RECIPE: Middle Eastern Lamb Meatballs with Rice and Greens



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RECIPE: Middle Eastern Lamb Meatballs with Rice and Greens

  • Author: Vanessa Seder


This recipe is inspired by the Middle Eastern food vendors in NYC from my time living there. There was one cart that I would frequent when craving a gyro. The sizzling meat, hot and flavorful, would get sliced off the spit and served with rice, lettuce, a white sauce, and spicy harissa sauce to round it out. In this recipe I use pastured lamb mixed with herbs, aromatics, and Middle Eastern spices like tart ground sumac berries and Moroccan spice mix ras el hanout to give these meatballs their distinctive and flavorful taste. You can find the more exotic spices in gourmet or specialty stores or online.  The meatball-centric meal is plated with a cool and crisp mix of greens, cucumber, and mint along with rice and a yogurt sauce, a study in the balance of hot and cold, rich and refreshing, this recipe is perfect for bringing to a potluck, or just for making any day of the week. Serves 4



For the sauce

  • 2/3 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the meatballs

  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs torn from a stale loaf of country bread
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 1/4 pounds pastured ground lamb
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend), see note
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more as needed

For the rice and greens

  • 3 cups cooked long grain rice
  • 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups baby kale
  • 1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • lemon wedges, for serving


  1. For the sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt  until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  2. For the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, soak the breadcrumbs in the milk until most of the milk is absorbed, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Add the lamb, egg, parsley, garlic, ginger, cumin, sumac, paprika, ras el hanout, coriander, cardamom, salt, and pepper and mix well until combined. 
  5. Roll the lamb mixture evenly into 16 meatballs.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the meatballs, and let cook, turning a few times gently until all the sides are browned and the meatballs are just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat this process with more oil, if needed and the remaining meatballs. Keep warm until ready to serve. 
  7. In a medium bowl toss together the romaine, kale, cucumber, and mint. Set aside.
  8. Divide the cooked rice among 4 plates. Top each with some of the meatballs and the greens. Drizzle all over with the sauce and serve with a lemon slice if desired. Serve immediately.


Note on Ras el Hanout: The mixture usually consists of more than a dozen spices in different proportions. Common ingredients include cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dry ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek, and ground turmeric. If you don't have a chance to buy Ras el Hanout or make a batch, try using cinnamon, mace, allspice, dried ginger, or turmeric, or just a few of the spices you like from the list above not already in the recipe.

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Vanessa Seder
Vanessa Seder
Vanessa Seder has worked in the food industry for close to 20 years as a recipe developer, food stylist, chef instructor, and author. Her cookbooks include: Eat Cool, (which received positive reviews from the New York Times and elsewhere) and the award-winning Secret Sauces. A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, Vanessa has developed recipes for Real Simple, All You, Health, Cooking Light, Hannaford’s Fresh, Ladies Home Journal—where she previously served as an associate food editor, and Maine The Way, among others. She lives with her family in Portland, Maine. She can be found online at and Instagram @vseder.
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