

    Sprinkle cubes of butter with a little bit of black pepper, all-spice and cloves (very small amount). 

    diced butter for armenian soup meatballs

    Take about a tablespoon of meat mixture and roll into a ball. Then press your thumb into the ball and round meat mixture around your thumb to make an opening for the butter.  Place a 1/4 inch cube of butter into each ball and then close up the meatball and roll again until uniformly round. 

    shaping meatballs for armenian soup

    Make sure it is sealed well, and use ice water to wet your fingers as you make the kufta, to help smooth the shape.

    For the broth: In a large stock pot, combine chicken broth, crushed or diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, diced onion, sugar and lemon juice.

    In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add dry mint and sauté just until mint is softened.  Then add mixture to broth.

    Drain liquid from the can of garbanzo beans and rinse them. Set aside.

    Bring broth to a boil. Then lower to a rapid simmer.  Add the garbanzo beans. 
    Next add the kufta balls, a few at a time. When the kufta balls rise to the top, simmer a few minutes more or until cooked through. Serve the soup immediately.
    simmering meatballs in Armenian soup

    Can I make ahead Armenian Soup With Butter-Filled Meatballs (Basselah)?

    Yes. You can make this soup ahead of time, which is a great idea, since the meatballs are a bit labor intensive. Just make it all the way through, as if you were going to be eating it, but remove the kufta balls from the soup after they are cooked. 

    Store the kufta balls in a separate container from the broth in the refrigerator.  Otherwise, the meatballs will break down and the butter will seep out.

    Alternatively, you could make just the kufta ahead of time and refrigerate the raw meatballs (with butter inside).  In this case, store them in a single layer in a casserole dish and cover them tightly with plastic.  We wouldn't recommend making them too far in advance....maybe 12-24 hours ahead of time.


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    • Jackie jenkins on

      Delicious, especially the melted butter in the Kufta meatballs!!

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