Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)

Juicy, fragrant herbaceous Greek meatballs are utterly addicting and easy to make at home!

These Greek Meatballs (Keftedes/Keftethes) are tender, juicy, bright, satisfying and dripping with lemon, garlic, dill and oregano flavors.  They are easy to whip up and can be cooked on the stove or in the oven. Serve the Greek meatballs with a side of Greek Lemon Rice, Greek Salad and a dollop of Greek yogurt or refreshing tzatziki or add them to gyros, salads, grain bowls, pasta etc. – instructions included for each!  You will love these vibrant, succulent Greek meatballs any way they are served! 

Greek cuisine is one of my all-time favorites.  I never get tired of the fresh Mediterranean flavors and feeling completely full and satisfied from healthy food such as Greek chicken marinade, baked Greek chickensouvlaki, dill salmon, lemon garlic shrimp and orzo, lemon chicken orzo soup, chicken souvlakiGyro pizza and Greek chicken risotto.

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up close of Greek Lamb Meatballs showing how juicy they are

What are Greek meatballs?

Greek meatballs (keftedes) are tender, juicy meatballs traditionally made with ground lamb or a combination of ground lamb and ground beef but they can also be made with ground turkey and ground chicken as well. You are also welcome to substitute the lamb with ground pork which can be easier to find. Keftedes are seasoned with plenty of fresh herbs including mint, dill, oregano, and parsley, and of course, lots of garlic and onion too. The herbs and aromatics make for incredibly flavorful meatballs and the lamb lends the signature earthy flavor. 

Keftedes are often served as an appetizer on what’s known as a mezze platter (or meze platter). A mezze platter is an assortment of small dishes eaten as appetizers or a light meal – and trust me, you are going to want to make it a meal!  The Greek mezze platter typically includes Greek meatballs alongside Kalamata olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, pickled red onions, assorted nuts, hummus, tzatziki, grapes, and warmed pita bread, much like the platter you see here.  Greek meatballs can also be served in gyros, pita sandwiches, salads or bowls.

greek MEATBALLS RECIPE

I have told you many times about my passion for CAVA and have even come up with my build-your-own Mediterranean CAVA bowls recipe.  And you know what I always order at CAVA? Spicy Greek Lamb Meatballs!  They are the highlight of the bowl with their big, bold flavor, succulent juiciness, and addictive nature. So, today I’m excited to share my very own Greek Meatball recipe with you that is every bit as delicious as those you’d find at your favorite restaurant.   

WHY YOU’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS keftedes RECIPE: 

  • Flavorful.  It’s SO hard not to eat an inappropriate number of these Greek lamb meatballs. They are exploding with so much alluring Mediterranean goodness from the lemon, garlic, oregano dill, mint, parsley, coriander, cumin and red pepper flakes that you will be eating them plain.  And never wanting to stop.
  • Tender and juicy.  I was going to make a lemon butter sauce to go with these keftedes but they were so knock your-socks-off tender and juicy in ways only frozen meatballs can dream about, that they didn’t need a thing!  They are juicy from the milk, lemon juice and balsamic and the technique of grating onion straight into a bowl and using all of its juices in the meatballs. And bonus, this makes them extra flavorful. They are also juicy from a combination of lamb and beef.
  • Make ahead friendly.    These Greek lamb meatballs can be assembled then cooked or made 100% ahead of time.  Keep them warm in the crockpot or make ahead and reheat or freeze.  So, double the batch or freeze half the batch for later because these keftedes taste fabulous reheated for an easy lunch or dinner win.
  • Versatile.  You can make so many things with this Greek meatballs recipe – and they all will be amazing because the meatballs are amazing!  Serve them plain with a side of rice, in a wrap, salad or bowl or let family members choose-their-own-adventure!

INGREDIENTS FOR greek meatballs

These Greek meatballs are mega juicy and SO easy.  You will need a few fresh herbs for this recipe, but they are definitely worth the splurge – and you get 45 meatballs at the cost of dining out!  For this Greek meatballs recipe, you will need:

