Beautifully spiced Moroccan Lamb Meatballs served with a Mint Yoghurt Sauce. Stuff into pitas, pass them around at a party or pile over pilaf! This is such a great recipe for lamb mince. Lamb loves Middle Eastern spices!
Juicy Lamb Meatballs with Moroccan flavours!
These Moroccan Lamb Meatballs are inspired by a visit to the Lakemba Night Markets (Sydney) during Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims which involves intensive prayer and fasting from dawn to dusk.
During this period, the main drag of Lakemba transforms at night with food stalls lining the pavements and is a popular place to enjoy iftar, a communal feast to break the fast.
If you love Middle Eastern food, you’ll be in street food heaven. A vibrant, lively mood, the smell of charcoal, the sizzle of BBQ’s, and the most amazing smell of spices that Middle Eastern food wafts through the street!
One of the (ahem – many!) things I’ve enjoyed from these street stalls are spiced lamb meatballs stuffed into pita pockets. So I’ve created my own version using the spice mix from my Middle Eastern Lamb Koftas recipe. Lamb is a protein made for heady Middle Eastern spice flavourings! It pairs so well, and the smell when they’re cooking are outrageous!
What you need for Moroccan lamb meatballs
It’s all about the spice mix. And you’ll be delighted to see they’re all pantry staples – there’s a good chance you’ve got them all!
Lamb mince (ground lamb) – Lamb is a favourite in Middle Eastern cuisine! However, these meatballs would also be terrific made with beef, chicken or turkey.
Onion – A key flavour base in most of my savoury dishes! My secret for extra tasty, extra soft meatballs is to grate the onion over the breadcrumbs so it soaks up the juices. It softens the panko which makes the meatballs juicier and more tender.
Plus, if you use diced onion you’d need to cook it separately beforehand. When it’s grated, there’s no need!
Panko breadcrumbs – Adds bulk and absorbs moisture so the mixture isn’t too wet to form meatballs. Panko breadcrumbs are easy to find these days in the Asian and breadcrumb aisle of grocery stores. Ordinary breadcrumbs (smaller and finer, like sand) can also be used but the meatballs will not be quite as tender.
Egg – For keeping the meatballs together. World’s best food glue!
Garlic – Very rare to find savoury dishes on my website that don’t involve garlic!
Spices – Classic Middle Eastern mix. Cumin, coriander, paprika (any, I like smoked), cinnamon (Middle Eastern secret ingredient!), cayenne pepper (spiciness – feel free to increase or omit).
Coriander/cilantro – For a hint of freshness and for visual purposes too. Really worth using, though it can be substituted with parsley.
For the pita pockets
Here’s what you need to make stuffed pita bread pockets:
Pita bread or small Lebanese bread – Anything that can be cut then pried open to stuff. Most of the photos in the post are the slightly thicker “bready” pita pockets. However, small Lebanese bread will work too – pictured below. You’ll fit 3 meatballs in each half.
Flatbreads would be great too. Stuff and roll!
Leafy greens – Fresh lettuce, tomato and red onion – For stuffing. There’s no need for dressing, just plain is fine. Plenty of flavour and juices from the meatballs, plus the mint sauce!
Dressed leafy greens – Shredded purple cabbage, carrot, mint salad pictured in the pita pocket below. This is like a Middle Eastern style slaw and pairs beautifully with the Moroccan spicing in these meatballs, as well as adding a lovely splash of colour!
How to make Moroccan meatballs
1. The mint sauce
Blitz the fresh mint, lemon and salt with just 1/4 cup of yogurt. Then stir the remaining 1/2 cup of yogurt. Why 2 steps? Because blitzing breaks yogurt and makes it thin and watery. To avoid this, blitz a bit first, then stir in the remaining yogurt.
Mint sauce thickness – The above photo shows the consistency of the mint sauce. Thin enough to drizzle but thick enough to cling! Keep it in the fridge until required.
