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
- 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
- 1 pound ground lamb or pork (may sub beef)
- 1 pound lean ground beef
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.
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.
How TO SERVE GREEK
- 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.
- 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, hummus, tzatziki, 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.