  • Ground lamb: is sublime in meatballs and is what gives Greek meatballs their signature flavor because lamb is grass fed for a “pastoral” flavor.  I like to combine ground lamb with ground beef to tame the flavor just a bit for the perfect grassy, robust infusion of flavor.  You should be able to locate ground lamb in the meat section of your grocery store or ask the butcher if you’re having trouble locating it. If you can’t locate ground lamb, substitute with ground pork or additional ground beef.
  • Ground beef: use lean ground beef so the keftedes will be tender but not greasy.
  • Red onion:  we use half a red onion and grate it into the meatball bowl so we get the onion and juices!  By grating the onion, you aren’t left with any raw onion pieces and the meatballs are extra tender and flavorful. 
  • Eggs: 2 eggs will do the trick to bind all the ingredients together.
  • Panko: is a Japanese breadcrumb sold in every grocery store (including Walmart) usually next to the other breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs are larger and dryer than normal breadcrumbs so they absorb more flavor while still providing structure. This keeps the meatballs extra moist and tender.
  • Milk: any kind of milk will work here to help moisten the lamb meatballs.
  • Lemon juice and balsamic:  are also used to moisten the keftedes and add more flavor than using all milk. The lemon juice adds bright fresh flavor and the balsamic adds subtle fruity tanginess, mellow tartness and complex richness. You may use fresh or bottled lemon juice.
  • Garlic: loads of fresh garlic adds the signature garlicky flavor.  Of course, you can add more or less depending on your garlic love.
  • Fresh dill: adds the quintessential flavor with its fresh, citrus-like taste, slightly grassy undertones and subtle sweetness. It should not be omitted or substituted.  Use fresh dill for the best flavor.  Fresh dill is often sold in small packages in the produce section located next to the other herbs. 
  • Fresh mint:  boasts a subtly sweet taste and cool sensation that comes from the menthol contained in the herb.  It is sublime with lamb – please don’t skip!
  • Oregano:  boasts minty undertones laced with peppery, grassy and earthy notes. You may use fresh or dried oregano because we are using a small amount.
  • Parsley:  tastes clean and peppery with a touch of earthiness.  Again, you may use fresh or dried. 
  • Seasonings: the Greek lamb meatballs are rounded out by ground coriander, paprika, ground cumin, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. You can add more or less red pepper flakes depending on how spicy you would like the keftedes.
showing how to serve Greek Meatballs (Keftedes) with a top view of a meze platter with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta, pitas, tzatziki and hummus

Recipe variations:

  • Lamb substitute: replace the lamb with ground beef (for all ground beef meatballs) or with ground pork. chicken or turkey.  You may want to add a drizzle of olive oil if using ground chicken or turkey so the meatballs aren’t dry.
  • Greek chicken meatballs or Greek turkey meatballs:  I recommend lamb for its earthiness and lean ground beef for its rich, beefy flavor, but you may also use all ground chicken or ground turkey. The meatballs won’t be quite as juicy because chicken and turkey have less fat, so again you may wish to add some olive oil to enhance the juiciness and 1-2 teaspoons beef bouillon to enhance the flavor (reduce salt if using bouillon).
  • Stuff meatballs with feta:  place a cube of feta in each meatball then enclose in the meat mixture before cooking.
  • Roll in flour:  it is common for keftedes to be rolled in flour before frying to create a crust, but I found I preferred them without.  Still, if you’d like to make them the traditional way, roll each meatball in in flour and shake of any excess before pan frying. 
  • Serve with tomato sauce:  follow the technique for marinara but season the sauce with cumin, paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and a pinch of cinnamon.
  • Onion substitute: substitute with ½ sweet onion or with ¼ cup dried minced onions.  If using dried minced onions, add an extra splash of milk because you will be missing the juices from the onion.
  • Panko substitute:  swap the panko with saltine or Ritz cracker crumbs and reduce the salt or swap the panko with homemade bread crumbs.
  • Make it gluten free:  use your favorite gluten free panko, crackers or toasted gluten free bread in place of the panko.
  • Swap lemon juice: use red wine vinegar instead of lemon juice.
  • Swap balsamic vinegar:  use red wine vinegar instead of balsamic vinegar.
  • Play with herbs:  add more or less of the herbs to mix up the flavor profile.
  • Make them spicy!  Increase the red pepper flakes to 1 teaspoon to make Spicy Lamb Meatballs – my fav!

HOW TO MAKE greek MEATBALLS

Keftedes are easy to make at home!  You will simple mix, roll and cook!  Here’s how (full measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the page):

STEP 1: COMBINE MEATBALL INGREDIENTS

  • Grate the onion on the large hole of your box grater straight into a large bowl, then whisk in the eggs. Add the remaining Meatball ingredients up to the beef/lamb and mix well. 
  • Add the beef and lamb and mix with your hands just to combine (don’t over-mix).
a collage showing how to make Greek Meatball recipe (Keftedes) by adding  ground lamb, ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, garlic, onion, basil, dill, oregano, mint to a glass bowl
showing how to make Greek Meatball recipe (Keftedes) by mixing  ground lamb, ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, garlic, onion, basil, dill, oregano, mint to a glass bowl with two hands

STEP 2: ROLL MEATBALLS

  • Line a baking sheet with foil (even if cooking the meatballs on the stove for easy cleanup) and lightly spray with cooking spray. 
  • Scoop the meat mixture using a 1 ½ tablespoon capacity cookie dough scoop to form the meatballs and then roll them in between the palm of your hands to form balls.  Place meatballs onto prepared baking sheet without touching.
showing how to make Greek Meatball recipe (Keftedes) with lamb by rolling meatball and placing them on a baking sheet

STEP 3: Cook Greek Meatballs

You can bake the Greek lamb meatballs in the oven or cook them on the stove.  They both take about the same amount of time but the skillet requires more babysitting but produces a crispier exterior. They both will be juicy and tender as long as you don’t overcook them! So, the best method for you is whichever method you will not overcook.

