Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki Recipe
A Classic Combination
Like pistou, tzatziki comes infused with a great deal of history. Rich yogurt and crunchy cucumber combine with a zip of lemony garlic to make a sauce that goes perfectly with savory lamb meatballs. The trick with tzatziki is to make it rich but well balanced, and above all NOT WATERY. This is why I suggest a combination of full fat Greek yogurt and sour cream. Start with these and you’ll end up with the right texture. Though I don’t specify it in the recipe below for the sake of saving time, as an optional step you can press the diced cucumber between sheets of paper towel to remove excess moisture.
Tzatziki should be cool, crisp, and tasty enough to eat on its own. Of course, it’s even better as an accompaniment to something equally delicious.
Go With Grass Fed Lamb If Possible
I know, I’m a guy who sells grass fed lamb, so I won’t claim to be unbiased when I make this suggestion. But a well seasoned dish like this calls for lamb that has a rich flavor without being at all gamey. In other words, it’s an ideal place to use good grass fed lamb. Whatever lamb you use, make sure it has enough fat. Extremely lean lamb, whether grass fed or conventional, will result in dry, crumbly meatballs.
Spice as You See Fit
In this recipe I’ve gone on the mild end with the garlic and mint in the tzatziki and with the cumin and oregano in the meatballs. If you prefer more assertive flavors feel free to double all of these or more, as you see fit. one trick often used by sausage makers that works equally well for meatballs is to take a small portion of the seasoned meat and fry it a pan, then adjust the spices based on how it tastes. This does make an extra dirty dish, but it lets you dial in the seasoning perfectly.
This is a very basic recipe. If you like dill, throw some into the tzatziki. White pepper would be a great addition to the meatballs. Serve this with rice or flatbread, or just eat it as-is. After all, the tzatziki is basically a salad, and the meatballs are so delicious that there’s really no need for anything else.
Savory Lamb Meat Balls with Tzatziki
- 1 lb. ground lamb grass fed if possible
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. oregano
- 2 tsp. tapioca or other flour (optional)
- 1 large cucumber
- ½ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Combine lamb, salt, cumin, oregano, and flour, if using. Blend thoroughly.
- Form into meatballs. I prefer them smaller with this recipe, about two tablespoons each. Place on a rimmed baking sheet or pyrex pan.
- Bake until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 155°, about 20 minutes. Once out of the oven they should rise to a temperature of 160°, which is the recommended safe temperature for ground meat.
- While the meatballs are cooking prepare that tzatziki. First, mince the garlic and put it in a medium bowl with the lemon juice. Then peel cucumber, remove the seeds, and finely dice it. Cut the fresh mint into strips, saving a leaf or two for garnish.
- Add diced cucumber, mint, Greek yogurt, and sour cream to the lemon juice and garlic. Mix thoroughly, then season to taste with salt.
- Serve meatballs with a generous helping of tzatziki on the side.