This meatballs recipe is on the regular menu rotation for good reason. Melt-in-your-mouth tender meatballs, prepared Lebanese-style with notes of cinnamon and allspice in a tasty, thick tomato sauce. Not your average! Be sure to watch the video tutorial below.
Italians are well-known for saucy meatballs. But, really, meatballs are one of those comfort foods that know no boarders. There are countless of meatball recipes from all over the world.
And as far as Mediterranean meatball variations, we've already highlighted some favorites including sheet pan baked meatballs with vegetables, Greek Keftedes, and these Baked Koftas, which I love to serve gyro-style.
This meatballs recipe in tomato sauce is a riff off of a popular Lebanese-style dish called Dawood Basha (named for Dawood Basha who was a powerful governor of Lebanon during the Ottoman empire. This was his favorite.) These are also popular in Syria and in Egypt, which is why I'm familiar. I've enjoyed these Lebanese-style meatballs at several Cairo restaurants.
Why this Meatballs Recipe Works
These are melt-in-your-mouth tender meatballs. The secret is a trick I learned from Yiayia Helen who inspired my Greek keftedes recipe. In place of bread crumbs, I use 1 piece of toasted bread that's been soaked in milk. Works every time!
But the draw for me, and what makes these Lebanese-style meatballs a favorite in my household, is the warm flavors--vivid notes of cinnamon and allspice. Then, the perfectly-spiced meatballs get even juicer and tastier as they simmer in a chunky tomato sauce, sweetened with grated carrot and balanced with hint of pomegranate molasses (optional, if you don't have it, but highly recommended.)
By the way, these meatballs are typically served atop Lebenese rice. I like fattoush salad or my lazy Mediterranean salad as a starter to this hearty meal.
And if you like meatballs in red sauce, try these mozzarella stuffed chicken meatballs next. They are all the comfort!
Watch How I Make This Meatballs Recipe
Lebanese-Style Cinnamon Meatballs Recipe
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: Serves up to 6 people
A unique meatballs recipe with a Lebanese twist! Melt-in-your-mouth tender meatballs with vivid notes of cinnamon and allspice. And the braising tomato sauce...not your average!
- 1 slice sandwich bread, toasted to a golden brown
- ⅓ cup milk
- 1 ½ lb quality grass-fed ground beef
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup grated yellow onions
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ cup packed fresh chopped parsley
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Private Reserve extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup grated yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 carrot, finely grated
- 1 28-oz can quality crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- Salt and pepper
- Crushed red pepper flakes (optional, if you like a spicy sauce)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and prepare a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, place the toasted bread and cover with the milk. Let the bread soak in the milk until very soft and mushy (about 15 minutes), then squeeze the bread well to wring all the milk out.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the bread, ground beef, and the remaining meatballs ingredients. Using clean hands, mix/knead to combine.
- Form the meat mixture into meatballs (each the size of a tablespoon.) Arrange the meatballs in one layer on the prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in 375 degrees F heated oven for 11 to 14 minutes or so. (don't worry if they're not fully done at this point, take them out and set aside)
- While meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce. In a 5-quart braiser like this one or a large, deep saute pan like this one, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onions and cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until golden. Add the garlic and cook for a quick 30 seconds while tossing.
- Now add carrots, crushed tomatoes and the remaining sauce ingredients. Bring sauce to a boil for 5 minutes or so, then lower heat.
- Add the meatballs to the sauce, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes or so until the meatballs are fully cooked through. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, if you like.
- Serve in dinner bowls with Lebanese rice or warm pita. A side of fattoush salad is a great addition to this meal.
- Recommended for this Recipe: Our Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil (from organically grown and processed Koroneiki olives!)
- Visit our store to browse our spices, olive oils and bundles!
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Category: Entree
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Lebanese
Keywords: Lebanese Meatballs, Cinnamon Meatballs, Meatballs, Meatballs with sauce
More Recipes to Try:
Mediterranean-Style Leg of Lamb with Potatoes
Eggplant Parmigiana (tutorial)
Looking forward to these recipes & bringing new to the dinner table. Not only do these recipes look absolutely delish, also healthy as well. Just what I'm looking for, great tasting food, less the calories. I can't wait to get started. Thanks. Bon Appétit.👍👍
Hope you find lots of recipes you love here, Jennifer!
For dairy free option could i use oatmilk or almond milk instead?
You will call me crazy, Suzy, but I used your meatballs for a "deconstructed" pastitsio! Made the meatballs, made the marinara, and then made a nutmeg-spiced Bechamel separately (I actually whisked egg into the Bechamel to thicken it up somewhat, but that maybe wasn't necessary, just trying to mimic the original as closely as possible...). Served over penne (couldn't get #2 pasta ANYWHERE in rural WI!). Pasta, sauce+meatballs, a nice drizzle of Bechamel over the top? No, it wasn't "custardy" like pastitsio would be, but the flavors were ON POINT - AND, it was ready in about 40 minutes! lol And it was MEATBALLS! Sure, it could've been done as a "meat sauce" - but #meatballs!!! 🙂 No unhappy faces here!
Wow! I love this idea! Thanks so much for sharing, Chrissie!
These are so very good! Can these be frozen? With or without sauce?
Hi, Elba! Sure! I think freezing these would work. I would probably make the meatballs and freeze them separately, and then prepare the sauce and cook the meatballs in the sauce when you are ready to eat them.