How to Bake Greek Meatballs

  • Line meatballs on a foil-lined baking pan, lightly greased with cooking spray.
  • Generously spray the meatballs with cooking spray or for the ultimate crazy tender meatballs, drizzle them with 3-4 tablespoons melted butter mixed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.
  • The meatballs will be sitting in some fat after they cook, so I like to dab it off with paper towels before serving.

How to cook Greek Meatballs on the Stove

  • Add enough olive oil to a large nonstick skillet (my favorite pan!) to lightly cover the surface of the skillet.  Heat over medium heat (medium-low if our skillet runs hot).  You don’t want the skillet too hot or the outside of the meatballs will burn before the inside is cooked.
  • Working in batches, add the meatballs to the skillet in a single layer and cook until nicely browned all over and cooked through, about 5 – 6 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and tent with foil to keep warm.  Repeat with remaining meatballs.
showing how to make Greek Lamb Meatball recipe (Keftedes) by pan frying meatballs in a black nonstick skillet

extert TIPS AND TRICKS FOR making keftedes

This Greek meatball recipe is very simple, which means it’s important to get the technique right.  Here’s what to pay attention to:

  • Don’t skip grating the onion:  I have tried this recipe with grated onion, dried minced onions and onion powder and the recipe with grated onion was by far the juiciest. 
  • If the meatballs are dry:  add a splash of milk to the meatball mixture.  The meatball mixture should be moist but hold its shape.
  • Don’t overmix the meatball ingredients: overmixing results in tougher keftedes.
  • Make uniform meatballs: use a cookie scoop to form your meatballs so they are all the same size, this way they will cook evenly.  It also makes forming the keftedes quick and easy. If you do not have a scoop, use a measuring spoon to make them roughly the same size.
  • Nonstick trick: if the keftedes are sticking to your hands (it’s a good thing, means they are extra moist), lightly grease your hands with cooking spray.
  • Let rest: time permitting, let the keftedes rest after you form them for up to 30 minutes at room temperature up.  This allows the flavors to build and meld, and the protein relax resulting into more flavorful, tender meatballs.
  • Prep ahead: you can also roll your keftedes up to 24 hours ahead of time, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, then bake when ready.  Let the meatballs sit on the counter for 30 minutes to help come to room temperature before cooking.
  • Don’t overcook:  overcooked meatballs are dry meatballs.  Cook just until cooked through or to 160 degrees F.
  • Serve with Greek yogurt or tzatziki: the creamy consistency and refreshing tanginess cuts through the earthy, robust keftedes. 
  • Prep the tzatziki first:  if you decide to make tzatziki, prep it before making the meatballs because it tastes the very best after being refrigerated for at least one hour so the flavors have time to meld.
  • Serve CAVA style: you can create a serving bowl bar and let everyone build their own Greek meatball bowls- my favorite way to serve them!  More on that below.
showing how to serve Greek Lamb (Keftedes) by adding to a plate with Greek salad and pitas

How to serve Greek meatballs

Keftedes can be served so many different ways, as mezze platter with pita bread and tzatziki, as a dinner plate with lemon rice and Greek Salad or in pitas as gyros or pita sandwiches, but my FAVORITE way is to make Greek Mediterranean Rice bowls. The bowls introduce balancing textural ingredients like rice, oven roasted cauliflower, roasted sweet potatoes, sliced almonds and tzatziki or a big dollop of Greek yogurt. The rainbow of textures and flavors together is heavenly!  I’ll include details below for the bowls followed by other options.

GREEK Meatball Rice BOWLS

Top your favorite grains (Greek lemon rice, couscous, quinoa, lentils, cauliflower rice, etc.) with Greek lamb meatballs, roasted veggies, and your favorite toppings: shredded greens, pickled red onions, Kalamata olives, white beans, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, corn, hummustzatziki, feta, harissa, etc. 

For the roasted veggies, I am partial to cauliflower and sweet potatoes.  The cauliflower adds the hearty texture and the sweet potatoes add the balancing sweetness that’s sublime with the herbaceous meatballs. 

To make, I toss a head of cauliflower florets and 1 sweet potato chopped into ½-inch pieces with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons curry powder, ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and roast at 425 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the cauliflower is slightly charred.  You can use whatever seasonings you like, but the curry introduces a fantastic complex flavor that still works with the Mediterranean cuisine. 

MORE WAYS TO SERVE GREEK meatballs/ keftedes

Here are more fun ways to use serve keftedes (and leftovers!) from salads, to soup, to pasta, to wraps!

