Greek Meatballs

I found this recipe in the weekend edition of the Wall St. Journal as good “noshing” food for New Year’s and had to give it a try, with a few minor changes. It comes from chef Michael Symon of the Parea Greek restaurant in New York and Lola & Lolita Bistro in Cleveland. The meatballs are quite tasty and work well dipped in a little yogurt.

Greek Meatballs Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 4 ounces salt pork, ground or finely minced
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Greek yogurt for dipping

Method

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1 Heat a small pan over medium heat and add oil, garlic, jalapeño and shallot, and cook for 1 minute, then let cool.

2 Meanwhile, crumble lamb into a large bowl. Evenly scatter salt pork, orange zest and mint over lamb, and season with pepper. Sprinkle the cooled garlic mixture over lamb. Gently mix until just combined, then form into 1¼-inch balls and transfer to a plate or sheet pan.

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3 Heat a large cast iron pan over medium to medium high heat. Working in batches if necessary to prevent crowding, brown meatballs on all sides until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm with toothpicks or skewers with plain yogurt.

Note: Meatballs can also be cooked ahead, refrigerated and reheated in the microwave on high for 2 minutes.

Makes about 20 meatballs.

14 Comments

  1. Chris Dattilo

    I made this for New Years, it was very good. One problem though – finely mincing salt pork is really hard and really time consuming. The thick fat just slides around and was chunky in the meatballs. Next time I may try grinding with my Kitchen Aid mixer – grinder attachment.

    Any tips on finely grinding salt pork?

  2. jonathan

    Love them little meatballs. Great party food.

    Hey Jeni, I think fresh oregano might be a very good – and very Greek – substitute for the mint. Thanks for the heads up on the salt pork, Chris. I sometimes grind my own chuck for burgers using my Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. Nothing like fresh ground meat to make a burger. That said, I partially freeze the cubes of meat prior to grinding to make it easier. I’m sure you could do the same with the salt pork. If you can’t find Greek yogurt, try this: Take the same amount of plain whole milk or low-fat yougurt, set a wire strainer lined with lightly moistened cheesecloth over a bowl, put the yogurt in the strainer, shove in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight – cover all with plastic wrap), and…voila! You’ll be amazed at the amount of water in the bowl, which leaves you with a dense, very thick Greek-style yogurt.

  3. vanessa

    Chris, I would totally freeze the salt pork and then either grate it by hand (watch those knuckles) or use the grating blade on the food processor and run it through there.

    Jeni, If you’re allergic to mint are you also allergic to Oregano? I ask only because I think they are from the same family and, at least in my garden, the oregano is a prolific and domineering as the mint.

    Elise, this is a great recipe, thanks for passing it on.

  4. Jersey Exile

    While my in-laws (both Greek, and both excellent cooks) would never dream of putting a jalapeno pepper in their keftedes, I always opt for a couple of squirts of Sriracha hot sauce when I’m making these at home. But then again I put Tabasco in my spanakopita as well…

    You might also want to consider serving these meatball with hummus. Cut up some cukes and/or other crudites and you pretty much have a complete meal!

  5. MeltingWok

    Hi Elise, I luv both Greek & meatballs, nonetheless, you got lamb ! Makes a good appetizer..hmm, I could easily wallow up some 10s’at one time :) What other dippings would you suggest besides the greek yogurt, by the way ? cheers !:)

  6. LaChina

    Thanks for the recipe, I somehow stumbled upon this site a few weeks ago. I made this today and the flavor combo was great, but I could not mince the salt pork, even after freezing, and the larger chunks didn’t melt, and distorted the texture a little. It didn’t occur to me until after I cooked them, that I have a grinder attachement for my kitchen aid on the back shelf.

    Most of your recipes look great and I can’t wait to try another.

  7. Carl Schiötz

    The method Jonathan’s describes above for making Greek-style yogurt works very well. If you do not have cheese cloth at home, you can just use the paper filter and cone from your drip coffee maker. Makes excellent thick yogurt.

  8. Linda

    These sound great but we don’t eat pork. Do you think these would work with lamb and beef or lamb and veal?

    This recipe calls for a pound of lamb and 4 ounces of salt pork. The salt pork is for the fat and flavoring, like bacon. I do not know of a non-pork substitute for salt pork. (Which is not to say there isn’t one, it’s just that I’m unfamiliar with it.) I suggest looking around for other Greek meatball recipes to see what combination of meats they use. ~Elise

  9. Sara

    My father is Greek and my mother is Jewish, and my I lived for a while with a Muslim Turk, so I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to substitute for pork in Greek dishes. :)

    The best thing to do is get the fattiest cut of lamb you can. Next, trim the fat into very small pieces, and brown them in a pan until crispy. (And use the meat for whatever) This will also work with chicken skins. Drain off the fat and reserve it. The resulting crispy bits are very similar to bacon. I’m not really sure what “salt pork” is, but if it’s similar to bacon, then this should work for that as well. For a more bacony flavor, add a TINY amount of “liquid smoke” (also great for beef jerky), but be careful; a little goes a very long way.

  10. Kristie

    I have made regular meatballs and have been wanting to a Greek version. These turned out great! I think sauteing the garlic, jalapeño and shallot adds extra flavor. Love this recipe and will make it again.

  11. Taryn

    We were looking for something to do with about a pound of ground beef so made these with beef, no pork or orange and substituted oregano for the mint (though now that we’ve had it we think mint would have still worked well with the beef). We added about a quarter cup breadcrumbs, a teaspoon mustard powder and a teaspoon red pepper flakes. We baked them at 400 for 15 minutes on a slotted pan instead of pan frying since we knew we’d have more fat in our beef. They were a bit fragile, so I think next time we’d add an egg or soak the breadcrumbs in some milk or something. We served them up in pita pockets with cucumber slices, a homemade tzatziki and smoked paprika.

I apologize for the inconvenience, but comments are closed. You can share your thoughts on our Facebook page ~ Elise.