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.

Skillet containing Lebanese-Style Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

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.

Lebanese Meatballs garnished with fresh parsley

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.)

Close-up of tomato sauce with Lebanese Meatballs in a skillet

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

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Lebanese-Style Meatballs Recipe in Tomato Sauce | The Mediterranean Dish. Juicy, tender meatballs, prepared Lebanese-style with notes of cinnamon and allspice, then braised in a tasty, thick tomato sauce. A couple simple ingredients take this meatballs recipe over the top. From #easyrecipe #meatballs #mediterraneanrecipe #mediterraneandiet #lebanese #meatballsrecipe #onepot

Lebanese-Style Cinnamon Meatballs Recipe


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!



For Meatballs

  • 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

For Sauce

  • 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)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and prepare a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  2. 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.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the bread, ground beef, and the remaining meatballs ingredients. Using clean hands, mix/knead to combine.
  4. 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)
  5. 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.
  6. Now add carrots, crushed tomatoes and the remaining sauce ingredients. Bring sauce to a boil for 5 minutes or so, then lower heat.
  7. 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.
  8. 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)

Greek Chicken and Potatoes

Greek Souvlaki

Feta and Spinach Fritatta 

Lebanese-Style Meatballs Recipe in Tomato Sauce | The Mediterranean Dish. Juicy, tender meatballs, prepared Lebanese-style with notes of cinnamon and allspice, then braised in a tasty, thick tomato sauce. A couple simple ingredients take this meatballs recipe over the top. From #easyrecipe #meatballs #mediterraneanrecipe #mediterraneandiet #lebanese #meatballsrecipe #onepot

Lebanese-Style Meatballs Recipe in Tomato Sauce | The Mediterranean Dish. Juicy, tender meatballs, prepared Lebanese-style with notes of cinnamon and allspice, then braised in a tasty, thick tomato sauce. A couple simple ingredients take this meatballs recipe over the top. From #easyrecipe #meatballs #mediterraneanrecipe #mediterraneandiet #lebanese #meatballsrecipe #onepot

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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  1. I would like to order some spices and some honey when available but you do not ship to P.O. Boxes. Do you ship to street addresses? Also would like to try the olive oil when making one of your recipes. Which, by the way, are delicious.

  2. I made these meatballs about three weeks ago, and they were amazing. My family really enjoyed them. Thanks for posting such wonderful recipes. Love your blog.

    1. Hi, Lee. I've never tried that, so it's hard to say. If you give it a go, please stop back to let us know how it turned out.

  3. Loved the cinnamon Lebanese meatballs. Just a wonderfully different taste. I added more chilli as you suggested and it was a great hit with my family. Thank you for your great tastes.

  4. Hi Paula,
    I would love this dish and easy for me to get all ingredients (in Greece). But what can I use instead of slice of toasted white bread? Doesn't sound very Lebanese anyway.
    Thanks, Andrea

  5. Exceptional and easy to make recipe! I recommend to cook it for a longer period of time to give an ability for all the strong flavors to fuse into one magical creamy sauce. (90 min of simmering)

  6. Hi,

    I was wondering, could I used Lamb for these meatballs instead? And also how much crushed red pepper would you recommend for a nicely spicy sauce?

    Thank you

    1. Hi, Paula. Lamb should work just fine here. As for the crushed red pepper, I go with the 1/2 tsp. and find that to be enough for me and my family. You could certainly increase that, if you'd like a little extra kick!

  7. Suzy - love your recipes! How is this sauce recipe different/same as pasta sauce recipe? I bought pomegranate molasses - should I use it in both recipes? Thank you so much. Rose

    1. Hi, Rose! The flavor profile of the two sauces is not the same to the difference of herb/spices used in each. I don't really recommend the pomegranate molasses in the spaghetti sauce.

  8. Hi Suzy,
    My mother is Egyptian, my fathers parents are Lebanese. Your site has been fantastic for me to find recipes so my kids can experience the foods that I grew up with. One question on this recipe, which my Lebanese grandmother used to make all the time. What's a good substitute for milk in the mix?

    1. Thank you for sharing, Gary. And glad to have you here! In this recipe, the milk works to soften the bread, you can really just use water and be sure to squeeze the bread well to get rid of excess liquid before using it in the meatballs.

  9. Have made several of your recipes and love them. Why do so many of your recipes state to see the video but there isn't one?

    1. Hi Jenny! Thank you. The videos are there, but some browsers block is something you may have to enable on your end.

  10. Made this with salt bush fed lamb kofta meatballs and it was amazing! Thanks

  11. Love all your recipes, I wish I could post the pictures of my dishes .
    I love the fact that videos are very short so in few minutes you get the idea and boom you can go and make it yourself

  12. What can I use instead of ground carrot? I made it without the carrot, and it was still delicious! But want to know for next time. I also mixed ground pomegranate seeds (had some in the freezer) with melon balsamic vinegar for the sauce. Gave it a really nice flavor!

  13. Question: I don't like meatballs to be hard on the bottom and I used to have a recipe where you dropped them in the hot sauce and they cooked there. If I made them a little smaller and cooked them in the sauce a bit longer, say 30 min, do you think that would be ok? The spices sound amazing!!

  14. Suzy: Have not tried this recipe yet but am thinking of my away from home daughter. Can these meatballs be frozen raw and then cooked? Thanks!

  15. I made this recipe as written and it was excellent! I paired it with Lebanese Rice with Vermicelli and it was perfect- even the next day for lunch (the little leftover I had from dinner that is) was very good-- Highlt recommend this one!