  • Greek Meatball Dinner Plate:  serve keftedes with a side of Greek Lemon Rice and Greek Salad (recipe coming soon) along with pita bread and tzatziki. 
  • Greek Meatball Appetizer:  serve the keftedes as a fun appetizer at a dinner party.  Place the meatball on a platter with a cocktail stick in each one with tzatziki on the side as a dipping sauce.
  • Mezze Platter: serve the Greek lamb meatballs alongside any of your favorites: Kalamata olives, cubed feta lightly drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of herbs, pickled red onions, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, assorted nuts, hummus (homemade or store-bought), Greek yogurt stirred with a pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil or tzatziki, harissa (optional if you like spicy!) sliced English cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sliced carrots, grapes, and warmed pita bread.
  • Greek Meatball Salad:  top Romaine lettuce with keftedes, tomatoes, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, thinly sliced red onions or pickled red onions, sliced almonds, feta etc.  Make a simple lemon vinaigrette or my tzatziki Dressing.
  • Greek Meatball Pasta: sauté cherry tomatoes (and sun-dried tomatoes if you like) with shallots, garlic and artichokes until some of the tomatoes are bursting, then add olive oil, lemon juice, olives, keftedes, and toss with your favorite pasta along with some feta. Season with plenty of freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste.  
  • TikTok Feta Pasta with Keftedes:  whip of a batch of this sensationally easy, viral pasta by baking a block of feta, tomatoes, pesto and olive oil together to create an irresistible, cheesy, creamy, tangy, tomato sauce then stirring in garlic, basil and cooked pasta.  Now just add Greek lamb meatballs and a protein-packed dinner is served! 
  • Greek Meatball Risotto:  use my Greek Chicken Risotto recipe as a guide and swap in the meatballs. You will be obsessed!
  • Greek Meatball Soup:  add keftedes to Lemon Orzo Soup in place of the shredded chicken.  You may need to adjust the seasonings in the original soup recipe because the meatballs are so flavorful.
  • Greek Meatball Pitas or Wraps:  spread a light layer of hummus down the middle of pita bread or a tortilla and top with your choice of sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced red onions, artichokes, olives, lettuce, feta, keftedes and a drizzle of tzatziki.
  • Greek Meatball Veggie Skillet:  sauté veggies such as green beans, cauliflower, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, etc. with some garlic, salt and pepper and stir in the keftedes, Kalamata olives, etc. Serve plain or over rice.
Greek Meatball recipe (Keftedes) with lamb meatballs on a platter with cucumbers and hummus

WHAT TO SIDES TO SERVE WITH GREEK lamb meatballs?

If you’re looking for sides to serve alongside keftedes whether plain or in a pita, here are some tasty options: 

  • Greek Lemon Rice:  basmati rice infused with bright, fresh lemon and zippy dill laced with butter and feta for an easy, tantalizing side.
  • More grain options:  brown or white rice, quinoa, couscous or low carb cauliflower rice would all be tasty.
  • Roasted veggies:  as previously discussed, I adore Greek lamb meatballs with roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower.  You can also mix it up with roasted potatoes, roasted asparagusroasted broccoliroasted butternut squash or roasted Brussels Sprouts.  
  • Mashed potatoes:  not traditional, but these keftedes would be delicious on a bed of creamy, buttery garlic mashed potatoes.
  • Simple Greek salad: toss your favorite greens with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and olives and drizzle with a lemon vinaigrette or balsamic and olive oil.
  • Greek Pasta Salad the pasta salad of your dreams made with pillows of cheese stuffed tortellini, juicy tomatoes, crunchy bell peppers, crisp cucumbers, sweet zippy red onions, tangy Kalamata, and salty creamy feta all enveloped in mouthwatering, flavor exploding Sun-Dried Tomato Feta Pesto. You can make this pasta salad 100% ahead of time for stress free lunches, dinner or entertaining. 
  • Greek Orzo Pasta Salad:  light yet filling pasta salad loaded with al dente orzo pasta, crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, crunchy bell peppers, charred, caramelized sweet corn, zippy red onions, tangy Kalamata olives, and salty creamy feta, all brightened by tangy, herb vinaigrette!  Also make ahead friendly for the perfect stress-free win!
  • Pitas:  soft, warm pitas are always the carb of choice with Greek cuisine. If you don’t have pitas on hand, you can also dive into crusty bread.
  • Fruit:  go as simple as grapes or as fresh and fabulous as Perfect Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Watermelon Feta Salad, or Berry Salad.

Sides for Greek Meatballs!

