These Spicy Lamb Meatballs make a hearty appetizer or cozy meal. The tender lamb and beef meatballs simmer in a full-flavored tomato sauce that doubles as a dipping sauce for bread. Serve the sauce and meatballs as-is for a satisfying appetizer or spoon into bowls with crusty bread or rice.
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Why This Recipe Works
This recipe for lamb meatballs stands out from all others for a few reasons. For one, it’s mixed with a bit of ground beef which allows for the other flavors (fennel, smoked paprika, and garlic) to shine. And secondly, the tender meatballs simmer in a full-flavored brothy burst tomato sauce that’s just begging for a piece of crusty bread.
Ingredients in Spicy Lamb Meatballs
Fresh herbs add tons of flavor and freshness to these savory meatballs. This recipe uses both fresh mint and fresh parsley. Both herbs are important and shouldn’t be substituted. Though, if you can’t find mint you can substitute it with 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh oregano.
Spices include fennel seeds, smoked paprika, kosher salt (of course!), and red pepper flakes. If you’re concerned about spice, feel free to decrease the red pepper flakes a bit or just use black pepper.
Ground meat, I prefer to use a combination of ground lamb and ground beef for these meatballs. Lamb adds most of the flavor while ground beef bulks up the meatballs and allows the other flavors to shine.
Garlic, fresh is always best! Plus, I call for grating the garlic which is the easiest way to prep it.
Whole milk Greek yogurt binds the ground meat together for these meatballs (instead of breadcrumbs or egg). It also keeps the meatballs tender and moist.
Shallots, add a lovely depth of flavor to the silky tomato broth.
Cherry tomatoes are the base of the sauce and add a bright acidity that balances wonderfully with the meatballs.
Vinegar, speaking of acidity! A large splash of vinegar brightens the tomatoes even more and balances out the savory meatballs.
- Mix together the meatball mix-ins (everything BUT the meat). By doing this, you ensure the meatball ingredients are thoroughly combined without over-mixing the ground meat. Over-mixed ground meet equals tough meatballs.
- Add the ground beef and ground lamb and mix to combine. Form into meatballs.
- Brown the meatballs in a large Dutch oven or braiser.
- Set the browned meatballs aside.
- Cook the shallots in drippings until starting to soften.
- Add the tomatoes and cook until they’re just starting to burst (feel free to crush a few with your spoon).
- Deglaze the pan with vinegar. Make sure to scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon—all those browned bits add depth of flavor!
- Stir in the water and allow the sauce to simmer until slightly thickened (it should still be fairly brothy).
- Add the meatballs and any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Simmer the meatballs until they’re cooked through.
- Serve the lamb meatballs with additional fresh mint and Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.
FAQs & Test Kitchen Tips
You certainly do not need to use a combination of ground lamb and ground beef but I do find the two meats strike a wonderful balance in flavor. If you love the flavor of lamb you can use all lamb. You can also use ground pork if you aren’t keen on beef. If you want an all-beef meatball, check out my Korean Meatballs with Gochujang Drizzle Sauce.
Yes, you can make this recipe ahead. It’s great reheated over low on the stove top. The entire dish can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Store the meatballs and sauce together in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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Savory and full of flavor, these lamb meatballs make a hearty appetizer or cozy dinner served with crusty bread or rice.
- ¾ cup chopped parsley
- ⅓ cup chopped mint (½ ounce)
- ½ cup whole milk Greek yogurt
- 4 large cloves garlic, grated
- 2 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound ground lamb
- ½ pound 96% lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes (20 ounces)
- ¼ cup vinegar (distilled, white wine, red wine or sherry are all great)
- Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, mint and bread for serving
- Combine parsley, mint, yogurt, garlic, paprika, fennel seeds, 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl.
- Add ground lamb and beef, and mix, using your hands, until combined. Form mixture into 1 ½ inch meatballs (about 2 ½ tablespoons each or #24 scoop (1.5 ounces)); transfer to a plate.
- Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or braiser over medium. Arrange a few meatballs in an even layer in pot and cook until browned all over, about 5–8 minutes (depending on how hot your stove runs, you may need to lower the heat to avoid splattering). Transfer browned meatballs back to plate and repeat, in batches, with remaining meatballs.
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons drippings from pot. Add shallots to pot; season with salt and cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until some start to burst (you can help the tomatoes along by smashing them against the sides of the pan with a spoon), about 5 minutes.
- Deglaze pan with vinegar, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in 1 ½ cups water, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Cook until sauce has slightly thickened but is still loose, 7–8 minutes.
- Add meatballs and any accumulated juices to sauce, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until cooked through, about 8 minutes.
- Sprinkle mint and pecorino over meatballs. Serve with warm crusty bread.
- Buying ground beef: an easy way to get ½ pound of ground beef is to buy it at the meat counter (not the pre-packaged section where most ground meat is sold in 1-pound packages).
- This entire dish can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Store the meatballs and sauce together in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- These spiced lamb meatballs are delicious served over rice or with crusty bread.
- Serving Size: ⅙ of the recipe
- Calories: 324
- Sugar: 3g
- Sodium: 472mg
- Fat: 16g
- Saturated Fat: 7g
- Carbohydrates: 6.5g
- Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 24g
- Cholesterol: 76mg
Keywords: lamb meatballs, spicy lamb meatballs, lamb and beef meatballs