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 TheMediterraneanDish.com #easyrecipe #meatballs #mediterraneanrecipe #mediterraneandiet #lebanese #meatballsrecipe #onepot

Lebanese-Style Cinnamon Meatballs Recipe


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4.8 from 29 reviews

Description

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!


Ingredients

Scale

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)

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  • 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

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 TheMediterraneanDish.com #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 TheMediterraneanDish.com #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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Comments

  1. Sharon says:

    Is the wine used to deglaze the pan for the sauce? This will be for dinner to tomorrow.

  2. Rob says:

    My Italian aunt used to make my favourite meatballs which contained a hint of cinnamon--I loved them. Searching for a sauce that contained cinnamon, I found this recipe and it is my go to recipe every time I make meatballs (Italian style). And with that rich tomato sauce, not only healthy (lyypocene) but heavenly.






  3. Hafsah says:

    Hi there. I wanted to ask if I could use chicken instead of beef? I'm trying to use up some leftover ground chicken. Thank you.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Hafsah. We haven't tried this one with ground chicken, but I think it would be just fine to do that.

  4. Marina says:

    Delicious recipe!!! My one year old daughter who is a very picky eater, loved it!!
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe






    1. TMD Team says:

      Yay!! LOVE to hear that, Marina!

  5. Jennifer says:

    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.👍👍

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hope you find lots of recipes you love here, Jennifer!

  6. Anne says:

    For dairy free option could i use oatmilk or almond milk instead?

    1. Suzy says:

      Sure!

  7. Chrissie says:

    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!






    1. Suzy says:

      Wow! I love this idea! Thanks so much for sharing, Chrissie!

  8. Elba says:

    These are so very good! Can these be frozen? With or without sauce?






    1. Suzy says:

      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.

  9. Barbara Field says:

    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.

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Barbara. Yes, we do ship to street addresses within the US.

  10. Christine says:

    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.






  11. Lee says:

    Instead of using bread and milk, can I use panko bread crumbs?

    1. Suzy says:

      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.

  12. Annette says:

    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.






    1. Suzy says:

      So glad you enjoyed it, Annette!

  13. Andrea says:

    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

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Andrea! You can use whatever bread you prefer.

  14. Laurie says:

    Can this recipe be made with ground chicken instead of beef?

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Laurie! I haven't tried this particular recipe with ground chicken, but I imagine it could work.

    2. mary.dickerson says:

      Would this recipe work with ground chicken and ground turkey or are the flavours too strong?

      1. Suzy says:

        Hi, Mary! Sure, I think either could work here.

  15. Galina says:

    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)






  16. Paula says:

    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. Suzy says:

      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!