As far as condiments, I am always ready to serve Greek meatballs with the following:

  • Tzatziki:  lusciously creamy, bright and flavorful made of Greek yogurt, cucumbers, fresh dill, lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. 
  • Greek yogurt:  when I’m feeling lazy or don’t have all the ingredients for tzatziki, I’ll just add a big dollop of Greek yogurt to my plate instead along with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a handful of fresh herbs.  It’s also a creamy, refreshing option paired with the Greek lamb meatballs.
  • Hummus:  is silky smooth, divinely creamy, nutty, tangy, smoky, bright, garlicky, and weaves the ingredients together.  Go plain, roasted red pepper, or sun-dried tomato for a tantalizing creamy counterpart.
  • Pickled red onions: I have an entire post dedicated to pickled red onions because I love them so much!  Even if you don’t think you love pickled red onions, I highly suggest you try them; they’re bright, tangy with a slight sweetness and subtle crunch. You can purchase jarred pickled red onions at the grocery store located by the capers, pepperoncini, etc. or they only take 15 minutes to prep and then 30 minutes to rest with my quick recipe.  
  • Sliced almonds:  brings the nutty crunch!   

HOW TO MEAL PREP GREEK meatballs

Greek meatballs with rice or greens make excellent meal prep for convenient, on the go lunches or heat and eat dinners. You can completely assemble the bowls with cooked and fresh ingredients together, store then microwave for just 30 seconds to take the chill off for room temperature bowls or store the cooked and cold ingredients separately.  Here’s how to meal prep for the latter: 

  • Divide rice between desired number of containers. 
  • Top with meatballs and any toppings you want to warm such as sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, roasted bell peppers, roasted veggies, etc. Don’t close containers until everything has cooled to room temperature.
  • The following cold toppings can be stored together in a separate container layered in this order: pickled red onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, radishes, almonds, feta. The lettuce greens and tzatziki or Greek yogurt and hummus should be stored in separate containers.
  • When ready to eat, warm the meatball container then top with cold ingredients.

CAN I USE FROZEN MEATBALLS?

Keftedes are infused with fresh herbs and spices which is what makes them Greek meatballs and delicious on their own.  You can make shortcut Greek meatballs with frozen meatballs by tossing them with my Greek chicken marinade.  Note, I have not personally tried this, but my friend served them this way at a party and said everyone wanted the recipe. 

To make keftedes with store-bought meatballs, you will need one 32 oz. frozen package meatballs.

  • OVEN: cook meatballs according to package directions until completely warmed through.  Transfer to a skillet with the marinade and stir to combine.
  • SLOW COOKER:   add meatballs and marinade to a 6-qt. slow cooker and cook on low 2-3 hours for THAWED meatballs and 6-8 hours for FROZEN meatballs, or according to package directions.

CAN I MAKE Greek MEATBALLS IN THE CROCKPOT?

Yes, you can make the Greak meatballs in the crockpot but they still need to be seared in the oven first for about 8 minutes so they don’t fall apart in the crockpot and to render some of the fat. Here’s how:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup and spray with cooking spray.
  • Place meatballs onto prepared baking sheet without touching.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 8 minutes to sear the meatballs – they will not be cooked through.
  • Lightly grease a 6qt slow cooker. Add 3 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.  Add meatballs in layers and Do NOT stir or else they can fall apart.
  • Cook on LOW for 2-4 hours, until meatballs are cooked through, gently stirring one hour into cooking.  You can keep the crock pot on the WARM setting until you’re ready to serve.

HOW DO YOU KEEP MEATBALLS WARM FOR A PARTY?

Melt some butter in a large Dutch oven and add the meatballs.  Keep them warm over very low heat for up to 1 hour OR you can transfer the meatballs and some melted butter to a lightly greased crockpot and keep on the warm setting.

CAN I MAKE MEATBALLS IN ADVANCE?

Absolutely!  You can make the Greek meatball recipe in its entirety, refrigerate and simply reheat on the stove or crockpot (see instructions below) or you can roll the meatballs up to 24 hours ahead of time, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, then bake when it’s time to eat. 

How to reheat

STOVETOP:

  • Let keftedes cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.
  • When ready to serve, melt some butter in a large nonstick skillet or add a drizzle of olive oil (I use both). Add the meatballs and reheat over medium-low heat, stirring often until warmed through. 

CROCKPOT

  • Transfer keftedes to a lightly greased crockpot and let them cool completely.
  • Remove crockpot ceramic insert with meatballs and refrigerate, covered.
  • When ready to serve, return insert to slow cooker and reheat over LOW for 1-2 hours, or until completely warmed through, stirring 1-2 times.  You may want to drizzle with olive oil or with some melted butter while reheating for extra juicy meatballs.
top view of Greek Meatball recipe (Keftedes) with lamb meatballs on a plate with tzatziki, rice, Greek salad and pita

CAN I FREEZE greek MEATBALLS?

Yes, you can either freeze the keftedes before baking or after baking. 

