Greek Meatballs

AppetizerGreekGluten-FreeMeatballs

These Greek meatballs are great for a party appetizer! They're made with lamb and a handful of seasonings (orange zest, mint, garlic), and rolled into perfect little bites.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

I found this recipe in the Wall St. Journal years ago as good “noshing” food 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.

Ingredients for Greek Meatballs

These meatballs are made with ground lamb and a little bit of salt pork, though you could substitute bacon if you prefer. The seasonings are garlic, shallots, orange zest, and fresh mint, with a little chopped hot chili pepper for spiciness.

If you don’t like spicy foods, you can skip the chili pepper. Conversely, if you love spice, feel free to add another chili pepper to the mix!

How to Serve These Meatballs

These meatballs are great served warm on toothpicks for an appetizer, though you could easily have them for dinner as well. Serve them with a little Greek yogurt for dipping, or even some tzatziki for something extra special.

How to Make Ahead and Freeze

These meatballs can be made entirely ahead of time, cooled, and stored in the fridge until ready to serve. Just heat them in the microwave for two minutes on high to warm them up again.

You can also freeze either the cooked or uncooked meatballs. If cooked, let the meatballs cool completely before freezing.

In either case, just space the meatballs out on a parchment-lined sheet pan and freeze until solid. Transfer them to a freezer container or plastic bag (squeeze out as much air as possible) and freeze for up to three months.

Thaw the meatballs overnight in the fridge. Cook uncooked meatballs following the directions in the recipe. Cooked meatballs can be rewarmed in the microwave on high for two minutes.

Try These Other Meatball Recipes

Updated April 26, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.

Greek Meatballs Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 20 meatballs

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

Ingredients

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

Method

1 Soften shallots, chili pepper, garlic: Heat a small pan over medium heat and add oil, minced garlic, chili pepper, and shallot, and cook for 1 minute, then let cool.

2 Make meatball mixture: Meanwhile, crumble lamb into a large bowl. Evenly scatter the salt pork (or bacon), orange zest and mint over lamb, and season with pepper. Sprinkle the cooled garlic mixture over lamb. Gently mix until just combined

3 Form the meatball mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls: Transfer to a plate or sheet pan.

4 Cook the meatballs: Heat a large cast iron pan over medium to medium high heat. Working in batches if necessary to prevent crowding, cook meatballs on all sides until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.

5 Serve warm with toothpicks or skewers with Greek yogurt.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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15 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Cecilia

    Excellent recipe.
    After reading about the difficulties some had mincing the bacon, i tried the following method and it worked perfectly. I usually keep some bacon slices frozen. I broke the slices into one inch pieces and put them in my small food processor/chopper. Then I chopped it up (patiently) until it was minced very finely. It was still frozen so it mixed in very easily with the ground lamb.

    Since I’m not a fan of mint, I substitued parsley for the mint. This also worked well.
    Finally, I browned the meatballs in a pan, but then finished them off in a 350 oven for 10 minutes. But as i was doing this, I decided the next time i make this recipe, i will cook them on my gas grill. (Much less cleanup)

    I will definitely make this recipe again, although i would probably reduce the orange zest by half. These would also be excellent for sliders, or even a lamb burger.

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. 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.

  5. Carl Schiötz

    The method Jonathan’s describes below 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.

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