2. Make the meatballs
Grate the onion into a bowl using a standard box grater. Why grate? Because the strands are fine enough so the onion doesn’t need to be cooked separately before mixing into the meat. Also, the onion juices mix throughout which adds extra flavour. Win, win, win!
Mix – Put all the remaining meatball ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hands.
Portion – I use a cookie scoop to portion the mixture into 20 to 22 meatballs.
Roll the mixture into rounds with your hands.
Tip to keep meatballs rounds – Refrigerate the meatballs for an hour to firm up the mixture before cooking. This will help them stay more round as you cook on the stove.
Pan fry for 8 minutes, rotating to brown all over. These days, I use a spoon and fork to turn the meatballs rather than tongs. I find it easier and also it helps maintain the round shape of the meatballs.
Baking option – The recipe also includes a baking option. I do prefer pan frying over baking because you can get better colour on the outside without overcooking the inside. However, for lamb meatballs, baking works better than other proteins because it’s a fattier meat.
Once the meatballs are cooked, transfer onto a plate and they’re ready to serve!
Proof of juicy insides:
How to serve these Moroccan meatballs
Stuffed in pita pockets, as pictured throughout the post, with fresh lettuce, tomato and onion, drizzled with the mint sauce. Or piled high over a beautiful fruit and nut pilaf, or the golden Jewelled Rice Pilaf that I shared recently.
Or – make salad bowls! I can see them served on the side of a Pearl Couscous Salad, or toss through a Middle Eastern Chickpea salad. Like a meatball salad. YES.
So many possibilities. Share other ideas below! – Nagi xx
Watch how to make it
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Moroccan Lamb Meatballs
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (for cooking)
- 500 g / 1 lb lamb mince (ground lamb) (Note 1)
- 1 small onion , grated using box grater (~1/2 cup, including juices, Note 2)
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (sub ordinary)
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup coriander/cilantro leaves , finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp EACH cumin, coriander, paprika (any, but I like smoked paprika)
- 1/2 tsp EACH cinnamon, cayenne pepper (add more for spicy)
- 1 tsp cooking/kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
Minted Yoghurt Sauce (Note 3):
- 3/4 cup plain yoghurt (I use Greek)
- 1/2 cup (tightly packed) mint leaves
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp cooking/kosher salt
To Serve as pockets:
- 4 pita pockets , Lebanese or pita bread
- 5 cups shredded lettuce (iceberg, cost/romaine)
- 2 tomatoes , halved, thinly sliced
- 1 red onion , halved, finely sliced
- OR Shredded Red Cabbage, Carrot and Mint Salad (instead of lettuce, tomato and onion)
- Extra coriander/cilantro leaves, finely chopped (optional)
- Mint yogurt sauce – Set aside 1/2 cup yogurt. Place all other ingredients in a jug that fits the head of a stick blender. Blitz until it turns green – it will be runny. Stir in reserved yogurt (this thickens it again). Refrigerate until required.
- Meatballs – Place all Meatball ingredients in a bowl. Mix well with your hands. Measure out 1 heaped tablespoon, then roll into balls. Repeat with remaining mixture – should have 20 – 24 meatballs.
- Cook – Heat oil in a large non stick pan over medium heat. Add half the meatballs and cook, turning to brown all over, for 8 minutes, or until cooked through. Transfer to plate. (Oven option – Note 4)
- Serving – Cut pita pockets in half, warm for 10 seconds in the microwave, then pry it open. Stuff with lettuce, tomato, onion, then meatballs (I do 2 per half pocket). Drizzle with Mint Yogurt Sauce and fresh coriander.
Originally published July 2017. Updated in April 2022 with a much better video – because I love these meatballs so much! The spicing was also improved slightly.
I Get A Round: More Meatball Recipes
Life of Dozer
It still fits! (See Life of Dozer photo below for context….)
And from the original publication date in 2017:
All that mocking of the photo of him in his hoodie. I ask you – does he look unhappy? Humph! He looks perfectly comfortable to me! 😂 #MockingDozerIsFun
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