Moroccan meatballs, traditionally called kefta, are made with lean ground beef and boldly seasoned with Ras el Hanout, then pan-seared until juicy. I like to serve this meatball recipe with a zesty fresh carrot salad. I include that recipe as well, along with more ways to enjoy these bite-sized wonders.
These Moroccan meatballs showcase everything I love about the humble meatball—inexpensive, easy, juicy, and so flavorful.
For this meatball recipe, I flavor ground beef or lamb with a classic Moroccan spice blend known as Ras el Hanout. Filled with warming spices, it’s the same flavor-maker I use to build deep, complex, aromatic flavor quickly in recipes like my Pastilla (Skillet Chicken Pie) or Moroccan Lamb Stew. If you haven’t tried Ras el Hanout yet, get ready to meet your new favorite spice blend!
Make this meatball recipe to serve with pita pockets, minty carrot salad, and fresh herbs for the perfect casual dinner. Or, if a big gathering is on the horizon, skewer them with toothpicks and serve as a dinner party appetizer with plenty of cooling Tzatziki Sauce for dipping.
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Ingredients for Moroccan Meatballs
These perfectly seasoned little meatballs are a nod to street food from Marrakesh. Even if you live a very long plane ride away, though, you likely already have the majority of the ingredients waiting in your pantry. There is one exception: Ras el Hanout. Luckily, it’s easy to source at our shop!
- White bread: A toasted or stale slice of bread, soaked in water or milk, helps the meatballs stay juicy.
- Meat: Use lean ground beef, lamb, or a mixture of both.
- Flavor makers: Red onion, garlic, and cilantro add a depth of flavor. You can substitute the red onion for shallot or yellow onion if you’d like. If cilantro’s not your thing, feel free to use parsley.
- Spices: Ras el Hanout is the primary flavor for these meatballs—I wouldn’t try to substitute it. (You can learn more about this beautiful spice blend in the “What is Ras el Hanout” section below.) From there, salt and pepper enhance the flavor and ginger and cayenne add a little extra oomph. If you love spice, feel free to add a pinch more cayenne. If you don’t do spicy, you can leave it out.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Used to cook the meatballs and dress the salad. Use a smooth, buttery olive oil that’s not too bitter, like our Italian Nocellara.
- Carrots salad: A simple salad made from carrots, orange juice, mint, plus olive oil, salt, and pepper adds crunch and freshness. I like to use rainbow carrots to bring some extra color to the platter, but any large carrots you have on hand will work well.
- Optional sides: You can take this beef meatball recipe in so many directions. I like to make pita sandwiches with halved cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, Tzatziki Sauce, and thinly sliced shallot. Rice, Tahini Sauce, plain Greek yogurt, and flatbread are also delicious options!
How to Make Moroccan Meatballs
These Moroccan meatballs are simple, they just take a small amount of planning. Allow yourself 30 minutes extra time to let them rest in your fridge.
- Get the meat ready. Toast one slice of white bread and soak it in water or milk until it’s soft. Once the bread is soaked through, squeeze it dry and set it in a large mixing bowl. To the bowl, add 1 ¼ pound of ground beef, then grate one small red onion and add, along with 2 minced garlic cloves, and a handful of chopped cilantro leaves.
- Season and knead. Season with 3 teaspoons of Ras el Hanout, ½ teaspoon of ground ginger, and ½ teaspoon of cayenne. Sprinkle in a generous pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Using clean hands, mix or knead until the meat mixture is well combined.
- Make and chill the meatballs. Roll the meat mixture into bite-sized meatballs, about 1 tablespoon each. Once the meatballs are shaped, arrange on a tray and cover. If you have the time, refrigerate for 30 minutes. (This prevents the meatballs from falling apart when they’re cooked.)
- Make a shaved carrot salad. While the meatballs are chilling, use a vegetable peeler to shave 4 carrots into ribbons. Once you've shaved the carrots, place them into a medium mixing bowl. Next, add 3 tablespoons of orange juice, a handful of chopped mint leaves, and a good glug of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set aside in your fridge.
- Prepare your fixings. Get any sides for serving ready to go, like Pita Bread or rice and Tzatziki or Tahini sauce or Greek yogurt.
- Cook the meatballs. Heat a large cast iron or frying skillet over medium heat. Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil. When the pan is hot, cook the meatballs, turning occasionally, until they’re cooked through and charred, about 7 minutes. Work in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pan.
- Serve. Arrange the meatballs on a large platter. Spread the carrot salad along the side, along with any other fixings of your choice. Let your family, guests, friends, and neighbors serve themselves!
What is Ras el Hanout?
The name "Ras el Hanout" translates to "head of the shop" or "top of the shelf." It’s basically the spice market verison of, “give me the best you’ve got.” The fragrant spice blend is used throughout North Africa and the Middle East, however its origins are rooted in Morocco.
While the exact recipe varies from region to region, shop to shop, and family to family, the blend consists of a complex mix of anywhere from 10 to 30 different spices. Combining sweet, savory, and spicy notes, it typically includes warming spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper. The result is a versatile spice blend that gives a wide range of dishes a bold Mediterranean flavor, including Pastilla (Skillet Chicken Pie), braised fish and chicken, Lamb Stew, couscous and more.
