Lamb meatballs are seasoned to perfection with Baharat spice, a warm sweet-and-savory Middle Eastern spice blend, then braised in a delicious caramelized onion sauce until they become irresistibly tender.
I love how these lamb meatballs showcase this dance between sweet and savory that we sometimes do in Mediterranean kitchens. For this meatball recipe, lamb, lots of garlic, and salt play with warming spices and sweet caramelized onions to create a dish that fires on all flavor cylinders.
In other words, this is not your run-of-the-mill meatball recipe!
First, the caramelized onion sauce is so easy it’s made from just three ingredients: water, salt, and onions. Next, I cook the onions until they are deeply caramelized and become juicy and sweet. I then add a little water, stir it all together and nestle the meatballs into the mixture. When it all cooks together it creates an irresistible sauce. If you loved Uncle Sammy’s Skillet Onion Chicken you’re going to love these meatballs!
Next is the key seasoning: Baharat spice. This Middle Eastern spice blend is the flavor booster everyone went crazy for in these Baharat Baked Chicken Thighs. Baharat is the perfect balance of warm, sweet, and savory spices. It includes ingredients like black pepper, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg.
The unexpected and deeply delicious flavor of these tender, juicy meatballs always delights my family and friends. I know you’ll absolutely love this lamb meatball recipe an easy weeknight meal or welcoming quests into your home.
Table of Contents
What You Need to Make Lamb Meatballs
These meatballs use common ingredients that can be easily found at your local grocery store. The only exception being the Baharat spice, which you can pick up in our shop, certain grocery stores, or at your local Middle Eastern market.
- Extra virgin olive oil: I use extra virgin olive oil to help stew and caramelize the onions. A high quality cooking olive oil, like Koroneiki Organic Greek EVOO works best.
- Yellow onions: Compared to white onions, yellow onions have a more complex, slightly sweeter flavor—perfect for caramelizing and turning into a delicious sauce. That said, if you don’t have yellow onions, white or even red onions will also work.
- Kosher salt: Salt boosts the flavor of both the onion sauce and the meatballs. I use a 5-finger (hefty) pinch of kosher, but table salt will also work, just add a little bit less than you would with kosher salt.
- Ground lamb: You can find ground lamb at almost any local grocery store. I use 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat to keep these meatballs juicy and tender, but you can experiment to find the right ratio for you. Or, if you’re not a big fan of lamb, lean ground beef also works well.
- Breadcrumbs: While any unseasoned bread crumbs you have on hand will do, fine, dry breadcrumbs tend to make the most uniform texture.
- Fresh parsley: Parsley leaves give these meatballs a freshness. I like to use flat leaf or Italian parsley over curly, as curly parsley tends to be more bitter.
- Egg: Egg acts as a binding agent for these meatballs, ensuring they don’t fall apart as they’re cooked.
- Garlic: I call for two garlic cloves as the dish already has a lot of delicious onion flavor, but if you’re a huge garlic fan feel free to throw in an extra clove or two.
- Baharat: The key seasoning in the meatball mixture is Baharat, a Middle Eastern spice blend that combines a number of warming spices. It’s worth keeping a small bottle of Baharat in your cabinet, but, if not, you can tailor the seasoning and borrow from the spices featured in my Kofta Kebab recipe.
- Ground cardamom: Peppery and slightly sweet, cardamom adds another layer of complexity to these meatballs.
- Black pepper: Black pepper not only adds a mild spice but it also acts similarly to salt in that it draws out the other delicious flavors that are present in the dish.
- Cooked Basmati Rice or Rice with Vermicelli: Serve this dish with rice or vermicelli, but don't stop there. It's also delicious on its own, with freshly baked Pita or spooned over Hummus.
- Large oven-safe pan: You’ll need a large oven safe pan that can hold all of the meatballs at the same time.
How to Make Lamb Meatballs
This meatball recipe is easy to make, just give yourself a little time to get the onions nice and golden brown. Follow my step-by-step guide below to cook the juiciest, most flavorful lamb meatballs with just a few simple ingredients.
- Get ready: Preheat your oven to 425°F. Make sure you have all your ingredients prepared, including the serving of Basmati Rice or Rice with Vermicelli.
- Caramelize the sliced onions: In a large oven-safe pan set over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Once shimmering, add sliced onion rings from 3 medium yellow onions and season with a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have fully softened and turned a deep golden brown, 20-30 minutes.
- Make the meatballs: While the onions cook, make the meatballs. Into a large mixing bowl, grate one small yellow onion and add it to 1 ½ pounds lamb, ⅓ cup breadcrumbs, ⅓ cup chopped parsley, 1 egg, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 ½ teaspoons Baharat, and ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom. Add a big pinch of kosher salt and black pepper and mix to combine. Take handfuls of the meat mixture (about 2 tablespoons each) and form them into meatballs. You should end up with about 18-20 meatballs.
- Make the onion sauce: When the onions are ready, turn off the heat and carefully stir in 1 cup of water. The water should turn brown immediately. Nestle the lamb meatballs into the onion sauce, and, using a spoon, scoop some of the onions on top.
- Bake the meatballs: Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake on the center rack until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, about 25 to 30 minutes. I like to occasionally baste the meatballs with the onion sauce while they bake.
- Serve: Spoon the meatballs, onions, and sauce over hummus, Basmati Rice or Rice with Vermicelli. Enjoy!