TO FREEZE raw MEATBALLS

  1. Line meatballs on a parchment paper lined baking sheet so they aren’t touching. 
  2. Place entire baking tray with the meatballs in the freezer. If your freezer can’t accommodate your baking tray, then use a small tray and freeze in batches.  Freeze for 1-2 hours, until solid.
  3. Transfer meatballs to freezer safe bags or containers and squeeze out excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  4. Label meatballs and store in the freezer for 3-4 months.
  5. When ready to serve, thaw meatballs in the refrigerator overnight then continue to cook per recipe instructions.

TO FREEZE COOKED MEATBALLS:

Once your meatballs are cooked, freeze them while still on the baking sheet:

  1. Bake meatballs according to directions; let cool to room temperature.
  2. Place entire baking tray with the meatballs in the freezer. You will want to make sure the meatballs are not touching so they don’t freezer together.  If your freezer can’t accommodate your baking tray then use a small tray lined with parchment paper and freeze in batches.  Freeze for 1-2 hours.
  3. When your meatballs are frozen enough that they won’t stick together, transfer meatballs to freezer safe bags or containers.
  4. Label meatballs and store in the freezer for 2-3 months.
  5. When ready to use, let meatballs thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Reheat per instructions.

Commonly asked Meatball questions

How do I make sure meatballs don’t fall apart?

Meatballs require both eggs and breadcrumbs to bind the ingredients together.  If you don’ have enough of either ingredient compared to the ratio of meat and liquid, the meatballs can fall apart.  My general rule of thumb for no-fail meatballs is 1 large egg + ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs + 2 tablespoons milk/or other liquid per 1 pound of ground meat. Works like a charm every time!  If your meatballs are too loose to roll, then try adding more breadcrumbs. If you’re afraid they’re going to fall apart in the skillet, bake them instead.

What does adding egg to meatballs do?

Contrary to popular belief, eggs do not add moisture to meatballs.  Instead, their role is to help bind the ground meat, breadcrumbs, and herbs together. As the meatballs cook, the eggs cook which helps all the ingredients stick together instead of crumble apart.  Typically, you don’t want more than 1 egg per pound of meat, otherwise the meatballs can be dense instead of soft.

Should I add breadcrumbs to meatballs?

Yes!  Breadcrumbs serve three purposes:  1) help bind the ingredients together so the meatballs don’t fall apart, 2) add structure to allow you to add additional milk/liquid to produce moister meatballs and 3) help the meatballs stay moist by absorbing and trapping the meat juices as they cook.

Why are my meatballs tough?

Meatballs can be tough and dense instead of light and juicy because of three reasons: 1) too little liquid, 2) overworking the meatball mixture, or 3) over-rolling/compacting the meatballs. To prevent tough meatballs, add all of the meatball ingredients to the bowl except the ground meat, stir to combine and then mix the ground meat in with your hands. This method allows you to handle the meat as little as possible. You don’t want to over-mix the meat into a paste, instead, pieces of ground meat should still be visible. Also, take care when rolling the meatballs to use a light touch by not squeezing them too much or rolling them too much.  Leave them airy instead of compact.

Can I use a food processor or mixer to blend the meatballs?

I do NOT recommend using a food processor or mixer to blend the meatballs because you end up with a mixture that is denser.  The goal is to just combine the ingredients together so they are evenly dispersed but not to over mix which can be easy to do with equipment.  Over-mixed meatballs = tougher meatballs.

How do you keep meatballs round when frying?

Meatballs will flatten on the side they are resting on before frying, so give them a quick roll to round them again before placing in the skillet.  A word of caution, however, overworked meatballs are dense meatballs, so handle them as little as possible.  Also, to help them stay round, move them around the pan on all sides instead of letting them sit for too long in one spot in the skillet, or instead of directly flipping over.  

How long can raw meatballs stay in fridge?

Technically, raw meatballs can be refrigerated for three to four days, stored in an airtight container or covered tightly in plastic wrap.  Still, I recommend using them within 24 hours for optimal freshness and juiciness.  Make sure to bring them to room temperature by sitting on the counter for 30 minutes before cooking.  Cooked meatballs are also good for up to three to four days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

How big should meatballs be?

When deciding how large to make your meatballs, take into consideration how you will be serving them and that, in general, larger meatballs are juicier.  For appetizer meatballs or main dish meatballs, like in this recipe, about 1 ½ tablespoons, or 2 inches in diameter is appropriate. For meatballs in soup, you will want to roll them smaller, for meatballs in spaghetti, you will want to roll them larger.

Do you have to sear meatballs?

Meatballs should always be seared first in the skillet or the oven before sauce is added or before being added to the crockpot to finish cooking. Searing the meatballs first: 1) helps them not fall apart by cooking/sealing the outside 2) helps them stay juicy by sealing in the juices and 3) results in the Maillard reaction, also known as the flavor reaction, in which amino acids and reducing sugars produce browning and complex flavor.

Is it better to fry or bake meatballs?

