Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dip


Inspired by merguez, these meatballs are loaded with cumin, garlic, and paprika for the ideal one-bite nosh. Harissa gives them a fiery heat that's tempered by the herby dip.

Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 50 mins
6 to 8 servings

Frequently asked questions

Why do you put egg and breadcrumbs in meatballs?

When it comes to making meatballs, egg and breadcrumbs are added purely for function: Together, they act as a binder. The egg fuses all the other ingredients together so the meatballs hold their shape. Breadcrumbs contribute to a soft, tender texture; they prevent the meatballs from drying out by absorbing and retaining the juices as the meatballs cook.

Can you over-mix meatballs?

For tender, never-tough baked goods, it's crucial not to over-work batters and doughs, and it's just as important not to get overzealous when preparing ground meat dishes. Whether you're making meatloaf, hamburgers, or meatballs, be sure to blend the ingredients only until just combined, handling the meat as little as possible to achieve a homogenous mixture.

Notes from the Food & Wine Test Kitchen

The easiest, cleanest, and most efficient way to cook up these spicy lamb meatballs — or really any meatballs, for that matter — is to bake them in the oven. This allows you to cook them all at once instead of having to fry them in batches, which also prevents the possibility of getting spattered by hot grease. In the oven at a fairly high temperature, your meatballs will cook relatively quickly and evenly, so long as you've portioned them uniformly.

As an alternative to lamb, you can prepare these make-ahead meatballs with ground beef or a plant-based meat alternative, such as Impossible.

Make ahead

Lamb meatballs can be prepared through Step 2 and frozen for up to one month. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator, then let them come to room temperature before baking.


  • 3/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • 3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 medium scallions, chopped

  • 2 drained canned anchovy fillets

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Canola oil, for greasing baking dish

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons harissa (such as Mina)

  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

  • 1 pound ground lamb

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1/3 cup minced shallot

  • 1 large egg, beaten

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated

  • 2 teaspoons Hungarian hot paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel


  1. Process parsley, basil, sour cream, mayonnaise, scallions, and anchovies in a food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture into a medium bowl; add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with canola oil. Whisk together 1/4 cup water and harissa in a medium bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs; let stand 5 minutes. Add lamb, cilantro, shallot, egg, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, fennel, and 2 teaspoons salt; stir well to combine. Shape mixture into 24 meatballs. Arrange meatballs in prepared baking dish so they are touching slightly.

  3. Bake in preheated oven until meatballs are browned and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of meat registers 160°F, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Serve with dip.

Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dip
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen
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