3 Tips for How to Caramelize Onions
In this meatball recipe, the sauce is made with just three ingredients: onions, water, and salt. Drawing out the natural sweetness of the onions without burning them is the trick to making a luxuriously rich, flavorful sauce. Here are my tips and tricks for how to caramelize onions the easy way:
- Try your best to slice the onions evenly: This will stop the little onion slices from cooking too quickly.
- Control the heat: If want deeply caramelized, jammy onions and have the time, cook the onions over low heat with oil for a few hours. Here, we speed up the process with medium to medium-high heat to get that nice caramelized flavor while keeping just a bit of their texture. Just make sure to keep a close eye on the onions: if they start to burn, lower the temperature.
- Add a healthy 5-finger pinch of salt: Salt draws out the water from the onions. This allows the sugars to caramelize.
What to Serve with Lamb Meatballs
I make these meatballs for busy weeknights, but it's also a great recipe to scale up for company. To make this weekend ready, ask friends or family to help shape the meatballs. Cooking is an experience meant to be shared with others! Once the meatballs are baking away in the oven assemble the side dishes.
I am, of course, always a fan of keeping things simple, but simple doesn't have to mean boring! When I think about adding extras to my party spread, I try to focus on flavor, yes, but also color! A bold and vibrant Greek Salad is always a good idea in my book. And, let's be honest, hummus topped with pickled red onion, and some freshly baked pita is always a welcome addition.
If I'm feeling fancy, I might add some Stuffed Grape Leaves and a pitcher drink like Red Wine Sangria. That way guests can nibble and pour themselves a drink and I can visit and tend to the main meal. You can keep people from getting too hungry with some Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich Bites. Now that you have your party planned, it's time to invite some friends over!
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Lamb Meatballs with Caramelized Onions
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 medium yellow onions, sliced into ¼-inch rings
- 1 small yellow onion, grated
- Kosher salt
- 1 ½ pounds ground lamb
- ⅓ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ bunch fresh parsley, leaves chopped
- 1 egg
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons Baharat
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- Black pepper
- Heat your oven: Preheat your oven to 425°F.
- Caramelize the sliced onions: In a large oven-safe pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once it shimmers. Add the sliced onion rings and season with a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have fully softened and turned a deep golden brown, 20-30 minutes.
- Make the meatballs: While the onions are cooking, combine the grated onion, lamb, breadcrumbs, parsley, egg, garlic, Baharat, and cardamom in a large mixing bowl. Add a big pinch of kosher salt and black pepper and mix to combine. Take handfuls of the meat mixture (about 2 tablespoons each) and form them into meatballs. You should end up with about 18-20 meatballs.
- Make the onion sauce: When the onions are ready, turn off the heat and carefully stir in 1 cup of water. The water should turn brown immediately. Nestle the lamb meatballs into the onion sauce, and using a spoon, scoop some of the onions on top.
- Bake the meatballs: Transfer the pan to the oven to bake on the center rack until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, about 25 to 30 minutes. I like to occasionally baste the meatballs with the onion sauce while they bake.
- Serve: Spoon the meatballs, onions, and sauce over Basmati Rice or Rice with Vermicelli. Enjoy!
- Gently caramelizing onions is very important for the flavor of your sauce: keep a close eye, stir, and, if needed, adjust the heat to ensure they don’t burn.
- If you’d like to test the salt level of your meat before forming and cooking all of the meatballs, you can quickly pan-fry a mini meatball in a small amount of olive oil until cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
- The egg does the trick here to ensure the meatballs hold well, but if you’d like some extra security you can knead the meatball mixture with your hands for a few minutes to further develop the proteins and make the mixture more cohesive.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams and spices.
Okay to omit the additional cardamom?
Lid on the pan in the oven?
Hello! There's no need to put a lid on the pan in the oven. Enjoy!
Oh. My. Gosh! This recipe is fire! I made it last night, and everyone loved it!! I have only made a few of your recipes, but I have liked all; however, this one will definitely be on the fast loop. Lol! Thank you.
Wonderful! Thanks so much, Andrea!
I used chop meat instead. Lamb must have more fat. I'll use chopped mushrooms to add more moisture to the chop meat next time. Flavor was great. I'll use more spice. Love intensity.😉
Trying for the first time. Using bread with milk for the meatballs. Baking in the oven looking good. The spices smell so good.
Hope you loved them, Neil!
How many meatballs are a serving for your nutritional info?
Hi, Chrissy. Each meatball is 1 serving.
This recipe sounds delicious however with Histamine Intolerance I cannot tolerate paprika and cinnamon so do you have any suggestions for a different spice blend?
However all the other ingredients are so good for thyroid hormones and for histamine issues that I want to try it.
Hi, Jodi. My recommendation would be to check out the spice mixture used in our kofta kebab recipe. You could use the same here in place of the baharat. Just omit the paprika.
I love your recipes! They are so well explained and so yummy! I gave my daughter-in-law your recipe book and she loves it too! Your recipes are so fresh, healthy, and good! Thank You!
Love this! Thanks, Cathy!
What meat mixture can I substitute for the lamb? Something like ground beef, veal, pork etc? I really want to make this tomorrow!
Sure, Sue. Any other ground meat will work here.
5. All recipes are great
Thank you so much, Marlene!