Look for this delightfully aromatic spice at your local Middle Eastern market, the spice section of your grocery store, or online at our shop.
Tips for Making the Best Moroccan Meatballs
My meatball philosophy (and cooking philosophy more generally) is that they don’t need to be perfect to be delicious. If a few meatballs fall apart in my pan, I simply count them as a chef’s snack to enjoy while I finish cooking. With that said, here are a few techniques to make the best meatballs possible:
- Keep them small: I recommend bite-sized meatballs, a little smaller than a golf ball. Small meatballs are not only easier to eat, but to cook as well—no need to turn on your oven!
- Chill: It’s amazing what 30 minutes in the refrigerator can do to a meatball. If you have time, make sure to chill the meatballs before cooking them. The fat will start to solidify, the proteins start to bond. Your meatballs will not only hold together better, they’ll be juicier and more delicious.
- Easy on the oil: These small meatballs are meant to be pan-seared, not fried. Less oil helps them get a nice char. Make sure the pan is nice and hot, and brown the meatballs in batches. If you’re having issues with sticking, add just enough oil to the pan to coat.
- A note on serving size: This recipe will yield between 25 to 35 meatballs, depending on their size. Served in pita pockets as dinner, it will serve 4 or 5 people. If you’re serving as an appetizer along with other items, there will be enough for up to 10 people.
How to Serve Moroccan Meatballs
This Moroccan meatballs recipe is meant to be casual and inviting; there is no right or wrong way to serve them!
Leave them in the skillet and serve them as an appetizer along with other sides, like Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant Salad) or homemade hummus.
To serve them for dinner, load them up in pita pockets, as they do on the streets of Marrakech. Add olives, sliced cherry tomatoes, onions, and fresh parsley. I like to drizzle on a bit of cooling Tzatziki sauce or nutty Tahini sauce (personal preference) or plain Greek yogurt.
If you're up to it, don’t skip the simple shaved carrot salad I included in the recipe. It's just a combination of ribboned carrots with a little orange juice, olive oil, and fresh mint. The bright and fresh flavors balance the savory warming spices in a truly magical way.
Try our Ras El Hanout
This all-natural blend of warm exotic spices is just what you need to add depth and flavor to your Moroccan Meatballs!
For Morrocan Kefta Meatballs
- 1 slice white bread, toasted
- Water or milk, for soaking
- 1 ¼ lb lean ground beef or lamb, or a mixture of both
- 1 small red onion, grated
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Small handful fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
- 3 teaspoon Ras El Hanout
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon cayenne, more if you enjoy spicy
- Extra virgin olive oil
For the Carrot Salad
- 4 carrots, peeled
- 3 tablespoon orange juice (about ½ orange)
- Handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
- Black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Season the meat: Into a large mixing bowl add the bread and water or milk. Let it soak until softened, just about a minute or so, then squeeze the liquid out of the bread, discard the liquid and return the bread to the bowl. Add the meat, grated onion, garlic, cilantro, Ras El Hanout, ground ginger, and cayenne. Sprinkle in a generous pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Using clean hands, mix until the meat mixture is well combined.
- Make and chill the meatballs: Roll the meat mixture into bite-sized meatballs, about 1 tablespoon each. Arrange on a tray and cover. If you have the time, refrigerate for 30 minutes. (This prevents the meatballs from falling apart when they’re cooked.)
- Make a shaved carrot salad: While the meatballs are chilling, use a vegetable peeler to shave the carrots into ribbons (or you can slice them into very thin sticks.) Place in a medium mixing bowl along with the orange juice, mint leaves, and a good glug of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set in the fridge for now. Get any other sides for serving ready to go, like Pita Bread, rice, Tzatziki sauce, Tahini sauce or Greek yogurt.
- Cook the meatballs: Heat a large cast iron or frying skillet over medium heat. Drizzle the meatballs with extra virgin olive oil. When the pan is hot, cook the meatballs, turning occasionally, until they’re cooked through and charred, about 7 minutes. Work in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pan.
- Serve: Arrange the meatballs on a large platter. Spread the carrot salad along the side of the platter, along with any other fixings of your choice. Roll up your sleeves, dig in, and let your family, guests, friends, and neighbors serve themselves!
- To help the meatballs hold their shape: Knead the meat mixture with your hands for a few minutes. Your body heat makes the meat tackier. If you have time, refrigerate the uncooked meatballs for about 30 minutes to allow the proteins to set and bond.
- If you’re struggling with sticking: Coat your pan in a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil and make sure the oil is hot before adding the meatballs. Allow them to cook, undisturbed, until they release from the pan and form a beautiful brown crust.
- This recipe will yield between 25 to 35 meatballs, depending on size. Served in pita pockets or with rice as dinner, it will serve 4 to 5 people. If you’re serving as an appetizer along with other items, it will serve up to 10 people.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams and spices.
*This post has recently been updated with new information for readers’ benefit.