Both frying and baking meatballs make delicious, tender meatballs.  Pan frying the meatballs develops a more deeply flavorful crust, which also means a firmer outside and tender inside.  Some people prefer this textural contrast, whereas others can take it or leave it. For the absolute juiciest baked meatballs, drizzle them with some melted butter first – amazing!  As far as which is more tender?  I find both baking and pan-frying meatballs produce extremely tender, juicy meatballs if not overcooked.  No matter which method you use, the most perfectly cooked, not overcooked meatballs will be the juiciest. 

Looking for more Meatball Recipes?

  • Italian Meatballs: the mother of all meatballs! These authentic meatballs will be the only Italian meatballs you ever want to eat and they make the BEST spaghetti and meatballs! The juicy meatballs are infused with Parmesan, basil, parsley, rosemary, onion and garlic, bathed in rich marinara, smothered in mozzarella and Parmesan and baked to golden cheesy deliciousness.
  • Cocktail Meatballs: are the perfect party appetizer simmered in an irresistible sticky, sweet and tangy sauce made with pepper jelly, pineapple juice, soy sauce, ketchup and sugar. They will have you throwing away your recipes using frozen meatballs and grape jelly because this homemade cocktail meatball recipe is 1000X better.
  • Honey Buffalo Meatballs: slow cooked in the most tantalizing sweet heat sauce made with hot sauce, honey, apricot preserves. They are the perfect appetizer or delicious, stress-free, make-ahead meal with rice  – or both! 
  • Cranberry Meatballs: bathed in an intoxicating sweet and spicy sauce made with cranberry sauce, hoisin, ketchup and spiked with hot wings sauce for a tantalizing, lick the crock pot appetizer with RAVE reviews!
  • Korean Meatballs: smothered in an epic, savory, sweet, tangy, spicy Korean BBQ Sauce made with seedless blackberry preserves, hoisin saucesoy sauce, red wine vinegar, garlic, onion, ginger and Gochujang! Serve them as an appetizer or a delicious, easy meal with rice and veggies. 
  • Parmesan Meatballs: infused with Parmesan, basil, parsley, oregano, garlic and onions, nestled in a velvety, creamy orzo spiked with plenty of Parmesan and mozzarella that’s so creamy!
  • Swedish Meatballs: jaw droppingly tender meatballs spiked with garlic, onion, nutmeg and allspice blanketed in a rich, roux-based beef gravy creamified with heavy cream or sour cream served over noodles. The ultimate comfort food and 1000X better than Ikea!
Greek Meatball recipe on a white platter with cucumbers and hummus showing how juicy they are
Greek Meatball recipe (Keftedes) with lamb meatballs on a platter with cucumbers and hummus

Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)

These Greek Meatballs (Keftedes/Keftethes) are tender, juicy, bright, satisfying and dripping with lemon, garlic, dill and oregano flavors.  They are easy to whip up and can be cooked on the stove or in the oven. Serve the Greek meatballs with a side of Greek Lemon Rice, Greek Salad and a dollop of Greek yogurt or refreshing tzatziki or add them to gyros, salads, grain bowls, pasta etc. – instructions included for each!  You will love these vibrant, succulent Greek meatballs any way they are served! 
Servings: 45 -50 meatballs
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (OR 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp EACH ground coriander, paprika, ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp EACH pepper, red pepper flakes

Add last

  • 1 pound ground lamb or pork (may sub beef)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef

Instructions

  • If making tzatziki, make it first so it has time to chill. If baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Grate the onion on the largest holes of the grater straight into a large bowl (we want all the juices!), then whisk in the eggs. Add the remaining Meatball ingredients up to the beef/lamb and mix well. Add the beef and lamb and mix with your hands just to combine (don’t over-mix or your meatballs will be tough).
  • Line a baking sheet with foil (even if cooking the meatballs on the stove for easy cleanup) and lightly spray with cooking spray. Scoop the meat mixture using a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie dough scoop (or a heaping 1 tablespoon), then gently roll them a couple times in between the palms of your hands, but don't compact too much or the meatballs will be dense. Place the meatballs onto the prepared baking sheet without touching.

TO BAKE

  • Generously spray the meatballs on the baking sheet with cooking spray OR for the ultimate crazy tender meatballs, drizzle them with 3-4 tablespoons melted butter mixed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice (AMAZING!).
  • Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through (reach 160 degrees F).

