4 min Read

Creamy Harissa Lamb Meatballs

Skillet with saucy lamb meatballs

If you love lamb, then you know how long a leg of lamb takes a long time to roast, and that a rack of lamb just feels a little too fancy for family dinner. But with these lamb meatballs, a delicious dinner is in reach any day of the week. If lamb isn’t your thing, substitute ground turkey, chicken, or pork. 

Serves 2-4


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 shallots, finely diced, divided
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1½ teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup fine breadcrumbs
½ cup dry white wine, divided
1 lb ground lamb
¼ cup pine nuts or finely
chopped walnuts, toasted
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint, divided
4 teaspoons finely chopped oregano, divided
1 egg
1 can (5 fl oz) tomato paste
2–3 tablespoons harissa paste
½ cup full-fat plain greek yogurt (see note)
½ lemon, zested and juiced
3½ oz crumbled feta cheese
4 cups cooked long-grain rice, for serving


Place a large cast-iron skillet or deep sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add half of the shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until tender and lightly golden brown. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon, cook for an additional 30 seconds, and then remove the pan from the heat, transfer the shallot mixture to a large bowl, and set aside to cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with ¼ cup of the white wine and set aside to allow the breadcrumbs to hydrate, about 10 minutes.

When the shallot mixture is cool, add the ground lamb and breadcrumb mixture as well as the pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, 1 tablespoon of the mint, 2 teaspoons of the oregano, and the egg. Season with ¾ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.

Using two forks or your fingers almost like rakes, gently and thoroughly mix everything together. Try not to squeeze the mixture together as you mix, or it will result in tough meatballs. Divide the mixture into roughly twenty walnut-sized mounds and roll into meatballs. If the mixture sticks to your hands, lightly dampen them with tap water before continuing to form the meatballs.

Turn the heat under the pan to medium-high and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Sear the meatballs, in batches if needed, until golden brown but not yet fully cooked, flipping once, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Once browned, set them aside.

Add the remaining shallots to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly caramelized. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes to intensify the flavour. Deglaze the pan with the remaining ¼ cup of white wine and then stir in the harissa to taste and 1 cup of water.

Nestle in the meatballs, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through to 160°F.

Remove the lid and turn off the heat. Spoon a few tablespoons of the hot sauce into the yogurt and whisk to combine. Add the lemon zest and juice, stir in the remaining parsley, mint, and oregano, and swirl into the meatballs.

Scatter with feta cheese and serve over prepared rice.

If you heat yogurt too quickly, the protein in it can coagulate, giving your sauce a curdled texture. By tempering the yogurt with a little bit of the hot sauce, as you would with eggs and hot milk when making custard, you can slowly bring up the temperature of the yogurt, minimizing the chance of curdling. Also, be sure to use full-fat yogurt, as the fat helps protect the delicate proteins.

Excerpted from In Mary’s Kitchen by Mary Berg. Copyright © 2023 Mary Berg. Photographs by Lauren Vandenbrook. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.




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