TO COOK IN A SKILLET

  • Add enough olive oil to a large nonstick skillet (my favorite pan!) to lightly cover the surface of the skillet. Heat over medium heat (medium-low if your skillet runs hot).
  • Working in batches, add the meatballs to the skillet in a single layer without touching and cook until nicely browned all over and cooked through (160 degrees F), about 5 – 6 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Notes

  • Ground lamb: is sublime in meatballs and is what gives Greek meatballs their signature flavor because lamb is grass fed for a “pastoral” flavor.  If you can’t locate ground lamb, substitute with ground pork or additional ground beef.
  • Greek chicken meatballs or Greek turkey meatballs:  substitute just the lamb or just the beef with ground chicken or ground turkey or use all chicken/turkey.  Ground chicken and turkey have less fat, so you may wish to add some olive oil to enhance the juiciness and 1-2 teaspoons beef bouillon to enhance the flavor (reduce salt if using bouillon).
  • Spicy Lamb Meatballs: increase the red pepper flakes to 1 teaspoon.
  • Don’t overcook:  overcooked meatballs are dry meatballs.  Cook just until cooked through or to 160 degrees F.
  • Baking vs. pan frying: you can bake the meatballs in the oven or cook them on the stove.  Both methods require about the same amount of time (oven is less babysitting) and create delicious, tender meatballs. Pan frying develops a more deeply flavorful crust, which also means a firmer outside and tender inside. Some people prefer this textural contrast, whereas others can take it or leave it. For the absolute juiciest baked meatballs, drizzle them with some melted butter first – amazing!  As far as which is more tender?  I find both baking and pan-frying meatballs produce extremely tender, juicy meatballs as you don’t overcook them. So, the best method for you is whichever method you will not overcook.
How TO SERVE GREEK
  • Greek Meatball Bowls (my FAV!):  top your favorite grains (Greek lemon rice, couscous, quinoa, lentils, cauliflower rice, etc.) with meatballs, roasted veggies, and your favorite toppings: shredded greens, pickled red onions, Kalamata olives, white beans, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, corn, hummustzatziki, feta, harissa, etc. See post for how I roast my veggies.
  • Greek Meatball Dinner Plate:  serve keftedes with a side of Greek Lemon Rice and Greek Salad (recipe coming soon) along with pita bread and tzatziki. 
  • Greek Meatball Appetizer:  serve the keftedes as a fun appetizer at a dinner party.  Place the meatball on a platter with a cocktail stick in each one with tzatziki on the side as a dipping sauce.
  • Mezze Platter: serve the Greek lamb meatballs alongside any of your favorites: Kalamata olives, cubed feta lightly drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of herbs, pickled red onions, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, assorted nuts, hummus (homemade or store-bought), Greek yogurt stirred with a pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil or tzatziki, harissa (optional if you like spicy!) sliced English cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sliced carrots, grapes, and warmed pita bread.
  • Greek Meatball Salad:  top Romaine lettuce with keftedes, tomatoes, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, thinly sliced red onions or pickled red onions, sliced almonds, feta etc.  Make a simple lemon vinaigrette or my tzatziki Dressing.
  • Greek Meatball Pitas or Wraps:  spread a light layer of hummus down the middle of pita bread or a tortilla and top with your choice of sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced red onions, artichokes, olives, lettuce, feta, keftedes and a drizzle of tzatziki.
  • Greek Meatball Pasta: sauté cherry tomatoes (and sun-dried tomatoes if you like) with shallots, garlic and artichokes until some of the tomatoes are bursting, then add olive oil, lemon juice, olives, keftedes, and toss with your favorite pasta along with some feta. Season with plenty of freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste.  
  • TikTok Feta Pasta with Keftedes:  whip of a batch of this sensationally easy, viral pasta by baking a block of feta, tomatoes, pesto and olive oil together to create an irresistible, cheesy, creamy, tangy, tomato sauce then stirring in garlic, basil and cooked pasta.  Now just add Greek lamb meatballs and a protein-packed dinner is served! 
  • Greek Meatball Risotto:  use my Greek Chicken Risotto recipe as a guide and swap in the meatballs. You will be obsessed!
  • Greek Meatball Soup:  add keftedes to Lemon Orzo Soup in place of the shredded chicken.  You may need to adjust the seasonings in the original soup recipe because the meatballs are so flavorful.

How to store and reheat

  • Storage: Store meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to four days.
  • Make ahead: roll the keftedes up to 24 hours ahead of time, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, then cook when ready.  Let the meatballs sit on the counter for 30 minutes to help come to room temperature before cooking.
  • To reheat in the microwave:  transfer desired number of meatballs to a microwave safe plate and microwave for 30 seconds then at 15 second intervals just until warmed through.
  • To reheat on the stove: melt some butter in a large nonstick skillet or add a drizzle of olive oil (I use both). Add the meatballs and reheat over medium-low heat, stirring often until warmed through. 
  • To reheat in the oven:  transfer meatballs to a baking dish and cover.  Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes or until warmed through.
  • To reheat in the crockpot: transfer keftedes to a lightly greased crockpot. Reheat over LOW for 1-2 hours, or until completely warmed through, stirring 1-2 times.  You may want to drizzle with olive oil or with some melted butter while reheating for extra juicy meatballs.

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